Introducing Dr. Dima Dimitrova

In February, Dr. Barry Wellman introduced me to a colleague from his Netlab at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Dimitrina (Dima) Dimitrova has extensive research experience, which includes evaluation research and project management engagements.

Her areas of expertise are social networks, workplace and technology. She was the Principal investigator of the NetMap consulting project, which examined the social network and collaboration practices of researchers and partners of the Canadian Water Network. Here is one of her presentations on this work:

Her doctoral research “The Telework Mosaic (University of Toronto, 2002)” focused on the social implications of new technologies for social networks and new forms of workplace arrangements.  As well, she has conducted research in the areas of diversity, health care, and industrial relations.

She is active at scholarly conferences, presenting and organizing several sessions, peer review work, and in community research. Her latest publication is a co-authored chapter on Virtual Communities of Practice. Other research findings have been published, as co-author or independently written work, in the US, Austria, Britain, Norway, Italy, Russia, and Bulgaria.

Dima is currently teaching at York University and working on a paper on the use of social capital in collaborative research. She is a member of NetLab, a social network group at the University of Toronto led by Barry, who is a leading authority in social network research and theory and a founder of the International Network of Social Network Analysts.

In the weeks since meeting, Dima and I have met several times.  At the second meeting she showed up with a printed copy of my ebook that had so many highlighter marks and post it notes attached to it, I needed to pull out a copy myself just to remember how to answer all of her diligent, expert questions.

While the ebook has been viewed well over 10,000 times now, downloaded more than 1,500 times, featured by Scribd, marked as a favourite by about 60 Scribd users, “liked” by about 30 more and Olav Sorenson has given it a thorough read … I am quite confident at this point that there is no one who has given Social Capital Value Add more thorough, qualified consideration than Dima.

We have crafted a proposal to test the Social Capital Value Add approach in a precedent set of Fortune 100 companies.  If your company would like participate in this research & development program or financially support the design phase of the program please contact me.

This will be an initiative that will help define corporate management methods designed for the network era on a scale equal to similar work by MIT and IBM.


IBM MIT Virtuous Cycle IBM MIT Virtuous Cycle Michael Cayley IBM is working with MIT to define management methods designed for the network era. In the past we have not been able to see how these kinds of efforts have a direct impact investor’s perception.

SCVA research & development program is a similar opportunity for 3 to 5 companies.

Whuffie? As long as the dog fetches the bone.

Last month I met up with Tara Hunt at the Drake Hotel in Toronto.  Tara was in town for business for Intuit, had her friend’s wedding mixed in and the pending launch of her book.  It was nice that we had enough one on one time for a pint and some of that amazing food at the Drake.

Last week a signed copy of Tara’s new book, The Whuffie Factor, showed up in my mail box.  That is appreciated all the more because I know Tara probably had to personally buy and ship this copy.  I heard the whole story about how she and her publisher were having the Duncan Watts influencer sminfluencer debate about how to spread the word.

Tara Hunt is a case study on personal branding.  I should know because I have included her case in the course outline for the first year social media course at Humber’s new BA-PR program.  Through a combination of personal risk taking, hard work, experience, intuition and smarts Tara has arrived at the intersection of business, social media, social capital and community with a quality contribution.

The Whuffie Factor is not only a compilation of Tara’s own experience.  It pulls together hundreds of headline stories that we are seeing all around us about companies like Dell, Twitter, Threadless, Vonage, 37Signals, PayPerPost, Last.fm and brings them into focus with a critical eye, in terms that are designed for everyone.

A pint at the Drake

A pint at the Drake

From time to time I have found myself defending the “Whuffie” approach on Twitter and in blog comments.  The basic arguments that I have seen against the term “Whuffie” come from a couple of directions.  Firstly, there are more buttoned down business types who think that “Whuffie” is a term that won’t cut it in the boardroom.

I bet there are more Boardrooms within 100 km of Tara’s house that would be down with the Whuffie than there are stodgy ones.  Even the old boys will tune in when it comes to making Whuffie (unfortunately for all the wrong reasons).

Then there are the academics and intellectual “knowledge management” types who go to great lengths to carefully choose the words that they want to associate with.  In academic circles, I have come to understand that this is a fairly big concern.  I have noticed that even the term “social capital”, where there is an academic tradition to build upon, has been steered around by some for a variety of reasons.  I have virtually stopped following one google group where I respect the knowledge and experience of the members because it seems that more than half of the dialogue is an attack on this way of describing management or that way of describing a community.  Even the value of profit comes under attack.

I recognize that different words are useful for different applications.  I think that we are living through a time where we are still coming to understand our networks as the primary factor of production.  As common understanding evolves, meaning will build behind certain words.  Some will emerge as the dominant labels some won’t.

