Sunday, 23 February 2014

CIPR Inside reveals the winners of the #insidestory awards 2014

CIPR Inside, Chartered Institute of Public Relations' specialist group for internal communicators, announced its #insidestory 2014 awards winners at its evening celebration on Thursday 20th February.  

Almost 200 internal communicators gathered at the iconic Searcys The Gherkin in central London, which appeared to be the perfect location for celebrating talent, success, and recognising the power of effective internal communications.

The night saw an opening keynote from Chair of CIPR Inside James Harkness, who highlighted the benefits of the awards to the industry as well as the high standards of the entries this year:

“With ten categories dedicated to celebrating the best in internal communication the awards attracted entrants from a range of diverse organisations and businesses. We’ve had a fantastic response to these awards and that’s recognition that there is real growth in our profession and a drive to push internal communication and employee engagement further up on the leadership agenda. Getting recognition for your work is a great way to demonstrate the value internal communication can bring to an organisation.

“The quality of entries was high and they were critically judged by a panel of senior internal communication professionals."

To host the celebration was Business Reporter at BBC Breakfast Steph McGovern. Full of energy, inventiveness and humour she entertained the audience perfectly well while the winners were announced.

Taking part in the event and presentation was also the CIPR Chief Executive Alastair McCapra, CIPR President Stephen Waddington, and CIPR President Elect Sarah Pinch. Their involvement and presence during the night was relevant, showing the support to the internal communications sector by the broader CIPR body.

So, who were the winners? As they were announced in order on the evening they were:

Best employee engagement programme: Crossrail. "An excellent example of an integrated approach to internal communication that clearly has an impact on employee engagement."

Best change communication programme: DWP. "This ground breaking integrated campaign was delivered against a robust set of objectives and has been adopted as a blueprint for internal communications across Whitehall."

Best international programme: SIP Group. "A compelling entry with significant challenges for the IC team to overcome. Delivered with no extra money or resource, the ezine is now central to the company's communication approach while also driving employee involvement."

Best use of intranet: Coca-Cola Enterprises. "This site continues to surprise, impress and delight but the key is that innovation does not get in the way of what the site is attempting to achieve."
Best use of video: ASDA. "An employee engagement video doesn't really get better than this. Fantastic video. It provides the viewer with so much. The brand translates throughout the production with clear evidence of all the company's values and an excellent show case of the people behind the brand."

Best agency: H&H. "An agency at the top of their game, brilliantly creative with outstanding results."

Best in-house team: ASDA. "Terrific example of business-led IC, proving business value saving time and money and adding value. Outstanding entry."

Best training programmeHSBC, HarknessKennett & Hinton & co. "This was an exceptionally well researched and structured programme, reflecting a clear understanding of the commercial imperative, the cultural and organisational challenges and the role of communications." 

Best use of research and measurementTelef√≥nica UK / HarknessKennett. "This is a robust, thorough and creative approach to research and measurement. It made effective use of a range of primary and secondary research processes to produce meaningful qualitative and quantitative data." 

Best individual contribution to internal communication: Rachel Miller. “A driving force behind many key industry initiatives, she helps the profession to help itself. What makes Rachel stand out in particular is her understanding and use of social media to highlight and drive best practice in internal communications. In this respect, she’s the best in the business.”

First highly commended and second highly commended were also recognised within each category. The full list is available on the CIPR Inside's website. Their contributions to the profession were significantly high. Huge congratulations and praises were made to everyone of them for their efforts in bringing value to internal communications and employee engagement.
In fact, the most significant aspect of the whole evening was the recognition of the strength of the profession, together with its developments and benefits to the business world. 

Perhaps, if there were one thing missing from the award ceremony, would relate to the fact that there were no entries for the internal social media category this year - and therefore, no celebrations for employee social networks enthusiasts. This is something internal communicators may want to think about. It might indicate the need for organisations to work more confidently and strategically toward their social business transformation journey. Many successful stories are coming up showing us the power of these tools inside large enterprises to open up their communications, build engagement and drive innovation. With that I feel positive there will be a variety of recognition in near future in this category too. And, surely internal communicators will have a big role to play in this #insidestory! 
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Google Glass and the enterprise

There are signs that Google Glass is about to impact the enterprise space. The wearable device is arming firefighters with data, it is worn by Virgin Atlantic staff to assist passengers at London's Heathrow airport, and it is also used by doctors and nurses to improve work procedures.

