Social Media – build Understanding

Uploaded on January 22, 2007 by gari.baldi
Uploaded on January 22, 2007 by gari.baldi

Understand: to perceive what is meant; to accept tolerantly or sympathetically

This is the sage advice about having two ears and only one mouth, listen to what is going on. Even if you already have a very strong market leading brand; before you wade in, listen and observe (lurk in the parlance). The social norm’s don’t always apply on line and some ‘normal’ behaviour is downright rude on line. Equally, what’s ‘normal’ on twitter isn’t the same as what’s normal on LinkedIn. Think of it like international trade and those HSBC ads about cultural differences.

Social media is great for lurking and the great thing about social media is that lurking is accepted, even encouraged. You can let the river of news from most social networks flow over you while you scope out the lie of the land.

Tools like Tweetdeck mean you can keep an eye on half a dozen topic groups (by using search & group functions), most sites allow you to ‘follow’ a discussion so you get all the updates without having to spend all week hitting reload.

Set up a few Google alerts, feed them into your RSS reader. Find the social media networks relevant to your business, there is one out there and Google probably knows where it is. See what’s popular, language used, topics of discussion, OT discussions (Off-Topic, not directly related to the forum/discussion/network but of interest to the group).

Take the time to figure this out, don’t just hire a 13 year old. Like any key aspect of your business, you should understand the basics so that you can plan and act accordingly. If nothing else, you need to know when you’re being spun B.S. by your 13 year old ‘social media guru’. ūüôā

You don’t need to be developing any great theory of everything, you certainly shouldn’t aim to know everything about everything. That way lies analysis paralysis, but you can build up a picture of the industry, your client, their challenges and how you can help them address those challenges.

Most social media sites have great facilities for chat, discussion forums and similar where you can ask questions and monitor replies. However, remember the opening advice above and be aware than discussions can be very robust & opinionated. Whatever you do, I would advise against getting drawn into a flame war. As recent evidence as shown, no one is really anonymous on the internet (if they ever were).

Generally I don’t say a lot at networking events, at least until I’ve stopped ‘working’ and had a couple glasses of wine. I’ll usually ask questions like ‘what are you currently excited about…’ or ‘what cool stuff are you working on’. By taking the time to understand a business in the assisted living technologies markets (primarily for the hearing impaired) I was able to identify that the key challenge was more about growth & succession planning than product development & sales. I was able to demonstrate this by asking more about their business structure & strategy than about their technologies. Having establishing my understanding and credibility I was able to recommend that two projects were developed what were around ¬£100k each.

Having worked on understanding your customer’s needs through social media, you can begin to demonstrate that understanding and establish your position as someone who can be trusted and respected.

Social Media – establishing Rapport

Uploaded on January 11, 2009 by daviza

Rapport: relation; connection, esp. harmonious or sympathetic relation

This is ostensibly the easy bit of social media; the ‘friending’ act is usually straight forward and simple and isn’t the whole point of “social media” to be, well social?

As is often the case the answer is “Yes, but…

I think that the difference is between permission and interruption. Seth Godin is probably the leading writer/thinker about this.

In the good old days you’d interrupt what people were doing to tell them about your great product or services. Because you’d interrupted them you had to move fast before they found something else to look at, hence the high-speed / high-pressure approach made (in)famous by car salesmen on US television.

If you were networking you’d open with your elevator pitch and close by handing a business card over and demanding one in return. When you got home you’d immediately send out a follow-up letter and offer to quote for business, you might even include a ‘special offer’ because you’d met them in person.

All of which has very little to do with rapport and everything to do with words like ‘conversion’, ‘pipeline’, and ‘sales order process’. Too many people are still using the social media tools as old-school interruption opportunities. Folks on twitter who constantly tweet their blog posts, special offers, etc, Facebook apps that aggressively try to go viral by demanding that you interrupt your friends with requests to join this club, or take this test.

The plethora of tools and sites now available mean that we can genuinely begin to build harmonious or sympathetic relations with customers/clients without getting all new-agey and transcendental.

