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Find and share your gift by working out loud #wolweek 2016

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso

This is the first day of this year`s Working Out Loud Week #wolweek and Simon Terry has recommended to reflect about PURPOSE.

First I was contemplating about the term “purpose” and what it exactly means in German. Is it more about intention, a goal, aim, only a task or it more about a higher meaningful purposeful goal with significant core values which makes the world a better place? Well, I guess this question exactly triggers the right aspect and to starts my and your own journey (‘The way is the goal’ — Confucius)  into a purposeful (work) life where I am first discovering my own gift:

  • my talents and skills: am I using them to help others?
  • my  (working) time: how should I prioritize my time?
  • my power and influence: How I could I have a larger positive impact on the life of others?

I have made the experience that joining a Working Out Loud Circle as described by John Stepper is really helpful to discover my own gifts because of this impressive feedback culture which should exist in every great circle. A circle is a protected and confidential space (video conference or on-site meetup) where a group of people meet every week for 12 weeks to reach their goals. Using public social media channels is part of the exercises but not an isolated goal without a senseful meaning behind it.

Working Out Loud is not a wild and uncoordinated broadcasting of news or random (personal) information. That is what I hear a lot as major concern: “Why should I want to read that others are currently eating a cookie?”

For me it is a learning space with very concrete purposes: helping other people and organisations to achieve more. That is the main focus. It`s all about supporting others and reaching own goals is a secondary gain.

I have modified the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso
Find your gift, share your gift
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Making sense of sensemaking

I see sense making as a bit of an art but also believe there is a science to it. At least to doing it well. I also believe we will have to get better at it since it will be one of the key skills of the 21st century (check out this article on a Future Work Skills 2020 Report that believes the same). Especially when you consider the plethora of information we are going to be bombarded with online which will increasingly become our standard operating environment for work and play (if it isn’t already). This doesn’t mean that’s where we will spend all our time, just where we will turn to for information, and increasingly, for sense making. So I’ve tried to capture the science of it as I see it in this diagram below. This also combines an approach I see at least myself taking in this blog where appropriate.


  • Data. This could mean mastering the challenge that is big data. Equally, it could simply be the ability to use some raw quantitative input into anything you are trying to make sense of.
  • Experience. The best way to make sense of the world around you is to experience it. Take a trial of a product where possible (ideally free :), interact with an organisation, use a sample.
  • Ideas. Without direct experience or data you have only an idea to work with. This can be examined and investigated for its merits. Art would fall into this category but pretty much anything can be explored in it’s raw initial state as an idea.

Sense making

  • Value. Take all your key sources of input and judge them at this stage on what value they deliver or you believe they might deliver. What do you get out of them on a tangible and intangible basis.
  • Impact. Next is impact on the audience you believe is the intended one. No matter how small or big, what impact will it make. This can be very subjective because impact is relative to context and think about this as broadly as you can before judging
  • Sustainability. In other words, does it have a future. Maybe this is not intended but if it is, how likely is it to exist 5, 10, 20 years from now?
  • Own judgement / peer review: These are really only mechanisms to help you judge.


  • Theory. One possible outcome could be that you are left with only a theory, because nothing can be proven (but then can anything with absolute certainty). Theory’s are a good starting point for experimentation though and that is often all you can do.
  • Strategy. You may be a little more certain and so one bit of output could be a clear strategy if its a big enough piece of work and needs it.
  • Actions. Finally, you could either have the actions needed to implement the strategy or simply a clear set of actions to take as a result of your new found knowledge :)
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Intrapreneur’s Playbook: Why dissent is good for your organisation and 10 ways to foment disruption

20151027_215630000_iOSI work in an organisation and industry where a key mantra of work and of the value we offer to customers is (improved) collaboration. Central to this is effective teamwork and working like a network. I believe in this wholeheartedly with every fibre in my body since I have been working in this space for the last 10 years. However, there are times when it is counter-productive and things need to be stirred up a little.

There are times when “group think” can set in. Shared thinking can become stultifying. There is a risk of echo chambers forming. Out of the ordinary thinking so necessary for innovation can be lost. I’m not the only one to think so:

Inspired by this article on how to disrupt yourself, I borrowed liberally but modified it somewhat to focus more on an organisational level. I also added the last four points. It is essentially a set of principles intended to keep everyone on their toes, responsive to change and disruptive. This is for people who understand that the way organisations work has changed but not all minds in them have yet and the path to changing them sometimes need revolutionary tactics. This could also easily be a chapter out of an Intrapreneur’s Playbook – hence the title. So to the list:

1. An autonomous unit of contrarians who understand that new models and methods need to be created constantly.

The unit should have all the functional skills it needs to succeed, the right mindset and the wherewithal to operate independently of current business responsibilities (including finacial independence) but are still deeply entrenched in core business operations.

