Some of my best friends are engineers

By Marc Solomon posted 10-13-2010 11:37


I was listening to an NPR interview with Ken Auletta on tonight's commute. The Googlarchy was searching for its next growth engine and cheap, green power in the form of offshore football fields full of wind pistons churning in the breeze seemed like the right conversion from cheap, green power to abundant greener profits. But then Auletta was asked about the dark side -- not the politics or the hidden hush of some underhanded ploy. Auletta talked about a blind spot you could drive an entire Army Corps of Engineers through.

It's the intoxication of logic that impairs emotional intelligence in the engineering community. Google understands competitive pressure but not human fraility. They ran roughshod over hundreds of years of copyright law and then spent $125 million (2.5% of their annual profits) to prop it back up. Whoops.

Auletta said that Google doesn't get the fear it inspires -- not in rivals but the decidedly less science and math-based professions that have been scrambled by an endless supply of free web content where Google plays the primary demand-side mediator. It's also more than a little bit eery when Eric Schmidt tries to calm a busy mind with the proposition that Google will fill in the blanks of our missing keywords. What's missing in the setting of Schmidt's engineering sights is the inherent conflict of completing a web transaction by finishing our thoughts for us. Kinda spooky.  
The beauty of working alongside engineers is that that an impersonal nature looks for solutions -- not credit; pressing forward with incisive questions without assigning blame. Under the capable leadership of engineers process takes precdence over pay-outs. Inaccuracies are flaws in the system, not an individual weakness. How apolitical can you get?

With that in mind there's a lot of interactions worth tracking on SharePoint. Just because an engineer wouldn't know what social media occasions are worth tracking doesn't mean they've left out the technology to do so. Even in the out-of-the-box state of our MOSS deployment I can report on what sites were built where the lights are on (but no one's home).

I can also track who's participating in community of practice discussions and encourage good behavior (crowdsourcing capture) short of sanctioning a formal collaboration policy that would inspire future discussions to remain off SharePoint, at least in our shop. Naturally the most trafficked sites and frequented keywords are the top pro forma metrics. But spikes in usage are also essential for discerning patterns and modeling user behavior (both the deliberate and unplanned successes).

There is a piece in the current Harvard Business Review called Competing on Talent Analytics by KM guru Tom Davenport, Jeanne Harris, and Jeremy Shapiro.  Man, talk about that blind spot above Eric Schmidt's toolbar! My favorite insight is taking the ivy-covered blinders off the prestige conferred on their new hires by their advanced degrees:

"Many companies favor job candidates with stellar academic records from prestigious schools. But AT&T and Google have established through quantitative analysis that a demonstrated ability to take initiative is a far better predictor of high performance on the job."

What could this mean for online reporting and measuring those squishy human factors? Well, for one thing Sharepoint is a holding tank -- not just as a suggestion box but a staging ground for  building teams, assembling talent, and piloting workflows -- often based on coding libraries built upon the efforts of colleagues from other units.

The authors cite Ketchum Communications for performing network analysis to understand organic information flow through their own social apps. The verdict? More engagement means deeper commitments, sharper focus, and a culture that fast tracks idle speculations into test beds beyond white board doodles into operational reality. That's one way a math and science guy can get in touch with their inner artist -- and a bit of human fraility.

#emotionalintelligence #SharePoint #talentanalytics #metrics #socialnetworkinganalysis #performancereviews