The first task, as always, is to be clear why you’re using social media tools. Where they fit in your business plan (you do have a plan right?) and what you’re hoping to achieve. From here you can think about where to begin social networking, who you’re hoping to network with, what you would like out of it and what you’re offering. Remember that to be really successful you need others to give you permission to be social with them. Your content / offer / insight / etc has to be compelling enough for people to click “Accept new Friend” or whatever the equivalent is on the platform you’re using, and you should almost certainly be on several.

Then there’s the design of your social presence, which should be sympathetic to the audience. If you’re audience is corporate business then slightly serious blues, rounded boxes, and a ‘business like’ approach is probably better than wacky layout, pastel colours, cartoon fonts, etc. This harks back to a joint post I did with Chris in March about presenting your product (or yourself) to a customer.

Think also about your avatars, are they logos, photos cartoonified versions of your photo? Think about where you are (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Xing, LinkedIn, Ecademy, etc) is this where your customers, partners, or audience are? More importantly, is it where they expect to see you?

Most of the companies that do business with Universities are medium sized or large companies, they’re typically not start-ups. So while start-up and new media parties are great fun (and they are), they weren’t that relevant for my role back in 2002-2005. What was relevant was industry networking events, and regional networking events where the middle and senior engineers and Directors would go to find out about research, funding, and opportunities for their company. Being sympathetic meant asking about their business processes, technical challenges and opportunities they weren’t able to capitalise on just yet.

These days I’d be checking out the LinkedIn groups from Aerospace & and major primes, I’d also be signed up to the forums from the West of England Aerospace Forum (our regional membership organisation for this sector). I’d also explore Ning and some of the other less well known social media platforms to find the niche networks.

That’s how I established a rapport with the MD of Messier-Dowty Services, at an event where the interesting companies were. Messier-Dowty Services had a huge¬†opportunity¬†in the coming need for through life capturing of service data on every component in an aircraft’s landing gear, and a huge challenge because a single landing gear can have thousands of components and hundreds of sub-systems; all of which are being moved between individual landing gear, different aircraft, and many operators throughout their¬†serviceable¬†life. With even my limited database architecture experience it wasn’t hard to sympathise with that opportunity/headache.

Having established some rapport I was able to arrange some follow up meetings to understand their needs, demonstrate that understanding by developing an outline project idea and then recommend a great academic and funding source, and closing a circa £100k project between them and the University.

Once you established some element of Rapport, you can begin to build your Understanding of the person’s needs.

Can Psychology help the Leaning Tower of Pisa?


As part of Sam’s interest and research into the effect of Oral and Maxillofacial Cancer, and its treatment¬†on patients, she has been investigating the knowledge and attitudes of General Dental Practitioners (GDP).¬† In particular she was interested in GDP’s expereince of treatment of this patient group following completion of their cancer treatment. So she performed a small postal survey. The results of which have been submitted and accepted for presentation at two conferences (British Assocation of Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Annual Conference¬†& European Health Psychology Conference Annual Conference).

The abstract accepted for these conferences tell you about the study and the results:

Incidents of Oral Cancer are increasing, coupled with campaigns to raise the awareness of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. To date, no study has investigated the General Dental Practitioner’s (GDP) frequency of exposure to this type of patient or their current knowledge and attitudes in relation to the treatment and potential complications of these patients post cancer. This study investigated these areas and the requirements/requests for further training and education. A questionnaire was constructed and posted to 183 GDP in the South West (UK), with a stamped returned addressed envelop. A subsequent posting was sent out a month later to the non-respondents. The analysis of numerical data was limited to descriptive statistics using SPSS V16. Free text was analysed using content analysis with the aid of NUD*IST V5. A total of sixty-one percent (n=114) of potential participants responded. On average they had been qualified and registered as GDP‚Äôs for 20.5 years. Seventy-Six percent (n=87) of respondents reported having a patient post treatment for oral cancer. Thirty-five percent were not confident treating these patients (depending on their morbidities). The reasons given could be categorised from free text responses as due to; 1) Lack of Training, 2) Poor Communication with the hospital, 3) Finance. A minority of GDPs reported the need for further education on the treatment of these patients and for better communication between themselves and hospital consultants. The findings suggest the need for a larger study to validate this pilot and indicate future interventions with GDPs.