2. Leaders who come from the relevant “schools of experience.”

These leaders have addressed a variety of challenges, especially in the kinds of problems new business models and challenges will face.

3. A code of conduct and principles (like this set :).

Adherents should be inspired and can subscribe to them easily because they are clear and unequivocal and can be communicated and even tought consistently throughout the organisation.

4. Independent collaboration and communication channels.

These should not be required to coordinate with or defer to existing channels. A channel that allows for super efficient information flows, hyper connectedness and virality of movement. So by channel I don’t mean email – I’m talking Yammer, Slack, etc. :)

5. Performance standards that are open to the unit.

It should be able to reflect priorities different from those of the core business. You can expect the new unit to do as well as the core in terms of performance, but the formula for generating that performance must be different.

6. Unwavering commitment by the CEO.

He or she must be willing to spend an inordinate amount of time understanding and guiding the development of the new movement and must protect it from the natural desire on the part of managers in the core business to shut it down.

7. Understanding the status quo.

What the group thinks is not what is going to move you forward but its important to understand from whence you are coming so that you can better plot a chart for the destination. What will, how it will and why then becomes a robust rallying cry for the movement for change.

8. Hack the change and in turn the culture.

The insurgent’s/disrupter’s way is through Guerilla tactics – small, incisive attacks at the status quo that end up disrupting it. Piecemeal successes that collectively make up success at scale. A little more about hacking here.

9. Celebrate the successes through stories.

They must be authentic, based on experience and driven by emotion (narratives close to people’s collective purpose). They should also use facts and data based on reality that point to real successes and value. Enliven your stories with rich media, video, audio, diagrams, etc.

10. Start at the beginning.

The enemy never sleeps and you have to reinvent yourself constantly. Failure is an option and experimentation is the insurgent’s/disrupter’s Petri dish and the new planning.


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The Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs

NOTE: See bottom of page for updated version and notes.

hierarchy modern org

This doodle started out as a fun means of framing the way the world of work is moving within a very established framework – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Each element in the hierarchy kind of speaks for itself. I added a few lines of elaboration for each below. Over time this post has become the most read and shared of all the posts I have ever written (see screenshots below) so I think it has struck a cord.

Creativity and Innovation

I see this as the pinnacle of achievement. Everything else, as with the original framework, needs to be in place to get here but this is where the individual and organisation actualise. It’s the raison d’être of our existence in my view. If the organisation is not constantly innovating and creating new possibilities then it will not exist in the future. And as far as organisations are currently structured and will be for the foreseeable future, leaders are still the valve (represented by the tap) that allow this output or level of actualisation to flow, or not.


This could be seen as an element of actualisation but as with the others below, it’s still only a means to an end. Money is a part of it as is peer recognition and rewards. But it’s not what gives us our kicks really and nor what really helps us grow. It does need to be managed however.


Culture is what makes us feel a sense of belonging and comfortable in the work environment we are in. It’s very necessary because if it’s not right the best work will not be produced. And if you believe that culture eats strategy for lunch then it’s right this sits higher up the hierarchy, at least in terms of it allowing for organisational actualisation.

Built environment and digital ecosystem

In work terms it’s where people get things done and this is increasingly happening in digital or virtual environments as systems of engagement allow us to connect and collaborate to achieve common goals. But that doesn’t mean the physical environment matters less. Nothing beats face to face interactions and the physical environment that’s geared to facilitating that best is still likely to feature prominently moving forward. It may even allow organisations to compete more effectively.


This is where strategy (which includes a clear purpose) comes into the picture and execution. Essentially the organisations business model and how it is planning to deploy its distinctive capabilities around an ever changing technological, competitive and customer landscape. If you don’t know where you are going as an organisation, you’ll never reach (actualise) anything.


This is a version two of the hierarchy based on lots of feedback and subsequent thoughts I’ve had on the subject – here it is below. Notes on what and why I added what I did in this LinkedIn article.

modern organisation hierarchy of needs V2
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How to communicate and get what you need from decision makers

I learned of a technique in a training session given to Yammer Sales and Customer Success Management (CSM) staff in 2012. The technique adopts an approach for emailing someone, typically for the first time, that you are keen to get something from – essentially you would be cold calling them. We called the technique “the Hoff mail” after the person who taught it to us – see link below.