I also have made it clear that a “conversation” that is designed for everyone needs to be complimented with terms that are designed for investors and senior level managers.  As Tara points out in the book, “Who are metrics for then?  Investors.  Journalists.  Outsiders.  People who want a number to tell the whole story because they are not part of the community itself and it is really hard to explain the impact of a great community to an outsider.” (p. 237)

Personally, I think that the terms “Whuffie” and “Social Capital Value Add” each have memetic qualities because they both come from fertile idea habitats (to borrow a concept from the work of Chip Heath & Jonah Berger, see p. 20 of my ebook).  But that is another post.

I usually conclude my defense of “Whuffie” with a one liner, “It doesn’t matter what you call the dog, as long as it fetches the bone.”

In 1979, Deng Xiaoping put to rest ideological naval gazing in China with a simple phase:

“It doesn’t matter if a cat is white or yellow, as long as it can catch mice.”

There was no mistaking the common mission of the people of China while I lived there from 1995 to 2000.  In fact since 1979, China has averaged growth rates in the 10% neighborhood.  How much does it matter that most people think that he used the word “white” instead of “yellow”?

America has the opportunity to unleash a new era of healthy, sustainable growth from break throughs in productivity and innovation made possible by management methods designed for the network age.

During a period of phenomenal change, I think it is best not to take issue with words or symbols that may seem fleeting from deep in the silo of your particular area of expertise.

In a Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities.  In an expert’s mind there are few.

Whuffie is involved.  That is indisputable.  Let’s catch mice, dog.

Memo to the CEO: Why we need an annual report for technology

This lead into an article in The McKinsey Quarterly caught my attention:

“Memo to the CEO: Why we need an annual report for technology

Although most companies realize that business units and the technology organization must be much more integrated, many don’t know how to make this happen. Business leaders sometimes have only a vague sense of technology’s value, while technology executives often fail to address issues in terms that businesspeople find meaningful. In a hypothetical memo to a CEO, a chief technology officer proposes a solution: an annual report for technology, analogous to the annual report for investors and the broader market.”

The article goes on to succinctly capture a point that I think is true for IT and, as I have been trying to point out, even more of an issue for those evangelizing the adoption of social media and other manifestations of the broadband networked era we are moving into …

“The basic problem is a lack of shared understanding. Our business unit leaders … just see bits and pieces and don’t seem to grasp the interdependencies. It’s understandable that they get upset when things go wrong, but it’s less understandable that they hesitate to invest time and energy to sponsor solutions. Our technology leaders, for their part, often fail to address issues in ways that businesspeople find meaningful and therefore lack credibility … “

Well, the idea of an “annual report” is dead.  We would be looking for something that can be updated frequently or reported in real time.  And, despite a good effort to tackle a major problem, McKinsey’s language still highlights the chasm in thinking.  Taking a org chart and process approach to management instead of a network view leads to compartmentalization instead of integration.  Increasingly, the “value the technology organization delivers” is not somehow distinct from the value that the entire organization is delivering.

In any event, their point is spot on.  There is a need for tighter integration between day to day business and the technology that is already available.

As we have completed the Design Phase proposal of a research and development program that will test Social Capital Value Add in three to five Fortune 100 companies, I have had a chance to talk in depth with others for the first time about some of the far reaching implications of the method.

Social Capital Value Add does not try to measure all of the social capital of a company.  It zeros in on this new form of scaled up social capital that is attributable to broadband empowered individuals.  In this way, it is a leading indicator of how corporations are integrating broadband and the associated applications into their operations to postion themselves to maintain stable earnings and achieve breakthroughs in productivity and innovation.

Venturing into Social Software: IBM’s Irene Greif

Irene Greif, IBM Fellow and Director, Collaborative User Experience,  IBM Research, USA

Thursday, May 14, 4:00-5:30 pm 5 Cambridge Center, MIT Building NE 25, Room 746, McClintock Room

Abstract
IBM’s new Center for Social Software is built around Venture Research – design and deployment of scaling social systems in businesses and on the web.   It’s a spin on testing software “in the wild” that has resulted in new products and insights into organizational impacts.  I’ll give examples of successes and challenges, demonstrate some of our of crowd-gathering software, and invite participation.

Speaker bio
Irene Greif heads the Collaborative User Experience Group
(CUE), comprised of a team of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) researchers based in Cambridge, MA.  The group has historically worked most closely with Lotus product teams on collaboration software and is now extending its impact to other parts of IBM’s Software Group — to support collaboration among software developers — and to IBM’s service businesses.  In 2008, she announced the opening of the Center for Social Software at IBM in Cambridge, with programs for outreach to academia and corporate partners.

Irene is a former faculty member of Computer Science at University of Washington and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. She headed a research group in the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science which developed shared calendar, co-authoring, and real-time collaboration systems. She is a fellow of both the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Association of Computing Machinery (ACM.) Irene was inducted into the Women In Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame in 2000.

Irene joined Lotus in 1987, formed Lotus Research in 1992, and merged that group into the IBM Research Division in 2000. Recent innovations from her group include the core features now shipping in Lotus Connections — social bookmarking (dogear) and business activities – as well as free internet services like Many Eyes, a site for collaborative visualization.

Irene received her S.B. in Mathematics, her S.M. and her PhD. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, all from MI.

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