Analysis

Let Social Networks Turn Your Organization Inside Out

Time Magazine has an interesting article this week about a new book out called “X-Teams” by a professor at MIT Sloan School and one at INSEAD. The thesis is that in corporate management theory, we have become overly obsessed with the internal dynamics of teams as a way of improving productivity and happiness in our companies, while, in fact, the relationships and communications employees have with people external to the company are equally important to productivity, happiness, and ultimately to success. The authors show decades of research proving this is the case.

The article doesn’t mention online services, but it got me thinking that this is yet another reason companies should actively embrace work-oriented social networking services like LinkedIn and Xing even though those services are hosted outside the company firewall, and even though those tools open up their employees to being poached.  For anyone reading this blog, I’m not saying anything new.  But the “X-Teams” research at least provides a credible and logical counterpoint to the fears of corporate managers who have blocked these services or purchased social software tools that are hosted inside the company firewall (company directories, blogs, etc).

The turning of companies inside out is good for them, ultimately. My bet is that tools like LinkedIn and Xing are in their infancy as to what can be done for making work much more fun and much more productive. Those companies will keep pushing the boundaries, or other companies will come along that do even more to connect people inside their company, turn that network outside to great benefit, and make it all more fun, fast, and productive. Regardless of who does it, we will continue to need arguements such as that of “X-Teams” to help managers get over their fears so they can let these services turn their companies inside out to great benefit.

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Analysis

Google is the Platform

A lot has been written about Facebook getting thousands of developers to build applications inside the Facebook wall using FML and other proprietary languages.  The excitement is in part due to the idea that much of the value created will somehow accrue to Facebook because they are now the platform (even though it’s unclear Facebook has figured out really slick ways to monetize all that action, but they probably will).  I agree it’s very cool.  Like Second Life has been doing for 5 years and Microsoft did so well 20+ years ago.  But as I was thinking about building a branded destination site today, it occured to me that because 65%+ of all Internet visits start with them, Google is the real platform and we are all building applications on top of their platform, the Internet, using their languages HTML, XML, etc.  Just as people go to facebook.com to get to FB apps, people go to google.com to get to ALL the apps.  And with Ad Words, Google has actually figured out a slick way to make money off it already.  And they make us bid against each other!  A pretty slick way to monetize us app builders on their platform. 

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Analysis

Health information + Internet

On the one hand, we see a mess:  we see 6.5+ billion people most of which know nothing about managing their health, we see the wasted billions people spend on their health every year (or is it trillions), we see charities spending billions (e.g. Gates Foundation) to improve health, we see the battle between scientifically proven medicine and the persistant superstitions, we see obesity and late night TV, the list goes on.  On the other hand, we see the Internet, free, increasingly robust, growing like a weed to every corner of the globe, fully capable of getting the right information to the right place.  So what gives?  Why is health information on the Internet still so bad 13+ years into this?

Has anyone been on WebMD recently?  Given it’s the #1 medical site (by Comscore, so take it with a grain of salt), I found the experience suprsingly lacking…lacking in depth, readability, clarity, humanity.  Not only does the site navigation and design feel so 1997, so does their unwillingness to give much information other than “consult your physician.”   I was hoping that Revolution Health was going to make a difference, and their interface does scream Web 2.0, but I don’t see them getting much traction, and I heard they are burning $6 million per month.  With deep pockets, strong vision, real passion and a bunch of very capable management, Revolution Health has probably bitten off more than they can chew. 

60% of all medical searches online start at Google, and they do seem to be making some small adjustments to their product that may pay off for users.  (See screen shot)

google-common-cold-search.JPG

Right above their results for “common cold,” they let you narrow your search so you have a better chance of avoiding the Spam Sites that are trying to swamp their SEO results.   If they do that, people will certainly get marginally more educated.  But Google, from what they say, are not focused on education as much as they are focused on patient records.  It’s certainly a huge mess deserving of attention, and if they solve it, it would make a big difference.   (That’s also probably a wise strategy for them — letting other companies come up with the great health information sites they can spider and put ads next to.)

So we are still left with the sense that getting good health information to people in a way they can absorb it and use it could have a big benefit to the world.  Could be world changing.  The fact it hasn’t happened could be a result of 1) intractability of the problem, 2) entrenched interests don’t want it to happen, 3) good laws and processes we’ve put in place to stop health fraud are now also stopping us from sharing truly useful health information.  I’m interested to find out which one it is.

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