Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Social Business creating Corporate Socialism?

so·cial·ism     noun \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\
1 : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
2 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

A scaring thought in the corporate world so used to hierarchical, top down, do-what-I-told-you model.  Can the S-word (I know what you thought but I meant Social), belong in the same phrase with the C-word (I meant Corporate just in case you had any other creative idea)?

The thought of allowing people at all levels to speak freely in a corporate environment feels like a dictatorship enforcing free speech for its people, a nice conversation between Government and Unions, allowing woman to vote a century ago or people from different ethnicities to share the same seat in a bus not that long ago.

Is social business the beginning of corporate socialism?  Is Marx becoming real at the heart of the capitalist world?  I know a lot of people are cringing now.  Some of these words put together bring back memories of the most fearful time of a generation.  Socialism, Marxism, Communism, Capitalism, Cold War, Nuclear War, End of the World.  I know, sounds scary for some of us.  But it’s good that most in the social revolution didn’t live through that and don’t have the same reaction.

There will always be a certain level of command and structure required for an organization to run.  Ever since I joined the corporate world back in 1990 I hear about reduction in hierarchical levels, elimination of higher and middle management, improving our listening skills, etc.  It seemed my promotions were always timed with corporate culture change.  Every time I was promoted matched the time the level I now belonged to no longer had the right for an office.  Worse than that, it was always perfectly synchronized with workforce reduction and empowerment down the ladder.  What meant in reality fewer direct reports, and luckily the same but most often more work.  So, while my boss had 10 people and a nice office, by the time I was promoted to take his job I had 2 direct reports and the same windowless cubicle.

And now this Social Business thing.  After all things we had to put up during our careers, we have to allow anyone in the company to say what they think and smile!  We have to share with everyone the knowledge that gave us competitive advantage to grow our career?  Share that knowledge with those who are competing for a promotion with us, when unemployment rates are high and the world is in economic crisis?

Yes.  Companies are becoming social.  Under the following definition corporate socialism is happening.  I define Corporate Socialism as:

 1 : a system of management or team working in which there is no private knowledge but protects intellectual property.

Whether this will happen through generational change in the corporate world or paradigm change in the current management model is the only question to be asked.  People will learn that socializing knowledge while protecting intellectual property will make drive results.  Those retaining it will get stuck in the past and will be eventually forgotten there.  And no; retaining your knowledge will no longer help your career.

Home  |   Author

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Move like Jagger, Think like Jobs

The one on my right is Steve Jobs!

Would the Rolling Stones exist without Mick Jagger? No, it wouldn't. It would be either a cheap copy of the wiggly legendary lead vocal or something that wouldn't resemble anything of the former band, which means it would literally cease to exist. Soon we will find out whether Apple was a one man show.

In a world built on volatility, it's hard to say Apple's leadership has been established. Mostly for 2 reasons: (1) no company is ever assured of keeping a leading position without continuous improvement; (2) there is no longer such a thing as established leadership.

What was Steve Jobs' legacy to Apple? Was it a roadmap or pipeline of ideas and products? Was it his creative and visionary brain? Or was it a way of thinking? No company can depend on a single individual for its success. No company will achieve competitive longevity based on a single leader, no matter how good he/she is.

We know great leaders not only when they have the job but perhaps more importantly after they leave, their legacy. We often see companies striving under a leader just to lose its momentum after a leadership transition. If the way of working has been ingrained into people’s beliefs and behavior, the company no longer depends on a single visionary individual to achieve greatness.

It’s a fact we can’t only blame Jobs in case Apple loses its luster. But preparing someone who can take your job is a key role of a leader. Hopefully the new person will bring even better and greater ideas. Inheriting a winning company is probably more difficult than taking a company that needs change, if we can really say a job is easier than the other. The rationale before this statement is that in relative market position a leading company can only keep it or go down.

I don’t know how much value there is learning how to move like Jagger, but I can say that if you can do it along with perpetuating a winning corporate culture you’ll be a hilariously entertaining leader on top of being a great one.

Jobs didn’t have Jagger’s moves that’s for sure. It now remains to be seen whether he succeeded making Apple think like him.

Home  |   Author

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How Google+ Will Shake the Social World

By now you probably heard all kinds of predictions:
  • Google+ will take over the social space and gain Facebookers’ hearts with the new features, specially the ability to consolidate networks and manage privacy;
  • Google+ is coming too late;
  • Or, “what is Google+?”; among others.