We hope you find this research as interesting as we do, as it has implications for the training of future GDP, and improving the communication betwen patients, GDP and hospital based dentists and surgeons. The hope is that it will improve the treatment of this patient group, reduce the amount of time they have to wait for treatment, as well as the lenght of time they need to have assisted feeding through things such as Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy (PEG) feeding tubes.

As for Psychology helping the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This research probably won’t help, but we’ll keep you informed as to it’s progress once the conference is over!

Supersonic cafe

[Disclosure: I was attending last night’s Science Cafe in my role as Manager of Science City Bristol.]

At last night’s Science Cafe, a broad group of Bristolians heard about CFD, Pitch drips, carbon footprint of cows, and road spray from lorries; all from a talk about a 1,000mph rocket car!

Pitch drop experiment on Wikipedia
Pitch drop experiment on Wikipedia

Computational Fluid Dynamics is the particular research discipline of Dr Clare Wood and Dr Ben Evans from Cardiff University. Clare began with a basic introduction to CFD, some of the history of the Navier-Stokes equations and the other uses they get put to. This was where the Pitch Drop came in; an experiment started in 1930 to measure the viscosity of pitch (which looks like a solid), there have been 8 drips of pitch since then as it very slowly flows into the catching beaker. Unfortunately, no one has ever witnessed a pitch-drip, there was a technical hiccup with the video feed [requires Windows Media Player] on the last drop (28 November, 2000). Clare also talked about ‘proper’ science and using CFD to model blood flow in hearts and the bio-medical applications.

Ben then picked up the topic and began talking about the pressure waves that develop as you move from sub-sonic through to super-sonic. A major challenge is the incredible pressure that will occur around the rear wheels as the third shock wave develops. This is potentially so strong it could physically lift the back-end of the car into the air, obviously a bad thing at 1,000mph!

There’s a limit to what can be done with the mini-winglets that are being used to trim the car aerodynamically, so Ben and the CFD team are leading the engineering design changes to the rear suspension & underside to try and reduce these pressure waves to make the car safe to drive. There was some more about the research development of new CFD algorithms and the promo-video (embedded at the end of this post).

After a short break, the Q&A began. The first question was about the environmental impact of a 1,000mph rocket car with follow up comments about the 19th Century’ness of a fast car. Although this wasn’t Ben’s area of specific expertise its obviously something that comes up fairly regularly. An environmental economist (or something like that) has looked at the car, the project and worked out their carbon footprint for the whole 4 year project. Apparently it comes to around 4 cows farting for a year; now I’d never entered the term “cow fart” into Google before this morning (who would) but it seems quite a research topic, even the Telegraph are reporting it!

As to the choice of a rocket car (rather than a green car); this had been intended from the outset to be an engineering adventure. The car & the 1,000mpt target are almost incidental, the primary aim is to get children (and the young at heart) excited about science & engineering and thinking about careers in the sciences. Rockets are still exciting to young kids!

The topics moved around and one that came up was the legacy of the project, what will we have after the final run (other than a very expensive museum exhibit)? Ben explained that much of the research involved in the CFD modelling is directly transferable. The example he used was how spray is formed at the back of lorries in the rain. One of the challenges of Bloodhound is the generation of a dust spray from the wheels and shock wave, and modelling how this mix of air & particles grows and affects the car. The same physics are (they think) involved in road spray from lorries, but no one has developed a good model of how spray forms and moves around the lorry. When you drive into this spray, in overtaking for example, it can be a real safety hazard, by modelling this and proposing different designs for the lorries, they might be able to reduce this spray and improve road safety.

There were tons of other questions (about an hour’s worth), it was a really great evening. Thanks to John and At-Bristol for hosting and to Bob Foster for his Science Cafe website where I found out about the event from Bob’s Calendar.

PEGs are not just for hanging out the laundry!


The clothes peg is a commonly used (at least in the summer) household¬†object. Most of us have them, though we rarely regard them.¬†They are¬†so basic yet so useful, they have¬†the ability¬†of serving many functions in addition to it’s original one. It can be used to hang stuff, to hold, to fasten, endless number of uses.¬†¬†The peg is a simple object.

However if you talk to many people within the medical profession a PEG is something very different.

The Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) feedback tube is a safe and effective way to provide food, liquids and medications (when appropriate) directly into the stomach. The procedure is carried out for patients who are having difficulty swallowing. Irrespective of the age of the patient or their medical condition, the purpose of PEGs is to provide fluids and nutrition directly into the stomach.

I’ve been investigating the impact of medical treatment on¬†patients that have had¬†treatment for Oral and Maxillofacial Cancers. Part of this treatment may be the placement of a PEG feeding tube.¬†So how does having a PEG feeding tube effect the Quality of Life (QoL) of this patient group.¬† I undertook a study to find out, which was presented at conference (2008 British Assocaition of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Annual Conference, 22nd Annual Conference of the European Health Psychology Society and 6th International Head & Neck Quality of Life Workshop).¬† An overview of this study is given below.

A Qualitative Investigation into the Impact of PEGs

Research by the Maxillofacial Department at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has shown an initial reduction in QoL due to the effects and demands of treatment as measured by the questionnaires. But patients want to add detail about specific areas of concern to themselves. One of these issues is the use of PEGs. The aim of this work was to explore the views of patients regarding the impact of having a PEG in-situ.

peg_poster_pictureTen patients were recruited prior to treatment for Head and Neck Cancer. They participated in a semi-structured interview and then completed the University of Washington and EORTC-C30 and HN35 QoL questionnaires to ensure comparability with previous studies. Follow-up data was collected at 1, 3, and 6 months post treatment.

Data revealed that those participants with a PEG in-situ had issues with clothing, activities, and sex, which were not apparent in those non-PEG participants. All rationalised the placement of the PEG, but expressed a desire for the PEG to be removed in order to more freely socialise, not be restricted in activity and start ‚Äėfeeling normal‚Äô. Communication with clinicians about the expected duration of use was described as poor. Patients needing new dentures prior to removal of the PEG reported feeling ‚Äėabandoned‚Äô by the hospital and ‚Äėnot confident in their dentists‚Äô.

This research shows the benefit of interview in adding flesh to the bones of questionnaires. It reveals adverse psychological effects of PEGs and need for better communication between patients and professionals. Investigation into oral rehabilitation is required.

So what next?

As noted, there needs to be better communication between patients and professionals. But the professionals need to be aware of the issues their patients may have.  Therefore this work is currently being written up for publication in peer review journals, and other work is ongoing to investigate the knowledge base of professionals such as General Dental Practitioners that work outside of hospital settings, but that can still have a significant impact of the length of time this patient group require PEG feeding tubes.

Sage advice

Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston
Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston

What one piece of advice would you pass on?

A significant part of what we at jbsh get up to is building partnerships. These partnerships involve businesses, Universities, Primary Care Trusts, consultants (business & medical), doctors (academic & medical), private individuals, etc. With so many people there are always differing perceptions about what the collaboration is trying to achieve, and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication.

In my early days of change implementation with small engineering companies in Cornwall, I was given some sage advice by my PhD supervisor:

Don’t ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to ignorance

I believe the quote to have originally been from Napoleon Bonaparte though I can’t find a definitive reference.

Its very easy when you’re charging into a situation to assume that everyone knows everything you do and has the same ambition you do. This is never the case. If you’re not prepared for it, genuine cock-ups can sometime appear to be carefully planned Machiavellian schemes to bring about your professional and personal downfall.

I try to assume that people are acting with good intentions, trying to help me succeed as I try to help them. When things don’t work out its probably because I haven’t explained things well enough or they’re acting on information I’m not aware of.

The solution is of course better communication. Better doesn’t always mean more, a 5 min phone call is usually more productive than several pages of email or “briefing” document; half an hour over coffee, or a beer, is often better than 4 hours in a stuffy meeting room. Spending the time to see someone on their territory is often better than dragging them halfway across the city/country/world.

When you have done the ground work with short, concise messages specific to each party to build shared understanding, then you can hold a larger meeting where everyone can discover that actually they are working to an agreed agenda. You’ll also know where people’s corporate and individual comfort zones are and can help a consensus emerge that still achieves the broad aims.

Of course, sometimes people do act in the short term against what might be broadly considered as ‘fair play’. However, in this world of instant, always on, communications and data overload, we are more reliant than ever before on trusted advisers and connectors.

A reputation is something you build over a lifetime, but throw away in an instant.

That’s another piece of advice for free! ūüôā

Thanks to Plinky again for prompting me again.

BETTr learning

Learn to Draw a Horse - Vancouver 1980 - Uploaded on December 1, 2006 by Mikey G Ottawa
Learn to Draw a Horse - Vancouver 1980 - Uploaded on December 1, 2006 by Mikey G Ottawa

What do you get when you fill Olympia Hall, Earls Court with companies trying to sell technology to teachers? The BETT Show is possibly the largest exhibition of it’s sort in the world and certainly Europe.

What don’t you get? You probably don’t get much learning as a delegate.

I attended earlier shows in 2006/07 as part of Futurelab but as with all exhibitions the cost-benefit is sometimes hard to justify. Certainly now, as an independent consultant and working with start-ups, the exhibition is of minimal value. Leaving aside the cost of an actual stand, there’s travel and accommodation and most of a week out of the office. From memory Olympia has poor phone coverage inside (plus concentration breaking levels of noise) and no free WiFi.

I say from memory because I didn’t go to BETT. I did go to BETTr, one of a growing number of unconferences that are springing up alongside their glitzier cousins. The benefits are multiple, being a smaller gathering you actually get to talk to people.

BETTr was mostly developers and smaller companies that supply innovative technologies to schools and universities. I advise growing companies on how best to plan for the future and have a couple of interests in the education sector so that was a perfect match. There was only one teacher, but that in itself was a topic of discussion in a break out session.

I really like the unconference model. In particular we had a detailed discussion on how to engage teachers in the development process far earlier than is currently the case. People shared experiences, ideas, thoughts, barriers, solutions. Challenges included their limited time, curriculum constraints and the usual challenges of getting beyond the early adopters to mainstream. The most popular solution was to take teachers to the pub!

The demands of modern teaching are that for most teachers its more than a 5-day a week 9-5 job, but a way of life. INSET days were commented upon (not just at BETTr but also the twitter backchannel where I was posting along with others in the room and from all over the educational globe).

There wasn’t an action plan or formal report, but it sparked off lots of new ideas, rekindled some old ones, and put a few to rest. It also brought together folks I’ve been reading online so we could meet up, though the Friday night TeachMeetBETT09 was the main event for that.

A big thanks to Jukesie for organising and to all the supporters for making it happen.

Update: Looks like I’m not the only one recognising the difficulty of engaging teachers. Today’s Guardian is reporting on BSF still not getting sufficient engagement despite a new drive from the Government.

Learning un-learning

Uploaded on 12 May, 2006 by Marvin (PA)

I hot-footed it from Cheltenham to the Pervasive Media Studio a couple nights back for a Gurteen Knowledge Cafe. The topic was ‘unlearning’ which is a sufficiently interesting topic for a Knowledge Transfer/Exchange professional to drag me out and through the wind and rain that Bristol chose to throw at us!

I wasn’t entirely sure what ‘unlearning’ was; I’d constructed a meaning that was roughly a bit more purposeful than forgetting. The brief presentation from Daniel Doherty (University of Bristol, Management School) ranged from the quite possibly certifiable Institute of Unlearning through to more constructivist (and believable) approaches.

There was quite a bit that bordered on (or was overtly about) brainwashing and ‘re-programming’ people Leaving aside the ethics and morals of those particular applications of unlearning, the discussions were mainly around trying to decide if there was more to it than situational flexibility. We touched briefly on meta-physics in trying to figure out how far back into perceptions of reality you had to go before it became ‘unlearning’.

Quite a few of the examples described were really just putting one set of learnt behaviours or patterns of thought aside to more effectively address a particular situation. We didn’t feel (and I’m speaking in the royal ‘we’) that this represented unlearning. Quite a few of the proposed unlearning situations (miltary training, regime change, etc) are externally imposed. Even if there is a degree of consent there is an external mechanism, framework and big shouty Sergeant Majors moulding you to become the best of the best of the best. Sah!

Uploaded on 12 May, 2006 by minxlj

I was curious to see if anyone could propose an instance where that level of ‘unlearning’ could be initiated and carried through in a purely individual framework. Apart from physical impact injuries to the skull, or psychotic drugs, there didn’t appear to be. Which got me to wondering if in fact unlearning is something that you can consciously undertake.

Even more benign approaches to unlearning, such as the coporate merger or unlearning intolerace require external intervention. The incoming organisation (or new CEO) will impose ‘their’ view on the organisation being absorbed. The UN has a conference series on unlearning to help people identify strategies to tackle intolerance in their societies through education, inclusion and example.

There’s no doubt that you can learn new patterns and behaviours that are more effective to the changing circumstances and social ‘norms’. Can you unlearn without the rather scary brainwashing aspects, I’m less sure. The brain is remarkably good at retaining data, sometimes we are less good at retriving it and most of us can’t recall every detail of every second of our lives, but I think it’s all in there.

Thanks go to Ed for organising and the Pervasive Media Studio for the venue.

Celebrating failure

Disclosure: As well as Managing Partner of jbsh LLP (the business behind this blog) I also work part time for the University of the West of England on the Knowledge West project managing their QuickMark¬ģ service.]

Pedestrian stop lights on Gibralter runwayToday was an important day for jbsh, I gave our first unsuccessful pitch. Obviously in writing research grant applications and funding proposals, I’ve had unsuccessful submissions and I’ve talked a couple of clients out of engaging me in favour of more appropriate (and cheaper or free) options.

What was different today was that I really felt that this was a great business that I could add value to.

With most funding applications you don’t get great feedback on why you’re unsuccessful. When the negative email came through there was an invitation to explore why we weren’t proceeding with the plan as discussed.

The discussion brought an important point home, you need to constantly evaluate every message across every medium to make sure it’s effective and conveying what you think it is. I’ve been working on building the QuickMark service, taking on new Researchers and more clients. I’m actively seeking ways to grow and build the service as a sustainable offering outside the funding that has provided stability so far. In doing this I’ve significantly refined the proposition, carefully positioning the service between the core activities that the Universities offer and those that are provided by commercial market research organisations.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t spent quite so much time on this blog evaluating what message I wanted it to convey. Originally it was a place to share thoughts, talk about events I’d attended and give jbsh LLP a presence on the web. This has all be augmented by LinkedIn, Facebook, MyBlogLog, Twitter, etc. Since that launch (almost exactly a year ago) the message that this blog is being used to convey has changed. Sam is using it to promote, explain and disseminate her research, and I was using it to build confidence with potential clients to trust their businesses to my advice and guidance. This last bit hasn’t worked, because I haven’t developed the blog, I’ve just used it to a different purpose (one it wasn’t designed for).

The other messages are still important, so we won’t undergo a complete redesign, but there will be some changes. Most critically I’ll be putting more references to existing jbsh clients and stories from businesses I’ve helped in the past.

It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most adaptable and appropriate to the environment.

[Note on the photo: I grew up in Gibraltar and have fond memories of walking across the runway to catch planes to ‘exotic’ locations like Southend where my Grandad lived. My first thought was say something about stopping and re-evaluating, hence the flickr search for stop signs. Searches for failure weren’t as nice so I’m sticking with the image.]