November 6, 2018

Music Streaming: Risks and Opportunities

Posted in Business Development, Media Analytics, Music tagged , , at 6:40 pm by degyes

For over a century, the recorded music industry was essentially monolithic. This changed around the year 2000, when Napster arrived on the scene in force, introducing ‘free’ downloadable digital music to the industry without affording it any control over its distribution.

No longer vertical

In other words, the distribution model was no longer a vertical one! Up until 1999, the chain of ‘production to distribution to consumption’ had pretty much been set. Pricing, publicity, and usage were unified under the control of several major record labels, and a variety of independent ones, which in any case were well into the process of consolidating.

When so much is suddenly free

Napster introduced the piracy of music on a massive scale, and succeeded in making what had previously been regarded as content theft, normative. No longer did the once mighty record labels have the capability to protect content. This posed a serious public relations problem facing the consumers, who for decades had been compelled to purchase the labels’ proffered recordings, the only real alternatives being to make a non-digital copy (cassette tape recording off of LPs), or to wait patiently for a song to be broadcast on your favorite radio station.

First panic, then adaptation

Those of us who were around at the time remember the clumsy and abortive attempt of the RIAA to address the matter by trying to enforce copyright infringement laws through police raids of college dorms, and the confiscation of students’ personal computers.

Despite Napster being shut down and its executives prosecuted, the industry realized that its prior ill-fated attempts at enforcement were untenable and not sustainable. They ended up distributing music unprotected, instead trying to promote legitimate ways of acquiring music. The idea was to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, so that a generation of kids wouldn’t grow up without any concept of actually paying for music.

However, the industry never really came up with a protection solution that was agreed upon by all. As a result, music has since been distributed with an open format, basically screwing the industry, at least from the viewpoint of those whose livelihoods—and profit margins—depended on the top-down, industry-controlled, for-pay model.

Yet the damage didn’t end there.

Between the content owners and end-consumers there emerged corporate behemoths like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and other smaller subscription service providers, who intermediated powerful 3rd parties in setting prices and dictating margins to the rest of the industry.

As a long-time industry insider and ex-record company exec stated in a recent conversation, that was “another big blow” further adding insult to injury.

The cost recovery conundrum

Consider that an album traditionally contained between 8 – 12 tracks. The ability to recover the cost—let alone profit—from putting out an album was blown apart by the digital age. No longer was the success of an artist or their album measured by the sale of the full album. Rather, the unit of measuring success became the single, which cut deeply into margins, as the resellers were now operating on a per-track basis.

Executives (and former executives) were asking, how can the industry recover? What profitable and sustainable business model will emerge to replace the top-down, album-based system of selling music?

And yet, the devastation continued.

And then came streaming

Then, music streaming came along in force, and in recent years emerged as the dominant model of consumption. The upshot was that yet more 3rd party technologies and companies (such as Spotify, Tidal, and Pandora, to name but a few) are setting terms dictating what can be sold on a stream. If, prior to 1999 (when Napster arrived on the scene), the recovery ratio for producing an album was 1:1, file downloads made that figure closer to 10:1. Once streaming reached its stride and became dominant, the numbers plummeted to 1500:1. So, the figures are looking rather grim. Not only physical sales but digital sales are down too as streaming replaces the whole model that had previously involved buying a tangible object or music file.

Net neutrality … and a diminishing value proposition

And then there’s the issue of Net Neutrality, the notion that ISPs should be required to enable access to all content and applications, regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. The same insider quoted above indicated that if President Trump has his way and legal restrictions are put in place against implementing Net Neutrality, any remaining gateway control mechanisms over music will be removed. Meaning, anyone will then have equal access to the means of distributing any content they want.

Thus, if music isn’t already commoditized enough, Net Neutrality will further diminish the value proposition of any remaining businesses that offer music on a for-pay basis. At least that’s the fear within the industry.

Debt, competition, and thinning margins

Spotify is $1 billion in debt. Despite impressive revenues, it continues to hemorrhage money at a rapid pace. In short, its business model has far from proven its ability to become profitable, because it can’t scale against expenses.

Pandora faces a similar situation, not even coming close to covering expenses. Even Apple Music has seen a decline in sales.

Though other business models that stream music might be lucrative, that isn’t necessarily translating into increased value for artists. Recently launched YouTube Red, Google’s attempt at generating cash from frameworks other than its vaunted search engine, represents an enigma. Why? Because even though Google only expects about 3% of YouTube’s one billion users ever to subscribe to this ad-free for-pay “premium” video and music service, Red’s association with the search behemoth essentially mitigates the need for it independently becoming profitable, while further commoditizing music (and, for that matter, film,) content.