Patrick Jackson is a Fire Engineer currently developing a Google Glass-compatible version of his FirefighterLog mobile app. The application would provide location and other field data to firefighters directly to a display inside a face mask, allowing them to work faster and safer.

An article on describes how the application works:

The FirefighterLog converts text dispatch data into Google navigator to provide firefighter-engineers with GPS-based driving directions to an incident. When users receive a text message from dispatch, the app uses mapping software to display location information.

The FirefighterLog presents options for mapping the call, driving directions and other data to a registered user's smartphone.

It allows for quicker notification and more complete information available to first responders using secure communications.

The app displays hydrants and water supplies on Google maps, offers automatic streaming of RadioReference scanner feeds, records response times and stores account and call history — all in the cloud.”

While at present the application is somehow limited to exterior work, there are examples of how it could improve the internal communications among fire personnel, such as incident commander or safety officer. "Personnel can have them on and be placed on all sides of a structure where they can stream video back to an incident commander and provide a view of the other side of the building," commented Jackson.

In future the application could also “import pre-incident plan and occupancy data”, as well as incorporate a “library of information on vehicle models to help first responders quickly extradite victims.”

A recent video produced by Google shows how the device could be used to improve the job of firefighters.

Virgin Atlantic

Another example of how Google Glass could be adopted for professional purposes is given by Virgin Atlantic. As part of a six-week trial, the company is providing some of its conciergie staff with the wearables at London's Heathrow airport. The device is used to support upper class passengers with check-in process, answer their queries, update them on their flight, local weather, events and translating information in different languages. If the pilot is successful, the company will think about a wider roll-out, and used to keep their staff informed and notified on more passengers requirements.


Pristine is a startup in Texas that has developed the app EyeSight. The application let physicians and nurses transfer live video and audio of wound patients from Google Glass to each other through authorized computers, smartphones and tablets.

Cited in an article on SFGate, CEO of Pristine Kyle Samani, said: "We're really using this primarily as a tool, to help people connect where it was either not possible or practical before. If, for whatever reason, the doctor is not physically here, we'll find the next best way to get him here."

For example, a nurse can use the device to stream a video of a patient's wound to a doctor, who will then consider whether he or she should analise the injury in person.

Pristine is also planning to bring the application into intensive-care departments, emergency rooms and ambulances.

Looking through the Glass

These are just a few examples of how businesses are exploring the possibilities offered by Google Glass. This new technology is improving operations, and adding agility and speed to the way employees share information and manage documents to perform their jobs. But there are also indications that the device can change the interactions and relationships among people for better.

In Age of Context, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel point out that the eye contact enabled by the wearables improves the way we relate to each other: “with Glass's visual enhancement, you don't have to look down at a phone.”

What will happen when organisations start to use Google Glass more widely? The implications for internal communications will be many and possibly profound. For examples, Glass can change the way people conduct meetings. Employees will no longer need to look down at their laptops and tablets while they speak. Thanks to Glass, they will be able to look at somebody in the face and maintain rapport.

Wearing Glass makes us understand how such devices will enhance many everyday activities, giving us new perspectives on reality, adding information and data and letting us capture the moment.” - Age of Context,  Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Virgin Atlantic Photo: Ted Eytan, Flickr
Pristine Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Have you ever used or tried Google Glass in a work-related context? Do you have any stories or examples to share?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Cambrian moment: review

"Digital start-ups are bubbling up in an astonishing variety of services and products, penetrating every nook and cranny of the economy. They are reshaping entire industries and even changing the very notion of the firm." - Ludwig Siegele 

'A Cambrian moment', is a special report by The Economist that describes the entrepreneurial explosion happening virtually worldwide. The impact of this global phenomenon is huge, with significant consequences in the way businesses operate and interact. The document, written by Ludwig Siegele, could be useful to many social business professionals as well as internal communicators. 

Testing, testing

"Today the world has the capacity to build almost anything imaginable. The big question of our times is not 'can it built?' but 'should it be built?' - Eric Ries

Startups can be thought of as experiments, testing what can be automated in business and other fields of life. "Some will work out, many will not.