Working with technology for many years, I learned we can never say it’s too late. Look at Apple’s success in changing completely the landscape of the technology world. Or even Facebook itself taking over My Space leadership. There are countless examples. The fact Facebook is in the social world today what Microsoft was in the personal computing space during the 1990’s , doesn’t guarantee its position at the top. The company has been facing on-going criticism on how it manages its users’ privacy, and that’s where Google+ is betting its chips.

But before you consider migrating your networks to a new solution, let’s consider some important facts:

  • Social network doesn’t work without a network: Google’s controlled release approach may backfire. It’ll be difficult to reach critical mass if the majority can’t actually join it. This will likely give time to its competition to catch up with some of the innovative capabilities offered by Google+.

  • Privacy has been less of a concern than previously estimated: most of the younger generations are less concerned about their privacy. This may come back to haunt them when applying for a job or looking for a stable relationship. However, since this may be the new norm, people are likely to be more forgiven to things they know happened in the past. And who has never done anything wrong and could judge other people anyway. The fact they were able to hide doesn’t make than better, just sneakier. This openness will actually be very helpful raising serious red flags.

  • There is some benefit keeping your professional network in a completely separate solution than your personal network: Google+ assumes there is a lot of value aggregating all your networks into a single place. But professional and personal networks have different demands. When someone tries to deliver everything, usually doesn’t do any of them with the highest quality. I always tell my wife “do not trust a pizzeria that also has steak, sushi or even pasta”. The best pizzerias I ever ate at made pizza exclusively (by now you guessed I love pizza). So there is benefit having LinkeIn specializing on your professional networking requirements and Facebook on your personal ones.

Moving one’s networks is a hard labor. Specially if you took it very seriously when creating it. I’m yet to see a compelling reason why one should and I bet Facebook is already working to catch up. Now, playing catch up is not a position a leader wants to be. So it better take innovation and user requirements seriously. Because if by the end of the day my networks move somewhere else, I can guarantee I’ll move as well. As I said before, there is no network of 1.

Home  |   Author

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Social Media Secret Weapon: Email

This week I received a link to an interesting post called “Social Media's Secret Weapon – Email”. For those who know me I don’t have to say that I recoiled from the sight of the word e-mail. Specially coming together with Social Media, and even more when I saw it called out as its secret weapon! That was too much for me and I almost lost consciousness. Ok, you got the point.

Jokes aside (at least some of them), the article brings an interesting perspective of a current reality we can’t deny. The culture of e-mail is still pervasive, and using it as a tool to help people transitioning into something more efficient is a good idea. As I always say, e-mail has its place. You give it to people you actually don’t want to talk to, like we do with our home phone number, which is primarily used by telemarketing and people we don’t know well enough to give them our cell phone.

In the post the author makes a clear statement that e-mail is a secret weapon to bring people to the Social Media space, but he never advocates the use of e-mail for collaboration and discussion. I was disappointed that in many comments people seem to be confused about the message and used it to validate their ever growing e-mail usage.

I was amazed by the number of comments it has generated. Can you imagine if they tried to use e-mail for that discussion? Impossible! I do agree e-mail alerts are still an important part to bring people to discussions, but it’s not used for the discussion itself. That’s what probably happened with that post. People got an alert but immediately jumped into the social capabilities for the exchange of ideas.

Since e-mail is a cheap way for the sender to try to engage someone, it will still be used without restrain – unfortunately. Senders don’t account for the negative productivity impacts and related costs they generate in the other end. A distribution list can’t even be used as a gauge for its effectiveness since most e-mails are deleted and there is no way to know who’s actually reading them.

At home or office we scan through envelopes and promotional material throwing 90% into the trash, but we no longer – for the most part – exchange letters or office memos using paper. E-mail will be the same. We will receive hundreds of them and delete 90%, either automatically through spam filtering capabilities or manually, but it will be barely used for collaboration, innovation and exchange of ideas. 96% of the e-mails sent to serious corporations never reach our inbox. They are filtered by an anti-spam tool long before they even get to us. So, for me it’s a stretch to call it social media’s secret weapon.

Click Social Media Secret Weapon to see original post mentioned in this blog.

Home  |   Author

--- Vinicius da Costa is Associate Director, Collaboration and Social Media Solutions at Kraft Foods. This text represents his personal opinion and does not represent the views of Kraft Foods, Inc.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is Twitter Going Down?

In theory a great concept to simplify communication and collaboration. Just 140 characters each. You either have to know how to convey your message in a very concise way or don’t even start. This is Nirvana for all extremely busy people in the world.