Introduce the loss leader

Amazon Prime, which has implemented its streaming service as a loss leader, is in a way, even worse for the future profitability of music. Amazon’s idea is to exploit Prime as a means of drawing visitors to its site via music, with the ulterior motive of getting them to purchase just about everything else (games, gadgets, clothing, etc.) through Amazon.com. So, Amazon Prime is essentially a means of feeding other product lines, while eroding the profitability model as a free-standing service.

Nevertheless, there are other ways of making money by selling rights to songs. As we know, the music industry relies on royalties generated by the licensing of copyrighted songs and recordings as a primary form of payment for musicians. Despite intellectual property law and licensing systems having gone through significant adjustments over recent years—largely as a result of the rise of digital music—much of the industry’s historical legal framework remains in-tact. Songwriters continue to own a song’s lyrics and melody, while performers continue holding the rights to the master recording of a particular song.

The “360 deal”: a different path to revenue?

Facing falling revenues and diminishing returns from traditional recording contracts, at the beginning of the previous decade, the music industry introduced what’s become known as the “360 deal,” where a record company agrees to provide financial (and other forms of) support for an artist. This includes direct advances as well as support in marketing, promotion, touring and so forth. In return, the artist agrees to allow the company a percentage of an increased number of their revenue streams, often including sales of recorded music, live performances, publishing and more. The 360 deal enhances the artist’s ability to make money on performances, appearances, and on merchandise, providing a cash flow and means of exploitation beyond physical and digital sales, and allowing some measure of compensation for losses incurred through the current business model of streaming.

Critical Threshold and Scalability

Due to the constant and rapidly increasing volume of material today, only a very small fraction (what our insider referred to as “the 1%”) are actually making money in the music industry, at least in a way that’s profitable. Hence, despite the ease of entry and access to promotional tools, the competition for entertainment dollars—often measured in royalties amounting to fractions of cents —is quite intense.

If an artist is to reach financial success (or even just stay afloat!), the key seems to be getting to the critical threshold where enough people are paying for content. This is dependent on the artist having access to a world market, where exposure is global and the costs of distribution are low. Such a model, according to the insider, could possibly work … if it can be made scalable. Because, as mentioned, Amazon doesn’t care about losing money on music. So, huge ratios are needed to reach recovery on an album. If you manage to hit that critical mass, getting to ubiquitous distribution on a 24×7 basis, you can make money. Today, while possible for a fortunate few, this remains no mean feat.

Getting to Saturation

In order to achieve saturation (in the music industry, becoming a household name), you need to contend with the industry-wide erosion in financial returns (margins, royalty rates, etc.). Meaning, there’s a heavy price to pay reaching profitability. Though the hope among the artists and those whose businesses depend on them is that the new model will work out. The insider articulated this as needing to “beat the one percenters in an environment where there’s no trickle down.” This means achieving a worldwide audience (i.e. becoming ubiquitous), global distribution of content, making deals with merchandisers, and getting promoted as a concert attraction.

The Indies

There’s apparently lots of competition on the indie level too. Independents account for 30-40% of the market, and have collectively become a major fourth player in addition to UMG, WMG, and Sony. Big names like Taylor Swift, Adele, Chance the Rapper, and many others are signed with indies. Some artists have even started their own labels (though the origins of that approach extend way back into the age of vinyl).

Challenge and Opportunity

It’s anyone’s guess how the music industry will fare in an environment where despite the ease of entry to the market and readily available, low-cost means of producing music, returns are so low, and competition from a small number of established mega-stars is so high.

In conclusion, this tight and hyper-competitive environment presents Media Analytics companies with opportunities to market their data analytics and customer engagement platforms to businesses striving to reach survival-level objectives. Those goals include increasing market share, growing revenues, raising corporate profile, and gaining an edge against intense and multi-pronged competition.

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April 10, 2018

Sharing Knowledge for Engagement and Connectedness

Posted in Knowledge Management tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:57 pm by degyes

KNOWLEDGE is the most commonly lost asset in an organization. Knowledge loss costs companies time and money. That’s because when knowledge is lost, individuals and teams have to relearn everything since everyone’s maintaining their own “personal” vaulted knowledge-base. People are repeating the same tasks without benefiting from the experience gained by those who preceded them. What’s more alarming is that most people at the leadership level are hardly aware that such a problem exists. Tools can help. But tools alone won’t solve the problem. Recent years have witnessed tremendous innovation in products and platforms that leverage Knowledge Sharing. But technology is of limited effect if human beings aren’t driving the process. The good news is that we’ve devised an agile methodology to address the problem of knowledge disappearance. As a leader among your professional group and initiator in your organization, you’ll be equipped to see Knowledge Sharing, and to reap its benefits.