The person being contacted is also typically senior and difficult to get hold of. They will have many people contacting them and have limited attention so the Hoff mail is first and foremost intended to be impactful and to the point. It is also often a first step in achieving an ultimate outcome, for instance, closing a sales deal but starting with agreement on a first meeting or call perhaps. Or it could be to get a commitment to do something or provide some key information like a use case need, etc.

A CSM could also use it to branch out of existing relationships if they are being single threaded or stuck in IT (so building relationships with business decision maker’s). The key principles can be applied to communications means beyond email, e.g. LinkedIn, etc. See PowerPoint slides at the end which cover this a little more specifically.

The training was provided by


  • Sentence 1 is a specific reference to the person or company that makes your “ask” relevant
  • Sentence 2 is the connection to your company / solution
  • Sentence 3 is the close or what you are asking for


  • Something you want
  • Easy to Deliver
  • Open-ended questions only


  • Don’t include links in prospecting emails. The Idea is to get their attention, not to sell them on the first email
  • Don’t make mention of your name or company in the beginning of the email
  • Do not make reference to failed attempts at outreach
  • DO NOT use “tell me about your business” or make any reference that you don’t know about theirs
  • DO reference how our customers are gaining value from Yammer. People are far more interested in what our customers have in common vs you
  • TRY KEEP EMAILS IN THE SHAPE OF AN “F”: The first sentence is longer than the second which is longer than the third and closing sentence.
  • Subject line could be a shortened version of Sentence #1. It has to be relevant
  • Most likely be read on a iPhone


Example provided by Jeff Hoffman:

Hello …, 

I saw that ACS was named to Training Outsourcing’s annual top 20 list, and I was inspired to email you directly. I found your approach to learning and education refreshing.

We offer a revolutionary approach to sales training based on sales efficiency and pipeline management. Some of our notable clients include SAP, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, Forrester Research, and Akamai Technologies. 

Who do you recommend that we contact at ACS to introduce our programs?

Best regards, 

Example of what has worked for me:

Dear …,

As (customer name) have invested substantially in Office 365 technologies, I have been assigned to your business as a global specialist based in London, to ensure you derive maximum value from the technologies for your users and the business. 

I have experience with (industry) across EMEA and will be in (location) 23-27 November. I typically engage with customers to support roll-out of the technologies in digital innovation initiatives.

Can you and your team be available on the morning of the 24th as well as for calls beforehand to start preparing? 

Warm regards, …

More in the deck below

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Welcome and pointers

@ragnarheil welcome to this site :) Just want to let you know that you can mention users in this site in the standard way using the @ symbol and user name. You should receive a notification from this post. And this way we can work together and out loud #workingoutloud :)

As you can see you can also use hashtags which are standard WordPress tags in this live editor. Find out more about how to use this site here:

And I’ll add this post to the Sense Making category under the #help tag because that is where it fits as per initial structure below. Let me know if you have any queries :)

categories and tags

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Working in a networked world – 10 rules to guide you

This is an old post from past blogs I’ve run that seemed to go down well and so I’m bringing over to this site to keep a record of and tagging them: #archive

Consumers work this way already, they share what they learn about the product, service and company experiences they have every day so that others can learn from this. How often have you benefited from this when you have made a buying decision or experiencing problems? Companies and employees have lagged but are starting to catch-up. For the most part they are ill equipped to work in this way.

For some really good definitions of what we are talking about, this post by Harold Jarche on moving From Hierarchies to Wierarchies is awesome. It includes some great thinking from Jon Husband (Wirearchy)

For some very practical input, Mike Grafham of Yammer has a great post here: Using Networks to spark Networks

I was looking for a set of rules or guiding principles that could easily be understood and implemented to guide aspirants. Some borrowed from the above articles, some my own. What do you think, make sense? Would you add or change any?