However, the creators of Twitter underestimated the potential of humankind to explore it in a negative way. But let me start with the positive developments, which are many and may stick for good:

  • It was never so simple to tag a subject and filter by it. Hash tags are just a great concept.
  • It was never so fast to get a response for an issue or question. Post it and if you created a relevant network, you’ll have a good answer extremely quickly.
  • Therapy was never so cheap. Just open yourself to the world. With so little time and few characters, your tweet will get lost so quickly it may never be seen by anyone.
  • It was never so personal. People were amazed to start receiving celebrity tweets, directly from their hands and brains (questionable), at the exact time they were thinking about it. And in some cases, few lucky mortals would even receive a reply.
  • It was never so easy to have conversations during a seminar and exchange ideas, without disrupting the presenter, creating an extremely valuable parallel set of knowledge. Better yet, without even being physically close to anyone. Twitter has become the official way to whisper during live events.

I’ve stayed away from Twitter for about a week for personal reasons. I may have missed some interesting things but there was never intent to try to catch up. Then, for some time I thought: why should I go back there? Should I just delete my accounts — yes, I have 3 for different purposes — and forget about it?

The reason I thought that way is because there is too much noise to be able to filter what is really relevant. And because of that, many people are actually giving up Twitter.

Like any new thing, there is euphoria and then accommodation. Twitter as well as Facebook and other social networking solutions are at the highest point of euphoria. What will start now is accommodation, where people who already learned the pros and cons of such capabilities will adjust behavior. This is when quality replaces quantity. Massive clean-up, filtering and focus on relevance will take place. Following multiple people will only occur if you don’t care about what they say. Machine-like spitting tweets will actually make you lose followers.

The answer is yes, microblogging in general is going down. Not completely though. Just to a level where quality returns. It’s past the time people could get away tweeting like actual thoughtless birds. While one bird singing at a distance is relaxing, a thousand angry birds chirping at your ears at the same time is definitely not fun!

Home   |   Author

--- Vinicius da Costa is Associate Director, Collaboration and Social Media Solutions at Kraft Foods. This text represents his personal opinion and does not represent the views of Kraft Foods, Inc.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

8 million jobs: desperately looking for professionals

There is no shortage of jobs here.  Actually, there is a desperate need for professionals right now.  To be more precise, over the next 3 years it’s estimated 8 million new jobs will be created and it’s already clear there will be no professionals available to fill them.  This is Brazil.  And I’m sure similar situation ought to be happening somewhere else as well.  There is no shortage of jobs in the world.  The caveat is they may not be where you are.

I spent the past week in Brazil, the country where I was born and left about 10 years ago seeking better professional opportunities in the United States.  To my surprise, when I arrived at this giant of Latin America in 2011, the situation was completely reversed.  The first thing that caught my attention when I passed by a newsstand was the title of this local business magazine EXAME: “Searching 8 million professionals”, in big red bold letters.

This country, home of the largest portion of remaining Rain Forrest on planet Earth, is moving at an amazing pace.  Unemployment rate is at about 5.7%, which is close to say there is no unemployment.  Anything under 5% is considered a state of absolute employment, since at that rate unemployed is mostly voluntary or result of transition to better opportunities.  Salaries are increasing fast.  Companies searching for employees are dropping some of the qualifications required and investing in preparing talents in house.  So why is this a problem?  Because there are no qualified people available in the country, and there won’t be at least over the next several years, and as a consequence, government has to decelerate growth to control inflation.

What a contrast to the United States today, where the biggest concern is exactly the sluggish economy and high unemployment.  The good news is that despite the fact the US is in a tough position today, the world as a whole is actually getting stronger.  The bad news is, for a country accustomed being the place to be for the past few generations, it’s difficult to accept the idea that many of the best opportunities are somewhere else.  For me in 2001 when I was offered a job in the US, it was only natural to leave my country, family and friends, accept all the pitfalls of doing so and move.  It was expected and praised, a symbol of success.  This is not so much how it’s perceived today in the US.  After decades of absolute world leadership, people were raised under the paradigm they already were in the best place of the world.

It’s very unlike the US will become a bad place to live.  However, slowly the world will change, and some of the tradeoffs of moving abroad for better opportunities will become less of a barrier.  For the young, it may actually sound like a great idea moving to a country with so much energy, growth opportunities and optimism compared to what they see around today, i.e. pessimism, concerns, negativity and problems.