In a way these firms are doing what humans have always done: "apply known techniques to new problems". 

But today, doing this has become fairly easy. "Since the start of the first dotcom boom in the mid-1990s, launching startups has become cheap, which has radically changed their nature. What was once a big bet on a business plan has become a series of small experiments, an ongoing exploration." This flexibility would have been unthinkable in the past. Most of the things needed had to be built from scratch. Nowadays almost all of the elements necessary "to produce a new website or smartphone app are available as open source software or cheap as you go services. A quick prototype can be put together in a matter of days."

This shift has given rise to a whole new set of management practices. In the past the firm usually began with an idea for a new product. Now it begins with a "team" who often work through different ideas "before hitting on the right one." 

Siegele notices that these businesses often use a method called "objectives and key results" (OKR) invented by Intel and later implemented by Google and Zynga. "The idea is that all parts of a company - the department, the team and even individual employees - not only set themselves clear objectives, but pursue "key results" and help them get there. Within that framework they can iterate and stay lean. 

In some ways the lean methodology is providing a new system to train workers for the knowledge economy. "Startups today are in a constant feedback loop, which means they have to be run in a different way from their dotcom predecessors. The old model of launching a new product, encapsulated by the phrase "build it and will come", no longer works. Instead, firms have to find out what customers want." Internally, that involves building something, measuring how users react, learning from the results, then starting all over again. 

To make the point stronger, Siegele mentions author of "The Lean Startup" Eric Ries, who suggests firms should always test their assumptions and aim for "validated learning". And if their strategy does not work they should "pivot": leaving it behind and start with a different product. This requires a "new form of accounting for innovation" which implies keeping meticulous track of experiments and how these influence "meaningful metrics". 

Platforms, something to stand on

"Proliferating digital platforms will be at the heart of tomorrow's economy" Ludwig Siegele

Very important is the author emphasis on the most relevant building blocks of today's entrepreneurial boom: "platforms". In fact, the acts of experimenting and testing happen "on top of such platforms. New firms combine and recombine open-source software, cloud computing and social networks to come up with new services." And these new services form the basis of other digital products, "allowing for endless permutations." 

In business, the effects of platforms are already making themselves felt. According to Deloitte's John Hagel, cited by Siegele, companies must turn themselves into a platform or become agile ecosystems complete with startups and accelerators. And, no less than companies, governments are also encouraged to think in terms of "platformisation" and consider what role they want to play in this new world. 

"In a future digital world big business and big government may play similar roles, as platform managers and curators of ecosystems."  


The report analyses the drastic impact of the new 'cambrian moment' on our economy well. It prompts readers to reflect seriously on the way firms are evolving, and transforming both their cultures and practices of working. Perhaps, if there is one thing that internal communicators and employee engagement professionals may miss, it is that the document fails to explore the behavioural and communicative changes for workers brought by the spread of platforms to the depth they would have liked.

Nevertheless, the paper remains a helpful resource for understanding the big trends that are currently driving businesses forward.

Images from The Economist

Sunday, 2 February 2014

20 innovative workspaces

“The best innovation environments are not created through traditional management channels but are self-organised” - Matt Kingdon

In The Science of Serendipity, author Matt Kingdon describes the relationship between workspaces and innovation.* Space affects all of us deeply, our moods, our behaviours and our ability to connect with others.
According to Kingdon, great insight and ideas do not just come naturally, and people should challenge frequently their desire to 'nest'. He suggests organisations to create structures that allow 'collision', people to bump into each other. A way of achieving that is by encouraging employees to sit wherever they want in an office. Collision is also emotional, not just physical. Eating together for instance can be a very powerful example of forcing emotional collision. And, if the organisation has the technology that supports working in different locations, then sitting in a different place each day can be a good recipe for serendipity.
Very important according to Kingdon, is to have “a flexible space that allows people to either collaborate or get their heads down”. Different places are needed at different times for different tasks. Open spaces allow people to get together and play with new ideas, whereas intimate spaces allow them to be uninterrupted, concentrate and get their work done. All of them are necessary to innovate.
Kingdon suggests that a good way to get the most flexible space for serendipity is to reframe it as a do-it-yourself activity rather than a management initiative. “Colleagues who design their space generally create a mix of social and 'head down' spaces. They spend less money than professional office outfitters and they feel more engaged as a result.”*

There are a lot of companies that prize and foster innovative workspaces, including the twenty listed below. Some of these spaces may surprise you, and perhaps inspire you. A few are very popular, some interpret space in a very creative and unconventional way, and a few may even make you disapprove. The point is, these places seem to work well for their organisations and people; they support innovation, productivity and help employees to get their work done.

The multi-campus of Epic Systems in Verona Wis., displays a variety of themes including Medieval-era meeting spaces and a subway.

Dropbox's space in California, provides a 'music room' with grand piano and a custom-made chandelier. Image by Bruce Damonte.

At Etsy, several cabinet-sized rooms with plenty of soft toys are designed for making private telephone calls.

Swedish Internet provider Bahnhof AB's workspace includes an ex-anti-atomic elevated office. It brings plenty of light, technology, plants and water. It is meant to contrast with the disadvantages of being underground. 

Clive Wilkinson Architects helped Pallotta Teamwork to create something standout with their workplace: brightly coloured shipping containers with each having their own departmental identity.

Selgas Cano's offices in Madrid emphasise the importance of the natural surroundings. Images by Iwan Baan.

Ogilvy & Mather Guangzhou office aims to provide staff with an environment that inspires creativity. The theme is 'Carnival of Ideas' designed by M Moser and Associates.

Living Social in Washington D.C, provides workers with both recreational and meeting spaces that encourage movement. Some areas bring elements of the outdoors indoors (e.g. the bike rack and a colorful mural). Image by The Washington Post/Getty images.

At Box California, work is play. Employees take their shoes off when approaching the two-story spiral slide which descends into the lobby.

Fornari Group's offices are very futuristic. Colour changing LED lights, curved edges, and waving patters blur the line between walls, floor and ceiling.

Hully - designed by Venezia Homedesign - is a comfortable and multi-purpose workstation made of stress-resistant synthetic material on a metal frame. The seat cushion can be repositioned and adjusted to create a laptop desk. Image Design You Edit. 

BrandBase's office shows the elegance of sustainability. The majority of their furnishings are made from wooden pellets. 

Google is well known for its extravagant offices including the ones below. 

Staffing agency Pasona Group in Tokyo invites the greenery right into the workspace. The building has around 200 types of rise, fruits and vegetables that are turned into meals for workers. The urban agriculture initiative promotes the importance of productivity, mental health, social interaction and involvement with the wider community. Photos courtesy of Kono Design.

CoCo Minneapolis's spaces foster the concept of sharing ideas. They have adjusted part of the old trading board into a Twitter feed. Plus a colorful banner that plays on 'exchange' emphasises the concept of exchanging ideas through co-working.
Images via CoCo Minneapolis.

Grant Thornton offices in Belfast are fun, yet functional. The themed meeting rooms (e.g. Willy Wonka Emporium, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park) host training sessions and groups gatherings. Photos by Press Eye.

At Skullcandy International in Zurich, employees can decide how to configure their desks depending on whether they need to work individually or collaboratively.

iProspect's workspace in Texas, includes the 'Brain Room'. This is a curve-shaped conference room which, without corners, is meant to promote collaboration.

At AirBnB's HQ, the meeting rooms are designed as a carbon copy of the company's most beautiful listings. They also highlight the notion of working from an apartment. 

'Shoffice' (shed + office) is a garden pavilion in London, that contains a small office alongside garden storage. The space is ideal for creative work without distractions.

Places have a big impact on employees's performance and ways of communicating. Depending on the nature and context of the work, everyone seems to have their own preferences. Plus, the digital age has brought in new possibilities to re-imagine and re-invent the concept of the workplace: we work from home, while travelling on the train or on the plane, while having a coffee inside a bar, in hotels during business trips, etc. Surely, many workspaces are not as unconventional and creative as the ones above, and they do not have to.  

Is there a particular workspace that inspires you the most? Where do you usually go to get your work done? Does your organisation provide you and your colleagues with stimulating spaces? I would love to know your story.

*This is an extract from the book review originally published on simply-communicate on 24 October 2013: The science of serendipity: the promise of innovation inside organisations