Twitter users are in one of these 3 categories

Steven Van Belleghem wrote a post on the SocialMediaToday blog that is really on the mark.

The Bar Crowd 

In his post, Steve describes a typical bar scenario. People talking in groups about all sorts of things. The topics change frequently, and every now and then one particular subject of discussion goes through the whole bar.

And like any bar, there is usually a diverse bunch of people:


  • Seen frequently and have something useful, or interesting to offer to the conversation.
  • Move easily between groups.


  • Usually in the bar just to sell something.
  • May enter a conversation,but usually, it has one purpose,
  • Easy to spot.


  • Appear in the bar every three months or so with the one goal of promoting themselves.
  • Leave straight away.


Here’s Steven’s original post: When on Twitter, Act Like You’re in a Bar

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No team member should be indispensable


No team member should be indispensable. That’s a *team* problem, not an individual’s problem.


The above is a quote from a LinkedIn discussion.

It  was related to the availability of a team member during a Sprint phase in a Scrum project, but not just for projects, but any situation where there is a group of individuals working together as a team.

It really captured what I’ve tried to portray in an earlier post – What secret agents can teach us about Project Teams“.

The Risks of having an Indespenable Team Member

Team members should not be indispensable. That’s a given.

If a specific team member leaves then you have the risk of a gap in knowledge.

This knowledge gap might be temporary, but you still risk:

A loss in productivity

(“We can’t get that finished until we find someone who can program in ABC.NET”)


A drop in client confidence

(“What do you mean that no-one else knows how your company set up my system?!!”)


Trying to work out how your product has been put together

(“John hasn’t left any documentation as to how he built this. We’re not even sure where the source code is.”)


And any of these can have a big impact on moral, and success of a company.

What you can do to ensure that knowledge gap doesn’t happen


A couple of ways to prevent this knowledge gap from happening include:

1. Backup Person –

Define primary roles for each team member. This is what that person is responsible for. At the same time, give the team member a secondary role. The secondary role is the same as another team member’s primary role, but not as in-depth.

This can be achieved through giving two people the same training. One person uses the knowledge as part of their primary role. For the other person, the knowledge is for “just in case”.

Allow the backup person to shadow the primary a couple of times per year to maintain awareness of what is involved.

2. Standard Methodologies

Having a standard way of doing something is also a good way to prevent a loss of knowledge.

This can include:

SOPs (Standards of Practice) – documented steps and procedures that outline either how certain activities need to be done, or what protocol needs to be followed in specific situations.

SOPs tend to be company specific. They are written, and maintained, in-house, and can include training.

Professional Standards – Often, in specific industries or specific professions, there are defined “best practices”. These can be thought of as guidelines in how activities related to that industry, or profession, can be performed.

These “best practices”, and standards, can often be incorporated at a company, with slight modifications depending on the specific situation.

3. Knowledge Capture and Sharing

A lot of knowledge that people have has come about through experience with the situation or product.

This is referred to as tacit knowledge.

While it is often challenging to force people to write down what they know, there are ways that the tacit knowledge can be captured and shared. These include:

  • Have an environment that encourages people to share. – Regular get-togethers in an informal situation.
  • Social rewards for recording what they do (you call even call this a type of gamification).
  • Strong messages – show how the company and the individual both grow if they share knowledge, rather than keep it to themselves.

For a great read on what more can be done with tacit knowledge, check out “Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices


As discussed above, there is a risk of having key people in the team that are indispensable. if that person leaves or is absent there can be a direct impact on the success of a company.

By implementing a few of the steps listed above, this risk and the corresponding impact, can be greatly reduced.


Want to learn more?

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4 ways to improve findability on your intranet

If the information in your intranet is not easy to find, then staff can get frustrated.

In fact, I’ve heard stories from employees who say that when they want to find out about the company they are working for, the use Google.


Case in point – I was at an appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country. I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked

While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”.

She followed my instructions and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

Why did she use Google?

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want.

I do want to talk, however, about the reason that people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability.

the reason that people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability.

How is Google able to achieve this?

  1. Google makes use of a lot of computers (estimated,in 2011, at 900,000).
  2. This means a lot of processing power to be able to crawl publically accessible websites on the internet, sift through what is found, and categorise it in a way that is useful.
  3. The search actions of  billions of people, including the questions they are asking, is being analysed. This data is used to be able to be able to return the most relevant information.
  4. Google has thousands of people working for it that are dedicated to making sure that this information is available.

How can you improve findability?

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and then getting results.

It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to what they are looking for quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented.