Our role as parents, educators and professionals is to prepare them to this new reality, while we try to make things better at home.  We can’t just discount 8 million open jobs.  We must educate them to the global environment to ensure they will be competitive and will have more options.  Continue to invest in their education, including languages and international affairs will be fundamental.  In this way we will prepare them to cover gaps created in developing countries with the accelerated growth they are facing.  Education can’t follow the same pace as development, and that’s where the US is in a better position to source for the global gap of qualified professionals.  We only need to accept the world out there as a real opportunity and work towards that reality.  It doesn’t need to be treated as the only option but it must definitely be an option.

Home  |   Author

--- Vinicius da Costa is Associate Director, Collaboration and Social Media Solutions at Kraft Foods. This text represents his personal opinion and does not represent the views of Kraft Foods, Inc.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Social Business – It is not just about technology!

Click HERE to watch recording of NewsGator, Kraft Foods and Microsoft Webinar in case you missed.

Transforming your business and culture using social computing software

Kraft Foods is in the middle of a dramatic transformation to embed innovation into every aspect of its business. Consumer driven technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that it is hard for corporations and their diverse employee populations to understand and agree on how technology can best enable the flow of knowledge and collaboration that leads to innovative thinking. Generational differences and a wide variety of comfort levels with technology impact the pace of internal change and the ability to roll out new tools quickly and effectively.

In this complex environment that many companies are currently facing, transforming the way the organization works is very difficult. Implementing new social and collaboration technologies will not work if a majority of the workforce doesn’t understand their value.

Check out this one-hour Webinar with Vinicius da Costa, Associate Director for Collaboration and Social Business with Kraft Foods, and Doug Caywood, Industry Manager of Microsoft’s US Consumer Goods industry organization.

In this Webinar they discuss the following topics:
  • Moving away from e-mail as a primary collaboration tool
  • Leveraging social business tools to drive business value
    • Innovation, knowledge management, efficiency, speed, agility, and enabling partners to fully participate
  • Investing in creativity, people skills, marketing, and branding
  • Being bold with the outcomes, be focused on the results

The best enterprises use Twitter to solve your problems fast

Forget 1-800 numbers. The best enterprises use Twitter to solve your problems fast — and some make you feel good too!

Check out this interesting article by Time Magazine.

--- Vinicius da Costa is Associate Director, Collaboration and Social Media Solutions at Kraft Foods. This text represents his personal opinion and does not represent the views of Kraft Foods, Inc.

Check it out interview about Social Collaboration on CMSWire

Social Collaboration at Kraft Foods: An Interview with Vinicius da Costa

...Ultimately we want to create knowledge spaces vs. physical spaces….creating a true "networked" organization. It’s not about the device, network, or physical location as much as it’s about knowledge, delivery, execution, and collaboration... click here for complete interview

Also available Warc commented version

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We Can Only Make an Old Car Ride So Much Faster

Every time I talk about the end of e-mail there is a great commotion.  But now that I have The New York Times on my side with facts see chart below it’s going to become a little easier.
It’s not that I don’t like e-mail.  I do believe it’ll still have its place, together with the typewriter, vinyl record and the Walkman.  Ok, that may sound a little too extreme for some.  Maybe a more realistic assessment is to compare the future of e-mail with our home address or our telephone land line.  Directions we give to people we most likely don’t want to really talk to.  For those with nostalgic feelings, just place it by the gramophone.
One thing is absolutely certain.  E-mail will not be the primary way of communicating and collaborating in the very near future as you can see in the chart posted by The New York Times in December 2010 (click to enlarge).

But this traditional way of communicating definitely has a heroic history and must be respected:
       200 BC to 100 BC - Human messengers on foot or horseback common in Egypt and China with messenger relay stations built.  Sometimes fire messages used from relay station to station instead of humans.
       14 DC - Romans establish postal services.
       1714 - Englishmen, Henry Mill receives the first patent for a typewriter.
       1971 - Computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson invented internet based email.
       1980 - Sony Walkman invented (nothing to do with email but yet an interesting fact).