Working the network

  1. Working aloud. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of working in a networked way – great primer here. It effectively means being transparent in what you are doing. Benefits are everyone can benefit from your work at an early stage and even influence it to be better. Key here is that not everything has to be perfect before you publish in an open, persistent and searchable environment.
  2. Curate. This is valuable not only to you but to those that you do the work for. It means collecting and categorising the best pieces of work on subjects you or other have contributed to so that the wealth of knowledge in the subject grows and is discoverable.
  3. Connect. Find and involve others that you can bring into conversations or pieces of work. Not always because they have the answers but sometimes because of their unique point of view – they may just solve the problem or provide a unique alternative solution.
  4. Ask, listen and observe. Not all work in a networked world involves active participation or engagement. There is value in lurking. Sometimes you get more this way than by jumping in because you feel you need to.
  5. Create (value and innovation). Having made the last point, there is still probably more to be gained from being a participant than not. What you should be cognisant of when participating is that it adds value and creates something new, ideally, but not always in collaboration with others.
  6. Pay it forward. Showing appreciation and reciprocity are two key tenets of good behaviour in a networked environment. Asking and expecting people to engage in any undertaken with you assumes that you will at some stage give back – it’s just good practice.
  7. Responsive and focused. Sometimes it’s easy to get sucked up into the conversation or flow and lose sight of the goal. Sometimes it’s best to decide quickly (try push for a close or leave the conversation) and move on. Also look at white space for opportunity, where the conversation isn’t or after taking a break.
  8. Integrate into normal work. Working in a networked way is not something you do alongside your work, it is the new work. Seeing it differently means you lose the opportunity to impact your work in positive ways and possibly for others seeing your attempts at working in a networked way as irrelevant.
  9. Find your voice, tell stories and share successes. Working in this new way means working in the open. This is often foreign to many who are also used to older norms. You need to feel comfortable working this new way and that often takes time, to find your confidence, voice and style. And sharing successes, if done in an authentic and captivating way (no pulp case studies) , can become genuinely inspiring to others to create their own successes.
  10. Discovery and triage. Working in this new way requires curiosity and tenacity. You need to always be on the lookout for opportunities to make connections work. You need to have the passion of an explorer, this way you will be motivated and open for anything, even to the crises that will come your way, as in any adventure but with a network behind you, there will always be a way to overcome them.
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Hackathons as a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation

In my time at Yammer first then Microsoft, I worked with customers to devise a program for running innovation hackathons. It considers more than just the 24 hour period typical for hackathons. The “pre” and “post” of hackathons is as important. Activity should start long before the 24 hour period and carry on long after.

It also incorporates a social platform like Yammer for supporting activities but you could adopt any. I’ve helped customers with global hackathons covering geographically dispersed teams. With something like Yammer you don’t all need to be together in one place at a set time for the pre and post work and ideas and innovation are given the time they need.

At Microsoft we went further than just the 24 hours. We dedicated an entire week to hacking and had a custom built platform that supported the ideation and team forming side far ahead of the week. Yammer groups were used in conjunction to the formal idea management side of things.

The full monty hackathon

I captured the approach of using something like Yammer in this diagram below for a full blown, longer term program. It also covers important elements like communication and involvement from others in the organisation. I’ve provided some additional detail following the diagram.

Innovation process flow

Based on work done with a large UK based retail customer – see also diagram for basic description.

Core concepts

  • Consolidate info into notes
  • Keep momentum by posting summaries
  • Continuous process of idea generation/team formation

Phase 1 – Ideation

  • A single main group is created and designated for idea creation
  • People post ideas in the group starting a thread
  • Topics (or hashtag in the text input field itself) can be applied to ideas to make it easy to distinguish between and track idea conversations, e.g #idea-descriptor (where descriptor relates specifically to the idea subject)
  • The organizer collects useful ideas into an Ideas Note making it easier to track all ideas in one place
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers post a summary of the most interesting ideas or the ideas that have generated more feedback
  • End of phase: all ideas are self selected for moving onto the next phase (number of likes and comments could be an indicator of an ideas popularity)

Phase 2 – Forming

  • People that have decided to progress ideas should make clear who they are and these should be logged in a Note in the main group
  • Teams can be formed around these ideas in the Note by simply having people names linked to the idea in the Note
  • For each team, you can have:
    • Summary of the idea
    • Members
    • Link to the group (see next point)
  • People create a group for each team and idea
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers posts a summary of the most interesting stuff happening inside groups to the main Globe’athon group
  • End of phase: Ideas could be progressed in conversations and Notes but at the end of the phase idea teams could be asked to summarise and answer some key questions around there idea using a template as a guide (see Example criteria for an idea qualification template below)

Phase 3 – Developing

  • The main group is now used again for collaboration and information sharing around the day of the event
  • The organisers/community managers make sure to spread messages out to observing parties and capture activities in the group from those happening offline
    • Pictures
    • Videos
    • Examples of collaboration
    • The winners

Example criteria for an idea qualification template

  • Have you considered all the advantages or benefits of the idea? Is there a real need for it?
  • Have you pinpointed the exact problems or difficulties your idea is expected to solve?
  • Is your idea an original, new concept, or is it a new combination or adaptation?
  • What immediate or short-range gains or results can be anticipated? Are the projected returns adequate? Are the risk factors acceptable?
  • What long-range benefits can be anticipated?
  • Have you checked the idea for faults or limitations?
  • Are there any problems the idea might create? What are the changes involved?
  • How simple or complex is going to be the idea’s execution or implementation?
  • Could you work out several variations of the idea? Could you offer alternative ideas?
  • How soon could the idea be put into operation?

I’ve tried to capture this whole approach a little more richly with this video :)

Instant hackathon – a no frills approach

This is the format you can follow to run a hackathon in a two to three hour period without any prior preparation and effort by participants. I’ve used this approach with team members on a one or two day retreat.


  1. Distribute: Hand out paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five minutes to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.
  2. Self-edit: Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites. Individually. Quietly.
  3. Share and capture: One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on. As you go, one person writes everybody’s ideas on the whiteboard.
  4. Vote: Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. You must commit your vote to paper.
  5. Share and capture: One at a time, each person says their vote. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no changing your vote! Say what you wrote. Write the votes on the whiteboard. Dots work well.
  6. Decide: Who is the decider? Decider should make the final call—not the group. Decider can choose to respect the votes or not. This is less awkward than it sounds: instead of dancing around people’s opinions and feelings, you’ve made the mechanics plain. Everyone’s voice was heard. Three ideas must be chosen.
  7. Rejoice (that only took 15 minutes :)
  8. Hack: Top three ideas are worked on for 2-3 hour period including pitch
  9. Pitch: Outcomes presented and one or more are chosen for further work after the session (or not)


  • Teams: Are groups of 3-5 people
  • Optional themes: Productivity Saving, Enhancing Customer Experience, Increasing Consumption, Better Product, Events, Blogging, Data hacks, Partners Stuff, Increasing Business Value, Use Cases
  • Scope: Business Hacks (No coding required!)
  • Bonus points for hacks that Ship!!!


  • Do steps 1 and 2 as an interactive session where people shout out their ideas and then collectively develop them.
  • Steps 1 and 2 as a walking session if you need some exercise during the day (needs a little more time). Capture and vote is then done as a plenary exercise. Hacking can in theory be done on the move as well but capturing the essence will require some work.

Further reading

I think hackathons, if done right, can be a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation. I’m not the only one. Below are some links to interesting articles of how others are adopting the approach:

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Proposed outline for interviews

This is some high level thinking on the types of interviewees being sought and questions that would be asked. The purpose is to gather feedback from practitioners that can be used in the trend report – more here. This is a work in progress and will change based on feedback (comments welcome :) and progress on actual interviews.

Target interviewees and example initiatives being explored

  • People running initiatives inside large organisations that focus on driving innovation or have an expressed and strategic interest in innovation (like senior executives)
  • People in startups that have experience working with large organisations to help them drive innovation or deliver new products and services.
  • People that have created and launched new products or services or been responsible for delivering them inside large organisations. This could include people from startups that were acquired and successfully assimilated into the organisation.
  • Initiatives could be standalone units inside large organisations that work with employees and outside suppliers or individuals (ideally startups) to drive innovation and new product or service creation and delivery
  • Initiatives could be regular events and activities intended to stimulate innovation and/or new product/service creation and delivery
  • Initiatives could be strategic programs to help reorient the organisational culture to be more innovative and intrapreneurial

Themes being explored and question examples

  1. Please describe briefly your role and its context in terms of the industry and purpose of your organisation
  2. What is your view about innovation and the role the entrepreneur plays in this?
  3. Can you describe in detail what work you do and outcomes you drive?
  4. Can you explain the methods and approaches you adopt that work and you would recommend to others?
  5. What do you think the future holds for innovation, both from an individual and organisational perspective and in the context of entrepreneurship

Other interview considerations

  • Target interview duration is 20 minutes or responses can be gathered by questionnaire, email or other means
  • Responses will be used in the book and will be quoted by person/organisation – is it okay to use the responses verbatim or is approval required beforehand?


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@intrapreneurtrends < woohooooo love it,…

@intrapreneurtrends < woohooooo love it, you can even @ mention users on this site (as long as they are users that have been created in this site, e.g. I cannot @ mention other users on Here I @ mentioned myself as a test.

You can even use hashtags when you create a post as I have done below (these get created as tags that link posts with the same tag).

In both cases you get auto suggestions of users that are in the system or hashtags already used.


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Publishing in the conversations section of this site

conversation editor

This is what it looks like above but its only visible to users logged into the site. It’s awesomely flexible and super quick – it updates without having to refresh the page. Just like on Facebook for instance. It has some rich text options and you can add easily add images, links and code even.

I love this theme which comes from WordPress and they actually use if for internal collaboration – more here:

More detail on the theme functions here (although I haven’t activated all of the options yet – like ToDo posts which I may do later):