To improve the findability of the information in your company, consider the following:

  1. What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information.Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  2. What information do the users (from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought-out surveyscan return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  3. How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up an understanding ofhow the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for users to find what they are looking for.
  4. Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”,
    “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.

What else?

These were 4 things that need to be done to help improve findability. If you know of any other things that can be done, let me know.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. 


Want to learn more?

I’ve selected a few books that I feel are relevant to what was covered in this blog post, and will provide more in-depth information. (Important Disclosure).

How to do a Data Scrape on the Titanic

In an earlier post, I talked about the MOOC Data Journalism course that I did. Part of that course covers how to do a data scrape of information from other sites for reporting purposes.

In this post, I want to share what I learnt.

What is a Data Scrape

Scraping data is, essentially, a way of grabbing content from lists and tables on other websites.

And with this information, you can the really study it, and twist it and turn it to see what other insights you can draw out of it.


As an example, consider the passengers on the Titanic. You might want to do some analysis on who there was on the ship, who survived, ages, etc.

By scraping the data from a reliable source, you can then put it into a spreadsheet and sorting, and grouping, etc, in a way that will give you the information that you want.

How to do a Data Scrape

There are several tools that you can use to do a data scrape.

The tool that I am going to describe is Google Sheets.

As described above, I’m going to scrape the list of Titanic passengers from Wikipedia.

The Titanic

Wikipedia has a list of the passengers that were on the Titanic.

The address of the Wikipedia page is:

If you visit that link, you see a large list of everyone who was on board the Titanic on her maiden voyage. (It can be quite disheartening to read.)

Scraping the Data

I am going to show you how to data scrape of the passenger information so that you can put it into a spreadsheet.

  1. In your browser, go to Google Drive. (You will need to have a Google account for this.)
  2. Click on New and then select Google Sheets

    The Google Sheet will be displayed.
  3. In the first cell, enter the following:

    Google will autosuggest as you are typing.

  4. Continue typing the following
    (“, “Table”, 1)
  5. Press enter.

Here’s the full command. You can also copy this and paste it into the spreadsheet:

=importhtml(", "Table", 1)

Initially, you’ll see “loading”, and then the list of passengers in First Class can be seen.

Quick Explanation of IMPORTHTML

As seen above, the command to use is IMPORTHTML

Then, between brackets, you need the following:

url the URL of the page that has the information that you want to scrape
query “Table” or “List” depending on whether the information you want is in a table, or a list.
index this is the number of the table or list that is on the web page.


In our case, we used:

query “Table”
index 1

Here’s an actual example of a Google spreadsheet with the list of passengers.

And the other passengers?

As you might have noticed, the list has only the First Class passengers.

This is because the Second Class passengers and Third Class passenger are in separate tables.

So to get that data we’ll do the following:

Adding the Second Class passengers

First – let’s add an extra column so that we know which passengers are First class

  1. Go to the first empty column after the data. (In my case, it was Column H)
  2. Enter “Class” on the first row.
  3. Enter “1” on the next row.
  4. Copy that value into each cell down to the end of the table.

Now let’s add the Second Class passengers

  1. Go to the first empty row at the bottom of the table.
  2. Again, enter =importHTML
  3. And follow with
    (“, “Table”, 2)
    (note that the index is now “2”).
  4. Press Enter

Here’s the Example table with the Second Class passengers

In the Class column (that we created above), add the number “2”

Treating the Third Class passengers Differently

You read that right. We are going to have to handle the Third Class passengers differently.


Because, if you look closely on the Wikipedia page, the table for the Third Class passengers has an extra column.

In the tables for the First and Second Class passengers, the column “Hometown” included both the town, and the country. In the table for the Third Class passengers, the “Hometown” column has the “Town”, and there is a separate column for “Home Country”.

The extra column makes it difficult to combine it with the other data.

However, there is a workaround for this. I will be covering that in a later post.


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Types of information search – exploratory and focalized

Types of information search – exploratory search and focalized search


There are different types of information search.This post looks at two of the different types and the factors surrounding them.

How People Search

For a lot of people, performing a search involves keying in some words or a phrase and then hoping that what they are looking for will be returned.

If they are the person is lucky, this works … Often it doesn’t.

Search Approaches 

When it comes to Search, there are different search approaches.

To name a few:

  • web,
  • e-commerce,
  • enterprise,
  • desktop,
  • mobile,
  • social, and real-time,
  • discovery and
  • information governance.