It’s been 2,200 years this type of communication is around.  With the exponential development of technology for communication and collaboration started by the internet, and the globalization becoming the norm of business relations, it’s understandable that this electronic version of a 2,000 years-old concept is not enough to keep up with the world transformation.  The old wheels of e-mail are falling apart trying to match the pace of modern society.
Let alone the fact that poor usage practices made it one of the greatest productivity drags of our times.  According to several studies, an individual will:
       Produce an average of 25,200 e-mails per year
       Spend as much as 16.1 hours a week working through e-mail
       Or approximately 96 business days a year

While a good portion of this is real work, the numbers show the great opportunity there is.  However, changing technology will not change these inneficient practices completely.  Its mostly about people!
On March 24 2pm US ET, I’ll be talking more about these opportunities during a free Webinar titled Social Business – It is not just about technology!  Click here to register and join me in this conversation.
Visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta

4 Reasons Why You Must Start Social Business Transformation through People (and how)

For more than 2,000 years we’ve been communicating through some variation of messaging system, e.g. smoke signals, messengers, postal services and e-mail.  Collaboration in the same period of time was done either through gatherings (today called meetings), then conference calls and because of lack of anything better, e-mail.
With historical changes caused globalization, creation of internet and the progression of its capabilities like blogs, wikis and social networking, today people across the world are capable of sharing knowledge in previously unimaginable ways.  However, corporations are still struggling with the change that is already almost consolidated in the consumer space.
To help addressing this situation, I listed here 4 key issues and opportunities which make me believe it’s fundamental to start corporate social business transformation through people.  You will also find some recommended actions for each of them, based on research, studies and experience.
·         I want to target the audience in communications (CORRECT)…
·         …and I can’t do that with enterprise social tools (MYTH)
·         I want to target the audience for collaboration (NOT NECESSARILY)
·         Legal and confidentiality concerns (REAL)
·         I want to ensure security of proprietary information (CORRECT)…
·         …and enterprise social tools are too open (MYTH)
Action: Educate people about some of the myths around security and how to use different social business settings depending on the confidentiality of information.  In some cases, a personal message will remain the best option.  However, people in general tend to withhold information as a matter of personal power rather than security concerns, as you will see next.
2. VALUE OF KNOWLEDGE: from individual to collective
·         What would you choose (in a scale of 1 to 100)?
o   Know 60 if everyone else knows 30
o   Know 80 if everyone else also knows 80
o   Most will choose the former because that’s how they were able to grow in the past
·         PAST PARADIGM: What only I know makes me more relevant than others
·         If you manage knowledge within a limited space, i.e. your direct reports, your peers, your function, your business units (BU), you will be capped by that much space
·         TODAY’S REALITY: I’ll learn more if I share more
·         Collaboration will enable you and your team to transcend the very limits silos create
Action: Work with the leadership of your organization to recognize collaborative (team, multi-function, multi-BU) outcomes as much as individual (one person, one function, one BU) contributions.  Some of those collaborative outcomes can create unprecedented breakthroughs and business results.  It may be time for a change in the reward and recognition system to put more weight in team results rather than individual evaluation.  Create a pilot for global collaboration to demonstrate its power.  Showing is always better than telling.
·         Internet has seriously cracked the dams holding knowledge
·         Social collaboration destroyed those dams for good
Action: Focus in securing proprietary and confidential information and then let knowledge sharing flow.  If you try to stop it people will find potentially dangerous alternatives, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.
·         In a strong hierarchical culture it is a lot more difficult for social business to fly
·         Social business will break into “secret brotherhoods” and will allow people to voice their opinion
Action: Understand the culture of your organization.  If you work for an extremely hierarchical organization it will take a long time to get to a social business environment.  Hopefully not long enough to compromise the future of the company.  In that case you have to understand if there is any intention of leadership to give it a try.  If so, start with a small and clear business case that can demonstrate the potential of the change.  You may have only one chance, so study the alternatives thoroughly and choose wisely.  In less rigid cultures, you still have to make sure leadership engage in fair and open discussions, encouraging participation at all levels.
On March 24 2pm US ET, I’ll be talking more about these opportunities during a free Webinar titled Social Business – It is not just about technology!  Click here to register and join me in this conversation.

Visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta

Don’t transform Social Network into the next inbox nightmare

Whether you are leading Social Business transformation in your company or joining the bandwagon of Social Networking in your personal life, there are some few tips I wanted to share to make sure you create real value from the experience. Approaching it recklessly will just create a new information overload nightmare to your clients or to yourself.  Read

Visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta

Social Media increases employee life span by 25%

Check this blog I wrote for AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Community:
It’s been said that people who are actively engaged in social networking will live in average 25% longer lives.  The main reasons identified in this study are: click here to continue reading...
Visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta

If all you have is a Social Hammer...

“When will you stop giving us more tools and start making our lives simpler”? That was the question I was asked during a casual meeting last week with some classmates from the University of Chicago. The inquiry came when we were talking about Social Media for the enterprise environment. Read

Also visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta