Graduation Welcome Address - May 15, 2010

The following is the graduation welcome address that I presented to students earning a Master of Arts or Master of Business Administration degree at Concordia University, St. Paul. I am graduating with a Master of Business Administration in a study that is focussed on Innovation and Leadership Development. The industry I studied was Social Technology. The speech follows below the fold.

Friends, family members, faculty, staff members, and fellow graduates, I am honored to stand before you this afternoon and welcome you to the Graduation Ceremony of 2010. On behalf of all the graduates here today, I would like to thank all the parents, spouses, family members, and friends who encouraged and supported us as we worked towards arriving at this day. I can imagine that there were many times when we seemed disconnected from daily lives as we concentrated on our studies. I am sure that my wife, Erin, is probably breathing a sigh of relief that she will no longer hear me read rough draft number three of what, in my mind, would become the greatest paper (or graduate welcome speech) as we attempt to relax on the weekends. I would especially like to thank the faculty members who worked with us in chat rooms, discussion boards, lectures, and conversations, each pushing us to elevate our studies, seek out our passions, and challenge us with new thinking. I would also like to thank them for their understanding of the rigors of carrying out a full time job on top of putting full time effort into our studies. Perhaps a discussion board posting was later than it should have been once or twice. I believe I speak for all the graduates today when I say that I sincerely appreciate the understanding that being active in our workplace enhances our learning. 

It is odd for me to be standing in front of you today. I completed my entire program online. I feel like this whole thing could be handled through a technology like a chat room, Skype, or Twitter. In holding true to the social technologies that brought me into this program and into community with my MBA cohort, I put a call out to my various communities to help share wisdom today. I asked my Twitter community to share words of wisdom with the hashtag “Grad10.” Here are a few of their thoughts: Chris Brogan, author of the New York Times bestseller Trust Agents said, “It’s fun thinking big and acting small. Makes it more about sharing”. Albert Marrugi, host The Marketer’s Edge, one of the longest running podcasts in the Twin Cities reminds us to call out the systemic problems we encounter, we have the best possible situation right now.  Thomas Knoll an employee of Zappos.com wanted to share: “Tell everyone about your dreams and passions. You never know who will be able to help you achieve them.” This does not end with me standing here welcoming you today. If there is one thing we have all learned in our various programs, there are points for participation. So now, I leave it up to you. This is an interactive event. Interact. Communicate. Make Connections, grow your communities and help grow the communities of others.  If you have advice and knowledge to share and you Twitter, Blog, Flickr, or share any sort of content online. Designate it with the hashtag “grad10.” Let’s see if we can watch the ripples of this graduation year change the world.

I believe that it is fitting that the theme for this academic year has been “The light shines in the darkness.” We have witnessed financial crises, natural disasters; we have read stories of unethical behavior and questionable business tactics. We all know individuals who have lost their jobs during this crisis. Although our retirement accounts and financial investments may have suffered, we have had the luxury of a worldwide classroom at a history making time in the world. We have had the opportunity to watch all that happens around us, analyze, and learn. On top of all of this, we have had the privilege to study at Concordia University, a university with a mission statement that calls us to thoughtful and informed living within the context of the Christian Gospel. As a result, we understand the human condition. We witness times that appear hopeless and yet, we can see the light in the darkness, the glimmer of hope that awaits us all. Our education in this place has given us an anchor in which to rest and remember in both booms and busts.

But enough about darkness! Today we celebrate the hope and light, both spiritually and educationally. Today we have proven that we have learned and now is the time for us to apply that knowledge. As we leave this place in our academic regalia we can look back on the work we have done and see the evidence of great teaching, the new skills learned, and the new passions we have uncovered. On Monday morning, we when walk into work we will carry with us the light. A light of knowledge and a light of ethical grounding that no darkness can overcome.

Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

This video advertisement for a popular sugary beverage product unintentionally reminded me that they key to awesome customer service is delivering an unexpected experience. This thought has been popping into my head a lot lately now that my friend and former co-worker Thomas Knoll has moved on to work at Zappos.  People expect the mundane, deliver the extraordinary. When people come to get their laptop fixed at Concordia, our Help Desk also does a quick screen clean to get the fingerprints off. Something so simple can make the difference in someone’s day. Sure, it isn’t a 6 foot sandwich dropping out a vending machine, but it can still put a smile on someone’s face.

The Grad10 Project - #grad10

Summary: Rick Mahn described this project best: “Want to help some grads this year? Share some helpful thoughts, tips & tricks using #grad10”

How can you take an event that can be awesome and freaky (graduation in a down economy) and cushion the fear? In a few short weeks, graduates will be hearing speeches full of positive words and Seussisms. That might work for some, but deep down inside this is a time of chaos and uprooting.  Let’s make these kind words even more real. Let’s try and turn it into an event that has a lot of people showing support, care, and kind thoughts. This shouldn’t be the job of the speaker on the stage or a greeting card.

Let’s send the good vibes through the internets. Tag your tweets, pictures, blogs, and whatever as #grad10 and let’s get some positive thoughts to the future graduates.

I will be collecting some of this information and presenting them as part of the commencement address at Concordia University, St. Paul on Saturday, May 15 to illustrate the power of a collective group of people working towards good. I’d love it if you’d consider participating.  Help the class of 2010 see the light through the darkness of a bleak economy.

The Runaways

Last night I went to Walker Art Center and saw “The Runaways.” It opens in Minneapolis on March 19th, so it felt pretty cool to see a film before it is available to the general public. Kristen Stewart (of Twilight fame) plays Joan Jett (of freakin-awesome-rockstar Fame) and Dakota Fanning (of I Am Sam fame) plays Cherie Curie (of freakin-awesome-rockstar fame). What I loved about the movie is that it captures a moment in time where things seem to align and anything seems possible. One of those history making moments, like when you imagine Thomas Jefferson met George Washington or Steve Wozniak met Steve Jobs. (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but it was a critical moment where something awesome resulted) Basically, Joan Jett meets Sandy West via Kim Fowley who meets Cherie Currie. Throw in Lita Ford and you have an amazing limit pushing, risk taking, teen-girl rock band. The program that was distributed has a great interview with Joan Jett where she says, “The Runaways was so special to me and meant so much, beyond just girls playing rock ‘n’ roll. I think it represented a lot to me about following your dreams, about not being dictated to about what your life is going to be.”  

How to install the HTC Hero keyboard on the Motorola Droid

I am really happy with the Motorola Droid, I think it is a great phone with great features. The only thing I haven’t gotten along with very well is the virtual keyboard. This was further confirmed while I was using my iPod Touch this weekend, the Apple virtual keyboard just feels better to type on.  The HTC Hero keyboard has some similarities to the iPod Touch keyboard, so I thought it was worth seeing if I could load it on the Droid.  It turns out that you can install the HTC Hero keyboard on a Droid with a little patience. Here is how you can do it:

Notice: Use these instructions at your own risk. While technically it seems that nothing can go wrong, and it works great for me, you never do know so please be careful.

1) On a computer, go to the xda-developers forum and download HTC_IME.apk and Clicker.apk.  Thanks to cyonogen for getting this out there. Several other sites claimed to have it, but this one worked.

2) Using the USB connector, connect the Droid to your computer and transfer the apk files to the Droid. I did this by creating a folder called htckey and pasting the HTC_IME.apk and Clicker.apk files into them.

3) Safely disconnect your Droid from the computer.

4) On the Droid, go to the marketplace and download eoeAppInstaller. The free version works fine, but if you love being able to do this without rooting the phone, be sure to buy the paid version to  give the developer some love.

5) On the Droid, go to Settings > Applications and check the box for “Unknown Sources” read and agree to the statement about the possibility of really screwing things up if you mess up.

6) On the Droid, Run eoeAppInstaller click and hold on HTC_IME.apk and Clicker.apk and select install.

7) On the Droid, go to Settings >Language and Keyboard. Check the box for Touch Input. Read and agree to the scary warning about people spying on you. Based on my research this is a Google statement covering their butt just in case someone were to develop a touch based input that copied keystrokes.

8) On the Droid, bring up the browser and click and hold in a text input field. Select Touch Input from the menu that is displayed.  You should now have the Hero version of the Android Keyboard displayed.

9) You can also calibrate to be more precise with your typing style by doing the following: On the Droid, go to Settings>Language and Keyboard>Touch Input Settings>Text Input>Calibration Tool

Let me know if and how this instruction worked for you.

Kitchen Nightmares

I love watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The formula for the show is simple. Poor Communication skills + bad business = failing restaurant. When things get bad enough, the restaurant contacts Gordon.  He storms in with a bit of yelling and honest communication about why things are going downhill.  Then he throws in a few lectures on passion, creativity, and simplicity. As long as the owners and kitchen staff have open-minds, you have a success.  These same issues happen in other businesses.  People can be stuck in routines, communication falls apart, passion dwindles, and uniqueness fades. Ultimately these things all hurt the culture in the workplace. When these problems happen in businesses and non-profits, you can feel it, but the daily work continues so people ignore it. I have been thinking lately: what would happen if Gordon walked into my office?  What would he notice?

Customer-driven Quality

I am nearing completion of the MBA that I am taking in Innovation and Leadership Development at Concordia University - St. Paul.  Last week, I wrote a paper on Customer-driven quality and I felt like sharing it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you can make it through my academic voice.

The reason I am sharing this paper here is because it focuses on my passion of helping organizations build relationships with their customers.  This is why I am such a huge fan of social technology and the connections that can be made through the use of it.  As always, it is essential to understand that social technology and tools like Twitter and Facebook did not create these relationships, it just amplifies them.

Customer Driven Quality

Mafia, Innovation, and Lists

I am flattered to have been included on a few lists that have been posted in the local Twin Cities community about Social Media and Innovation. Arik Hanson’s crowd sourced Top 20 Social Media Innovators, David Erickson’s Top 30 Minnesota Social Media Innovators, and then today on City Pages clever Social Media Mafia List

All of this conversation about innovation has got me thinking: How is my use of social media innovative?  My day job is at Concordia University, St. Paul (of course, the opinions in this blog are mine and not those of my employer)  -disclaimer accomplished-  My official job description has me managing our university help desk, laptop program, and our card access system.   I enjoy technology, but I love working directly with people.  If you eliminate the human interaction from technology, I lose interest really fast.  Social media has drawn me into it because of the heavy emphasis on the social connections between people.   My Help Desk experience and my experience in social media has taught me that the strongest and most successful organizations are constantly listening to their community.  Therefore I consider myself a community advocate.  I primarily act as the eyes and ears of the Information & Technology Department. My goal is to listen to the community and take these concerns to the Department.  After doing this we work to create solutions that have both interests in mind.

Involving the Concordia St. Paul community isn’t a task that I take on alone. I work with many wonderful people who put a great deal of effort into making Concordia University, St. Paul a better place.  I believe it is all of us working together that has helped the university gain attention as being a place that understands social media.  So in honor of all the listmaking that is going around, here is another list.

The following list is of folks who are or have been at Concordia St. Paul who spend a great deal of free time and teaching time working with faculty, staff, and students.  Together we use social technology to listen, share, and help model how these tools can help improve our service to our community. I could give you a description of each, but I believe their Twitter stream will help you understand them better than I could tell you. (of course the opinions in their Twitter stream represent them and not their employer) -two disclaimers in one post, how awesome is that? -

@billyspringer @bschultzy @CarolZRinkoff @C3POJones @heather_riddle @hgeorge @jonmierow @mjbruder @slolee @thomasknoll @tweetkunedo @WhoRUServing @winegarden
and of course: @concordiastpaul and @cugoldenbears

I am sure I forgot a ton of people. I know I did. There are a lot of us at Concordia St. Paul using all forms of social technology (Blogs, Facebook, etc.) Sorry if you were inadvertently left out.

Social Media Innovators in the Twin Cities - My Thoughts

Last week Arick Hanson posted a request for people to suggest five of what would become a Top 20 list of Twin Cities social media innovators.  The post really got me thinking, what does it really mean to be an innovator in social media?  Is it possible for an individual to be innovative in her or his use of social media or is that domain left primarily to companies who do amazing work with social technology?  There clearly are some companies and organizations that do an excellent job at doing new and creative things using the social tools that are out there.  This is a quick list of those companies.

WCCO and @JasonDeRusha
In terms of the local news WCCO is doing amazing work listening and communicating news.  DeRusha keeps the news human. Altogether WCCO has beomce people I love interacting with. They are innovating on how I feel about news coverage.

The Uptake, @jasonbarnett, @chuckumentary, and @noahkunin
Keeping with the news, the folks at The Uptake are astounding.  Their coverage of the RNC in St. Paul and the news they bring is excellent.  They are really innovating in the citizen journalist space of these social tools.

#SMBMSP and @rickmahn and the others behind making this event happen.
Everyone behind our local chapter of Social Media Breakfast are innovating by taking us back to the basics.  They help provide an outlet for the face to face conversations that are at the root of social technologies.

UnSummit, @myklroventine, @donmball and @megcanada
I love the story of the birth of UnSummit. An oversold event in town could have easily brought frustration to the burgeoning social media community but, instead of complaining, innovation occurred.   I had an amazing time at the MIMA summit last year, but a part of me wished I would have been at the inaugural UnSummit.

#kanecamp and @JenKaneCo
Jen Kane provides innovation with the use of social media in the event planning and teaching realm. I have had the chance to volunteer to help at a few of the Kane Camps. I enjoyed the presentations. Jen provides an excellent example of the importance of listening to the backchannels and working to ensure everyone gets what they want out of her events.

@motoi2go, @punchpizza, @izzysicecream, and @bajasol
All of these restaraunts are all doing great things in the social space. Moto-I  offered the first social media based contest I ever experienced and I still feel it was done the best. Imagine a time without retweets and feed spam. I was happy to have won the sake tour, so maybe I am a bit biased. The passion that Blake brings to sake radiates into the social media experience.

@joshuakahn, @garykoelling, @benhedrington, and @camgross
Last but certainly not least, Best Buy has been unparalleled in their use of Social Technology to level the playing field. The above mentioned individuals must only be a tiny portion of the many people who make this happen. From Blue Shirt Nation to the recently released @Twelpforce they have been awesome and constantly on the edge of what will soon become standard use of social technology in the workplace.

This post differs quite a bit from my original comments on Arick’s blog.  I’ve had a lot of time to mull this over and I know there are many many others who could be on this list.  Who did I miss? Please let me know in the comments.

Let's "do" Social Media

"In contemplating social media, the first question to ask is whether yours is a brand worth sharing.  If yes, then social media tools can enable that sharing.  If not, it’s time to redirect your energy back to question number one." - by Tom Fishburne

I came across this great quote in the article Social Media Bandwagon, from The Management Cartoonist Blog.  Far too often it appears that traditional marketing mindsets are drawn to social media to “go viral” or “be cheap”. What Tom points out (by way of @KathySierra)  is that it is essential for companies to use social media to listen to their customers first.  Social media is not a tool to pummel potential customers with your corporate awesomeness. Instead sit back and listen to the conversations and interject if necessary.  Learn, help, and share with your customers in a real way.  When I am approached by individuals who are looking to “do” social media, I think the most powerful question is a simple, “Why?”  The goal of social media is humble participation, anything less will be challenged.

Integrating Podcasts and Video into your PR Campaigns

Albert Maruggi is presenting on Podcasting and Video for Public Relations. I’ve known Albert for two years now, thanks to Social Media Breakfast and a chance meeting at White Rock Coffee Roasters in Highland Park.

He begins by showing us the ancestors of social media: Mr. Rogers and Jon Adams one who taught us to share and that everyone was special and the other who with the help of Thomas Jefferson brought us free speech.

Albert played a clip of his Aunt talking about baseball.  There is intimacy that you just wouldn’t catch in text.  Video is mandatory: “If it is good enough to do once, it is good enough to record” Another point that Albert brings up is that “There is no more mass media, only mass community”  People want stuff you have, it is up to you to find those people or make it easier for them to find you..  The more I hear Albert talk the more I am reminded that social media and web 2.0 is nothing new. People in community has been forever, the means by which we live out that community has changed thanks to the internet. An additional point related to this is that I believe we have forgotten that mass media is really new. Originally, news travelled through the same methods that Twitter capitalizes on: friends communicating stories of importance to them. Television, newspapers, and radio hid the emphasis of the roots of human communication. Twitter/Facebook/Social Media simply shed light on the communication and make it public.

Albert continues by saying, tell your corporate story in the best means possible.  It is important to the best means for you, not the best for someone else or the method everyone else is using.  Albert is using Utterli to interview a member of the audience through his phone. What a great example of how you can quickly pull together audio content. Here is the interview he pulled together with Angela Babb.

A question about making the media take off was asked.  Albert says that makes him feel too mass media. The goal here as Albert stated earlier was to create content and make it available. The ratings are interesting, but not essential. Perhaps releasing it and generating a groundswell by speaking with key bloggers.  How do you get the grasstops to catch on instead of the grassroots?  You get there by being intelligent and already involved in the community. Just be a part of the community.  You have to be in the space and participating.  When you start saying smart things people will notice you. Albert again hits the nail on the head: Involvement and participation is what builds the community.

Small Brands. Big Results.

This was a great presentation by Blois Olson.  Blois is from Tunheim Partners. They do PR for Punch Pizza. I have been a huge fan of Punch’s social media campaigns. They really get connectivity to the public. It was very intresting to hear from Blois on how they worked with Punch to reach such a peak of social media connectedness.  I loved hearing the background to the #snowmagedon09 Punch’s pizza event.  Punch made a twitter coupon free pizza on the night of the massive snow storm for one night only.  They gave away 500 pizzas, gained 100’s of new followers and became part of the conversation and had a profitable evening.  As I look back on that event, Punch’s participation in #snowmagedon09 made them part of the lore of a crazy snowstorm and gained them a connection with the local community in a real way.

Izzy’s Ice Cream (another of my favorite local shops in St. Paul) also works with Tunheim Partners.  If the owners understand the brand it is easy to use social media and technology to connect their brand with people.

Here is the key and I am so glad to hear this: Tunheim Partners does not tweet on behalf of any of its clients. They simply advise and suggest options.

Online Reputation Management: Your New Marketing Priority

Some great wisdom from Greg Swan

Steps to respond:

  1. Breathe
  2. Ask, “Is what’s being said true?” Be honest and have thick skin. (Don’t call the lawyers right away).
  3. Ascertain if responding will add water or gasoline to the flames.
  4. What are the response options (comment on the story, write your own perspective on a corporate blog)
  5. Who will respond: Be in it for the long haul
  6. Prepare a genuine, to the point response
  7. Be responsive.

Best Case: Do all this within hours.

Greg also went over a great section on innoculation against brand degredation. Some highlights: Own your company’s identification. If you don’t, someone else will. Use Username Check to nab your identify all over online.  Build relationships now, don’t wait. Know who key advocates are in the industry.  Treat your critics as experts (even if they aren’t A-listers).  Empower community advocates.

Using Social Media Behind the Firewall

This was a great presentation by Gary Koelling and Cameron Gross

Much like the cake, the firewall is a lie. Internal is continuing to become a myth and the wall will break down even more as Generation Y/Millenials enter the workforce. Everyone has the capability to publish and they want to communicate with you and about your business.  What we really are doing with social media and the work place is entering the business of making friends. I hope that we never enter the point in time where we calculate ROI on friendships.  Start today, start small, start cheap and try stuff.  Trust is key as we enter the breakdown of the firewall. You should trust customers, trust employees, trust yourself that we can succeed and be human at the same time.

Awesome question. What do you do when you have employees who talk about their job on Facebook and also post their after-hours activities?  Answer: Did you know they were drinkers before you hired them? Does it affect their job? There isn’t anything you can do about this. This is the eternal problem that many companies will face.

A question was asked: How do you monitor all these conversations? Everyone should pay attention to the communicatins of the network of customers.

Public Relations 2.0: The New Tools of the Trade

I am really excited to be working as a technical support guru for the Public Relations 2.0: The New Tools of the Trade conference hosted by Kane Consulting and Mashable . I am sacrificing a day of vacation in order to attend, but I know this is totally going to be worth it. Especially considering how great Kane Consulting’s Social Media Bootcamp series has been. I had a blast assisting on the Social Media SWAT team for that event. After this event, I know I will come back with a head full of ideas.

Here are just a few of the breakout sessions that I am hoping to spend some time at tomorrow:

  • "Using Social Media Behind the Firewall," with Gary Koelling, Senior manager of Social Technology for Best Buy and Co-founder of the company’s Blue Shirt Nation along with Cameron Gross, Owner of GreaterThan Media and social media consultant to Best Buy.
  • “Pitching Using New Media Tools,” with Eva Keiser, Senior Vice President of Risdell McKinney Public Relations.
  • "Online Reputation Management," with Greg Swan, Digital Strategy Manager, Weber Shandwick Digital Communications.
  • “Incorporating Podcasts and Video Into Your Marketing and PR Mix,” with Albert Maruggi, founder of Provident Partners and Producer of the Marketing Edge podcast.
  • “Small Brands. Big Results” with Blois Olson, Executive Vice President of Tunheim Partners.
  • Ten Great Takeout Spots in the Twin Cities

    Thanks to CityPages for pulling together a great listing of the best local take out.  My personal favorite lunch takeout is at Nelson’s Cheese and Deli.  Their flagship sandwhich: the Cheesemaker is large enough to be lunch for two.  After waiting in line, grab a sandwich and head to Como Park for a great lunchtime picnic.