Search Goals

As well as the various search approaches, users have different search goals. That is – of these, the following have different purposes:

  • search – “Show me what you’ve got
  • relevance ranking“Show me the most relevant results
  • relevance feedback – “Show me what’s popular”,
  • user interaction – “I want to search for something in a way that is most appropriate to what I’m doing
  • result navigation – “I want to be able to navigate through the search results” 
  • document viewing – “Show me the document that you have listed”

Each works in a different way, depending on the purpose of the search.


Different Types of Information Search

There are, essentially two types of Information search:

  1. Focalized Search
  2. Exploratory Search


Focalized search:

Focalized search is one of the types of Information 

With focalized search, the user knows exactly what they are looking for. They know where to find it. And they are, generally, only interested in the best document or website.

Examples of focalized search engines are Web-search engines. And are best suited for web portals, personal search, mobile or social search.

These engines return the best results (and not all possibly relevant results). As such, they don’t have advanced navigation. And relevance feedback is based on what’s popular.

With these search engines you can’t use wildcards, or do fuzzy searches. The “find more” or “find similar” search techniques might be present, but often become very slow on larger collections of information.

Exploratory search

Exploratory search is another type of Information search.

It includes situations where searchers either:

  1. need to learn about the topic in order to understand how to achieve their goal, or
  2. they don’t know how to achieve their goals (either the technology or the process), or
  3. they don’t even know what their goals are in the first place.

Examples of this include:

  • discovery,
  • compliance,
  • investigative,
  • intelligence and
  • information governance search applications.

Users generally combine querying and browsing strategies to foster learning and investigation.

For exploratory search to be used effectively, things such as content analytics, text-mining technology and advanced result navigation and visualization come into play. As do document based relevant feedback, taxonomy support and extensive meta-data management.

Exploratory search makes use of faceted search. With faceted search, users are able to explore search results further by “drilling down”, or filtering, on the results that are available.

This ability to filter,or drill-down, makes use of the metadata of the item that is listed. (Metadata is “extra information” that each item has.For example, the  “author”, the “publisher”, the “department” that the information belongs to, etc)


Were you paying attention?

Just to see if you were paying attention, see if you can match up the search approaches with the search goals and the type of search that would be best suited.

Click here to download the PDF.

 Recommend Resources
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Scott Berkun’s lecture on the "Myths of Innovation"

Scott Berkun gave a lecture on the Myths of Innovation, at Carnegie Mellon University. These are my notes from that lecture.

Lecture on the Myths of Innovation

(link to presentation on YouTube)

Scott worked at Microsoft for about 10 years. He had a Team Leader role and worked on Internet Explorer for about 6 years. His job was to lead a project team to think up new ideas to make using the internet easier. He would work with designers and engineers, and lead the team to develop the ideas, and put the ideas into a specification and getting it out the door.

The problem – he didn’t know the answer to the questions: “how do you innovate?“, “how do you manage a team that’s supposed to be innovating, and creating new stuff?”

Scott knew a lot of people at MS, many who had been there longer than he was, many “inventors” – people who had worked on Mac, and UNIX. He tried to get information about what the process is, what the plan is, how do you do this. What most people knew where pet theories. There were stories, legends, mythologies, and a lot of people, even though they had a lot of experience and had been successful, put their faith in something that didn’t have a lot of substance. He decided that he had to become informed about this. To find out how people who had done this before him had done it. Not what we think that they did, not what is mythologized in films, but actually what they did.

He started reading about reading about Edison, da Vinci, Ford. He wanted to understand “how did they think about what they did”. This was as a “side project”. He was never interested in history.

Scott left MS in 2003. He was ambition to write books. His first book was about management.”How do you manage teams of people?” The book sold well, and he was asked to write a second book. His second book was about innovation. So many books on innovation are based on hype, and mythology and romance. And this is not so handy if you want to be a practitioner.

A lot of people want to be innovator’s (especially in America). The lecture is not the same as what is in the book, but the themes are the same.


Famous Innovators

Scott started with some information trivia, and showed some pictures of famous innovators:

  • Bob Dylan
  • Micheal Angelo
  • Edison
  • Van Gogh
  • Newton
  • Einstein

The common thing about these people is that none of them got a degree in innovation, or read a book about how innovation happens or took a creative thinking class. None of the things that, today, are promoted as “that’s how you do it”. They just had an idea which they thought was interesting, and they cared about, and they followed it. Sometimes at the expense of their mental health, or finance (Edison)

Innovation is not reached by a specific type of people, of a particular pedigree, following a set of rules. It is usually the renegades and delinquents who are innovators. The people who say that they are not going to follow what everyone else is doing.

There is no official pedigree needed to be an innovator. However, we like to believe there is. There  is a romantic and popular notion that creativity is something that gifted people are born with One particular part of that mythology is the myth of epiphany. That is – there are “magic moments” that define what innovation is.


Innovation Mytology – The Myth of Epiphany

Myths of Innovation - Newton's EpiphanyNewton – the “canonical epiphany story” – because it implies that there is one particular, “special” moment when an individual accidentally was struck “violently” by a piece of fruit and that’s why we know about gravity.

People tend not to think about the mythology, and, when we’re not paying attention, it influences what we believe should be happening – when we are working hard trying to solve a problem, there’s no magic moment, no epiphany, so we feel we are not doing it right.

With the apple story and Newton it probably didn’t happen, but if it did happen, the true value of the story is not that it happened, because he had probably been thinking about gravity for a long time. He didn’t “discover” gravity. He was alive in the late 17th century. We knew about gravity for a long time before that. What he was actually famous for was proving the mathematics of gravity, to be predictive about how gravitational fields worked. It took him about 15 years to do that. However, the myth remains. And the epiphany mythologies absolve us of the pressure of the work involved behind any breakthrough or innovation that we have heard of.

Archimedes is credited with having an epiphany while he was in the bath. The fact that he was “in the bath” is what most people remember. However, it is a comical story that makes the whole idea of innovation seem trivial.

These epiphany stories can be found everywhere – business success, literature success, everywhere. This is because they are comfortable, entertaining, and amusing, but they deflate all the hard work behind the success.

In Archimedes’ case, it is most likely that the “reported” moment was not the only time he spent thinking about the problem.


Creative Thinking

A big part of innovation is “creative thinking”. How do you invent? How do you develop a new idea? How do you find alternative ways that people haven’t thought of before?

In preparation for the book, Scott became a student of psychologogy-literature, of creative thinking. He read journals and books, and there is a popular notion about creativity, which is reflected in all these epiphany stories and that is, that an idea is a discrete thing. That it happens in a moment of time. This is how we conventionally think creative thinking is.

All the psychology behind creative thinking, and how our brains work, and how we develop ideas, talks about the value of “habits”. Creative people have different habits for how they use ideas, and how they play with ideas, and how much time is spent seeking alternatives. They are more comfortable entertaining odd, crazy, scary ideas longer than most people who dismiss them quickly).

So – it’s about habits, and when you hear about a story of an epiphany, or a magic moment, the magic moment isn’t going to tell you anything. It’s what happened 10 minutes,  or an hour, before that magic moment that’s important. What was that person doing?


Magic Moment

How does this magic moment fit into the person’s pattern of behaviour. If you can learn the patterns of behaviour then there is something that you can replicate, or emulate, or borrow from to inform you about what process you have to follow to be creative. The “moments” are not important, it’s the habits that lead to the moments.

It’s like an iceberg…


Myths of Innovation - Innovation Iceberg

Another example is the invention of the telephone. The “story” goes that the first words spoken were “Watson, come here”. If you were to invent a replacement to the telephone, what value would knowing “the first words spoken” have? It is useless information. What we mostly know about creative thinking is trivia. It’s interesting, but not going to help you be creative.

There is also the mythology in science. Often a lot of the way we learn science is following the footsteps of others, and what has been done before. So even though the words “experiment”, and “scientific method” show up in scientific education, is it very rare for people to do an experiment themselves, or ask a question and don’t have clear answers. So even though we talk about science, and “scientific method” we have a very biassed sense of what that means. When talking about breakthroughs in science, the patterns that we follow are more comfortable to human nature than we realise.

Scott refers to the book “The Double Helix” which he read to understand what creative process was used. Did they follow the same iterative process that he had for software? Did they have hypotheses, and explored outcomes.

The book actually has very little about science in it. It is largely about a bunch of people who had an idea, about something that most people didn’t agree was possible. The people involved were, effectively, pursuing hunches and instinctive motivation. Even though backed up by science the motivating force was purely human. It was an intuitive and ad-hoc process. Anytime we talk about discovery, or break through, this is true.



Failure is also a part of break-through. Failures are essential. Often we do not see the failures.

For example, the Colosseum in Rome. We marvel at what a great building it is, and how advanced the architects and builders must have been.

What we don’t see are all the other buildings that are not standing today. The one’s that failed. This is common in the history of innovation. We never see the failures. So if you want to follow someone’s path to success, their innovation, you want to look at their failures. What mistake did they make, that they learnt something from, and was able to apply to something else.

This can be found everywhere. YouTube is an example. Originally the company was trying to create a video alternative to “Hot or Not”, a online dating site where photos could be posted and then people could vote whether the person in the photo was “hot” or “not”. In the course of building the “alternative” they recognized that there was better use for it in a more general direction.

Flickr started out as a software game development company for an online, multiplayer game. After about a year they ran out of funding, but they were able to recognize that part of the thing they were building was a part where there was the ability to share photos. They realized that this little part had actually more chance of being successful than the game itself. They made a mistake, they learnt from it, and they went in a different direction.

Apple also had a similar story. Way back at the beginning, Steve Wozinack worked at HP, and he tried to get HP interested in making a personal computer. HP didn’t want to so Steve W. and Steve Jobs went off and did it their way.

Same with Google. In the beginning when the founders had a  they were looking at selling their ideas to a search engine company. They were told by every search engine company that search engines weren’t very profitable. In 1999 this was true. They were told by Yahoo, and some other search engine companies, that they should really go out on their own if they want the idea to materialize.

So, the real value is looking at the mistakes to understand the process of innovation.

However, stories about failures are very rare.

If you hear about a company that has just had a breakthrough, or a magic moment, and you want to be an innovator yourself, you need to ask yourselves some questions:

Lessons Learned so far

  • What happened before the magic?
  • What mistakes did they learn from?
  • What ideas did they reuse?
  • What did they think of what they were making while they were making it?


Scott gives an example. “Imagine,” he says “that you are working together on a project. The goal is to innovate – to create Web 4.0.”

“We start with a prototype – we build some code. It goes so well, that some people who thought you were crazy to start with, start showing interest, and want to know more, and get involved. The project starts to grow, and we get more support behind it. Interest starts growing even more, and there are blog posts about it, and articles are written in magazines about how this is the next new thing.”

What generally happens next is … nothing.

Scott goes on to talk about exploration. Exploration has many similarities to innovation.

He shows a photo of Captain James Kirk from Star Trek. He points out that James T Kirk is the only modern day icon for exploration that we have today.

Most of the planet has been “discovered”, and the main story that gets told these days, over and over, in the movies, on TV, involving exploration is that of Captain James T Kirk.

The problem with this, of course, is that Captain James T Kirk is not a real person. He’s just a character in a TV show.

Looking at real explorers – Magellan, Cook, da Gama – they all spent most of their time failing. They started with a map with outlined “the world”, and then went “off the map”. And during this time, there were many unpleasant things that happened – mutinies, scurvy, etc – as well as lots, and lots of uninteresting stuff. The main point is that most of exploration is taken up with uninteresting hard work. This is the parallel with innovation. All the hard work is not as sexy as the point where the flag is put in the ground, or that “Eureka” moment.

The problem with James T Kirk is that, normally, within the first minute of the show, a new planet is discovered., in the next couple of minutes something dramatic happens. And then a commercial break. All the hard bits that make up exploration are skipped. The Teleporter, transporter, warp drive – these are all narrative devices to get you past the hard work parts of exploration.

Looking at real explorers, Magellan was famous for circumnavigating the globe. But there is actually many, many events that took place during this that people are not aware of.

According to Berkun, Cook was actually the model for James T Kirk, and the reason that the “red coat” is always the one that dies, is because the British marines wore red coats and they were always the ones sent in first and died.

Berkun brings the talk back to the fact that the time between when something (technology, etc) is thought to be “interesting” by the people working on it, and when it is considered a “breakthrough” by the mass market is often 15-20 years. Example – the mouse, the cell phone

This means, in our example project above, once success is achieved, it now has to fit into the “narrative” of innovations. That is it becomes the latest of a long line of other innovative achievements that led up to it.

The “details” about the pain, or mistakes, or the boring bits, doesn’t get recorded. This makes it seem ordinary, simple and obvious despite how complicated or risky it was to do.

O’Reilly Publishers created a diagram that describes the history of programming languages and how they are all related to each other ( It is an excellent way to get an overview of the languages, and allows you to get some perspective.

However, there is no language listed that was invented through using the diagram. It is not a tool used to invent. It gives a “god” perspective. It is easy to look at the diagram, at Object Pascal for example, and pass judgment. This is the risk of the chronological accounts of innovation.

Myths of Innovation - O'Reilly's Language posterClick on the image to read more

Lessons Learned so far

  • Good history = fact-based stories, not trivia.
  • Seek out first and second person.
  • Study the origins of an ordinary thing.
  • Everything was once an innovation.



Berkun then starts talking about Luddites.

He tells that how in the circles he was working, the term Luddite was a slur, meaning that you are trying to resist something (new technology) that is going to become inevitable.  Of course, the real story is that during the Industrial Revolution in England, people who worked in the textile industry operating the looms were replaced by technology that did the same. The workers (supposedly lead by “Ned Ludd”) responded by destroying the technology with sledge hammers

He then asks his audience to imagine coming to work to find they have been replaced by a small box, and to be told that all other employees have had the same done to them. He suggests that people would have a violent response to the box, an emotional response and an awareness of how much the box would be taking away from their lives.

The lesson here is about innovation, because innovation is effectively a kind of change. It may be a positive change, but, in general, people fear change. And as an innovator, you are introducing change somewhere – your workplace, your work colleagues, your family, your customers. As an innovator, if you are not aware of the change, or the ramifications of the change, then the innovation is likely to fail.

For example, if you introduce a new innovation in the workplace, then maybe your co-workers will resist the change, because they didn’t think of it. Your boss might be embarrassed because he didn’t think of the idea, so he might suppress the idea. So Innovation is more about sociology than technology. This can frustrate technologists, who may have a technically superior product, but it takes a long time for it to be “accepted”.

There is a book called “Diffusion of Innovations” by Evett M. Rogers, an anthropologist, which looks at “history of technological advancement from a sociological standpoint”. Rogers focused on why certain cultures adopted certain innovations. For example – why did one culture adopt clubs, another better cooking innovations, etc. From this, he concluded that it is culture that precipitates, or enables, innovation. A quote from his book is:

The diffusion of innovation is a social process, based more on psychology and sociology than technology”.

If you want to instigate change, you have to ask “who is negatively affected by change, and how do I negotiate that?” “How do I persuade them, negotiate with them, convince them?” If you do not have answers to these questions, it may not matter how great your innovation is.




Berkun finished his presentation with a story about 3M.

3M stands for “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing”. Now, one of the best known products from 3M is the yellow Post-its. There does not seem to be much of a connection between yellow sticky notes, and the name “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing”. It is an amazing leap to go from mining to Post-its.

In the early 20th century, the Industrial revolution was still big. Machinery was a product of these, and for these steel is needed. A group of entrepreneurs in Minnesota decided they were going to start a mining company so that they could make grinding wheels. They bought a mine, and started mining, but it turned out that they mined the wrong mineral. They held a meeting, and decided to go in a different direction – sandpaper. With this came a new set of mistakes, and problems, but after about 5 years they started a profitable sandpaper company.

One of their sandpaper engineers, Richard Drew, was working on a project where he had prototypes of new types of sandpaper. He went to one of his customers – an automobile manufacture – who happen to have a problem painting their cars two tones (blue and grey). They didn’t have a reliable way of separating the two colours. Drew noticed this, and said that he could probably come up with a way to solve it. He goes back to 3M and starts working on prototypes. Eventually his boss, William McNight, tells him to start concentrating on 3M’s products. Drew does this, but is still busy with a solution for this problem, and carries on working on it. Several times he is told to get back to his real work. However he carries on with the problem, and eventually comes up with a prototype which he takes to the automobile company. They love it, so drew shows it to his boss who agrees that it is OK, and that is how Masking Tape originated. Drew would go on to invent cellophane tape (“scotch tape”/ “sellotape”)

The interesting part of this story is not what Drew achieved, but more how William McNight reacted.

Sales of masking tape, and cellophane tape far exceed those of sandpaper. These new things became 3M’s most successful product lines. McNight acknowledge that he had screwed up. Originally he had wanted to stop the development of these products. He decided to change his business philosophy to encourage the Richard Drews, to encourage new ideas. So he changed the company, and the direction of the company, and eventually became CEO of 3M, and made this philosophy a core part the company philosophy.

Berkun displayed a three paragraph piece from a report McNight had written on 3M’s business philosophy:

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility, and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative.

This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes that he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiatives if we are to continue to grow.

– William McKnight, 3M Chairman, 1948.

Download a copy of this.

Berkun points out that this was from about years ago, and is hardly ever seen in action with other companies today.

The main things that McKnight is saying are:

  1. Delegation – trust that a employee will do the right thing.
  2. Mistakes will be made – innovation means risks, and risks mean mistakes – a commitment is needed that mistakes will be made, and allowed.
  3. Initiative –must be encouraged.

Google have a rule where employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on something innovative. However, 3M came up with the concept originally.

Berkun maintains that if McKnight’s philosophy is followed, then innovation will occur. And this is also on a personal level. People are “trained” to follow the rules, and not to make mistakes. If you want to be innovative, you need to find a way to allow yourself to make mistakes. To be less critical of their creative ideas, and to follow them further before trashing them.

Also – being innovative is a personal responsibility. No one is going to say “OK – now break the rules”.


Would you like to learn more?

Here are some resources that I handpicked from Amazon …     [Important Disclosure]

A look at “A Navigator to Business Analysis”

A review of “A Navigator To Business Analysis”

I’m a Business Analyst, I’ve got my CBAP certification from the IIBA, and I’ve got a few scars. So when I saw that Sergey Korban had a new book out, I decided to give it a critical look. 


What is it?

“A Navigator to Business Analysis” is the latest book from Sergey Korban (Aotea Studios). 

In the words of the book itself:

This book is for everyone who wants to either start a business analysis career or would like to learn practical tips and tricks to get the job done in an effective way.


My “first glance” impressions

Did I read the book thoroughly when I first got it? No. I looked for clues to see how valuable this book would be for a Business Analyst,

I looked for clues to see how valuable this book would be or a Business Analyst. I scanned the Table of Contents, I looked at the headings, and I scanned through the diagrams.

Subject Matter Indicators

The title is “A Navigator To Business Analysis“. This is a good start.  I have never seen the word “Navigator” used in this way before, but it told me to expect a lot of guidance.

Further in, I saw this quote

This was another sign that the author has a good idea what the purpose of their book is. They haven’t just vomited words on the paper and bundled it up.

Breadth of content

Consisting of 400 pages, the book is divided into three parts, each of which contains several modules.

The parts are:

  • Part 1 – “Business Analysis“,
  • Part 2 – “Beyond Business Analysis“, and
  • Part 3 – “Build Up Your Value

An overview of the contents of “A Navigator to Business Analysis”

That gave me a good overview, and I was excited to see (yep – I’m a BA geek)  the contents of the Beyond Business Analysis modules. It’s good to see these domains listed.

Flicking through each module, I scanned the titles, and the sub-titles, and looked at the diagrams. This was dangerous as I often found myself stopping because Sergey was covering material that I did want to get into more. My goal, at this stage, however, was to NOT read the content.

Charts and Diagrams

Sergey has filled “A Navigator to Business Analysis” with a lot of charts and diagrams that illustrate further what he has written.

Even on their own, these are incredibly valuable. (I suggest you check out the website for Aotea Studios where you can download several great BA related charts).

(Note – their change management chart was included in the book Project Management for Healthcare by David Shirley)

Practical Advise, Practical Tools, and Additional Reading

Scattered (generously) through the pages, Sergey has included: Practical Advice icons, Practical Tools icons, and Additional Reading icons.


When the Practical Advice icon is visible on a page, there is also accompanying text that relates to the contents of the page. As with the Charts and Diagrams, if this was the only text that you read on each page, you will learn a lot.

The Practical Tools icon can be seen on pages that contain a useful resource. This includes templates, matrixes, checklists, diagrams, etc. (As discussed above.)

The Additional Reading offers suggestions of material that will supplement the contents of the book.

Thought-provoking Quotes

At several spots through the book, Sergey has included quotes from various sources that are relevant to the content at that stage.

For example, in the section
“Business Analysis Lifecycle”:


I really liked these. They gave you that little boost of inspiration. (Some of these quotes were even from Aotea Studios).


Reading through the content and looking at the diagrams, in a book is one thing. Recalling what you have read is another.

At the end of each module, Sergey has included a Revision page. This usually includes a series of questions that prompt you to check whether you can recall what you’ve read.

This is something useful for both newbie BAs and seasoned BAs alike.

Actually making the effort to go through each question, and writing out a detailed answer, would either a) ensure that you truly understand what you have read, and b) you truly understand what you have read. (This works for everything, though,)


The Meat of the book (aka – the actual text)

The next step was to actually read what Sergey had written.

Writing Style

The text in “A Navigator to Business Analysis” was, generally, easy to read.

Sergey wrote in an efficient manner without “added fluff”. The opening paragraph would immediately answer the question the reader has – “what is this section, or module about?” The following paragraphs provided more details, often supported by (as mentioned) diagrams, or charts.

The only thing that made it a little bit difficult, for me, was that the typeface is entirely sans serif. (Although there appears to be no evidence that there is a difference between serif and sans serif typeface when it comes to readability.)


Did the material expand my understanding of Business Analysis? Yes.

The field of Business Analysis is something that is still trying to define itself. Sergey takes this into account. The topics in the book cover not only what are considered the “core skills” of a Business Analyst, but also expand upon this to show how, in reality,  Business Analyst interacts, and works, with many other domains in an organisation.

Alignment with BABOK

About a year ago, the IIBA, published their latest edition of the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK). This is often seen as the defining work for Business Analysis work.

Books on Business Analysis should not just repeat, or rehash, what can be read elsewhere. That is, they shouldn’t just be the BABOK using different words.

And this is what impressed me with “The Navigator to Business Analysis”. It aligns with the latest BABOK, while expanding on it, and add insights that 33 years of experience as a BA has given Sergey.

Is there anything wrong with the book?.

While the book is a great resource for Business Analysts, there were two things that bothered me.

  • As already mentioned, the use of sans-serif font for everything made it, for me, a little difficult to read, (This is a personal thing.Others. might not have a problem with it.)
  • When reading a PDF, I always like to use the structured bookmarks. These are the ones that can be displayed on the left side of Adobe Reader (for example). They allow me to get an overview of the layout of the book, as well as easily navigating to a particular section. “A Navigator in Business Analysis” didn’t contain logical bookmarks.
    (Sergey has told me that this is something that they are working on improving).


Would I recommend this book?

Yes. Most definitely.

I found the book to be extremely valuable. As I mentioned above, the Business Analysis profession is still being defined. “A Navigator to Business Analysis” gave me an excellent understanding of how it worked, how to work in it, and how it fitted into the “bigger picture”.

This book would have been very handy when I first started on my Business Analysis journey.

I recommend checking the book out. On the Aotea Studio website, you can download a sample.  Have a look, and decide for yourself whether this book will be of value to you.


Useful Resources
  • “A Navigator to Business Analysis” information page (Sergey Korban)
  • Business Analyst course
  • Business Analysis Revised Edition (Malcolm Eva, Keith Hindle, Craig Rollason)
  • How to Start a BA Career (Laura Brandenburg)

I got promoted! – email mistakes, part 1

In this post, I want to show the email mistakes that can be made when you don’t check the sendto name in an email.

Awhile back I got an email from a bakery in Bath, England, informing me of the fact that I had been promoted!

The sender of the email confirmed that I was ” promoted to “Head of Production”, effective immediately.” Further to that, I had an increase in salary to £9.80 per hour! And it was back-dated.

Dear Mark

Further to our discussion earlier this week, and in recognition of all your hard work and commitment over the last two years, I confirm that you are promoted to “Head of Production”, effective immediately.

This is accompanied by an increase in your salary to £9.80 per hour, back-dated to…

This new role is an important one for the company

The email continued to explain my new responsibilities, etc.
(Here’s a redacted version of the email

While I was very pleased to hear about the promotion, I did the right thing and informed the sender that I was not the right person. I ensured that I kept my signature in so that it was very obvious that I wasn’t the person that the sender thought I was.

Thanks for the email! Great to hear … Unfortunately, I think that this wasn’t intended for me. :O)  No harm done. I’m just letting you know (if you don’t already).

I didn’t hear from the sender again …
(however….see what happened next in Umm…I don’t think that I’m the person you think I am – email mistakes 2)


I’m not the person you think I am – email mistakes part 2

The continuing saga of the email mistakes that can be made when you don’t check who’s in the recipients list.

Following on from “I got promoted! – email mistakes, part 1“, I was surprised when another email from the same sender arrived in my inbox – 3 weeks later.

I was a little bit frustrated as I had already told this person that I wasn’t the person that they thought I was. In my response to the email, I didn’t say precisely that they had made a mistake, but I dropped enough hints…

Unfortunately, the person I responded to didn’t pick up on these…

The initial email:

Staff Rota Up to and Including Christmas

Please can everyone review the updated rota in the office, as it goes up to the Christmas holidays and let me know by Tuesday 1 October if there are any issues with it.



My response

Maybe I was too subtle. I thought that there were enough hints to show that I wasn’t the recipient that the sender thought I was.

hi dxxxx,

I’m unable to get to the office to check the Rota. (I’m based in New Zealand) 😉


D’s reply email:

Hi Mark

But you will be back before Tuesday to review it – won’t you!!

Enjoy the sunshine – gloomy here.



At this point I decided that I had to be more precise…

No – afraid not. As mentioned, I’m based in New Zealand. I live here. (In other words, I think that you’ve got the wrong person.)



Again, I never got a response…


How does Business Analysis fit into an organization

How does Business Analysis fit into an Organization?

What is the place of Business Analysis in an organization? Is it something that exists by itself?

No. Business Analysis works together with other knowledge domains.

A picture always makes things easier to understand, and Sergey Korban (from Aotea Studios) has done just that.

Below is an excellent diagram, that he created, that shows how Business Analysis fits into the big picture.

Business Analysis interacts with many other knowledge domains in an organization.

This diagram is one of the many in Sergey’s new book “A Navigator to Business Analysis” that I am reviewing at the moment.

I’ll be publishing the review soon …