What is Knowledge Sharing?

Knowledge Sharing takes a casual conversation, idea, or even a chat between team members, and develops it into a statement or story containing an unambiguous take-home point or lesson-learned. That point could be based around a best practice, a how-to procedure, a product release notification, or any unit of knowledge that one human being can convey to another. Knowledge Sharing is a collaborative and adaptive process that thrives on participation and feedback from the community. In solving business and technical problems, or if marketing and promoting products and services, an organization shares all manner of information, from routine messages or tweets to formal documents. Sometimes, it codifies that information into a structured knowledgebase. This enables the community, that is, its members or target audiences, to apply the knowledge in ways that are practical, beneficial, and meaningful.

Why share knowledge? What’s in it for me?

Shared knowledge enables an organization to achieve repeatable processes for predictable results. Purposes could encompass improving internal processes and site procedures, as well as getting customers to spend time visiting your site and streaming content or buying things. It provides a set of best practices to help each team member do their job better and to achieve their professional goals. What’s more, Knowledge Sharing enables the team to function more effectively and cohesively as a unit.

Once an organization becomes convinced as to the immense value of Knowledge Sharing, you start hearing leaders, groups, and individuals instead asking What’s in it for us?

Where are we going with Knowledge Sharing? What’s the Vision?

We envision a professional culture where teams are smarter, more effective, and better connected because they’re sharing knowledge collaboratively in an atmosphere of trust. We’re passionate about building ecosystems that enable companies to retain their customers by keeping them satisfied and engaged with meaningful content tailored to their interests and needs. We believe in building communities where:

  • Processes are repeatable,
  • Procedures reflect agreed best practice with predictable results,
  • The best articles, videos, podcasts, and presentations are identified, posted, and exploited for good,
  • Target users and knowledge consumers are engaged,
  • Haphazard implementation is eliminated, and
  • Reinvention of the wheel is eradicated.

What is Knowledge Sharing trying to achieve? What’s the Mission?

Making our Knowledge Sharing vision a reality requires keeping several key goals front and center. Any process or method in a Knowledge Sharing program needs to align with one or more of these goals.

  • Leveraging an organization’s knowledge to help sell, support, and maintain its products and services,
  • Integrating those products and services successfully and getting them to work better,
  • Delivering integrated systems to customers and partners, and keeping them running smoothly,
  • Retaining customers and keeping them connected,
  • Increasing revenue, and reducing support costs.

How do you do Knowledge Sharing?

Doing Knowledge Sharing well requires leveraging the knowledge assets held by an organization to benefit everyone. Several key ingredients stand at the center of any Knowledge Sharing project or effort:

  • Creating an environment where immediate posting of information is a highly regarded value, and where constructively given feedback is not only expected, but actively sought.
  • Building a cadre of curators, possibly including customers, integrators, and partners who make sure knowledge stays fresh, not static.
  • Developing an atmosphere where collaboration is an expectation and something folks feel safe doing. This means there is no fear of skill set commoditization or professional marginalization.
  • Implementing systems that make crowd-sourcing easy, and where all community members can share with minimal overhead.
  • Making the knowledge assets searchable, transparent, accessible, readable, and intuitive.

What do we need to make Knowledge Sharing work?

Knowledge Sharing can succeed and thrive only in the total absence of fear. Naturally, such an environment requires trust and good will on the part of all, leader, sharer, and consumer alike. Of course, we can’t assume this atmosphere exists in a given organization. Often, it requires leadership that exemplifies the qualities of fearlessness and rewarding risk-taking. We advise being persistent and patient. Realize from the outset that implementing a Knowledge Sharing culture might require a process of slow cultivation.

What can Knowledge Sharing catalysts do to create such an atmosphere? Working within an agreed and publicized code of ethics, even a really simple one, helps a lot. For instance, we’ve always made the rule “Embarrass No One” a basic and unassailable guideline. This way, anyone approached to share what they know never lives under the threat that sharing would lead to adverse consequences.

What can Knowledge Sharing sponsors, that is, community leaders, do to enable Knowledge Sharing to thrive? Eliminating the fear of managerial retribution, or even the vaguest threat of mild retaliation, is absolutely essential. This commitment to transparency and trust begins at the C-level and filters downward. It means not only allowing but encouraging people to share—inside the organization—information that could be unflattering toward its technology, products, or processes. Sharing externally would, naturally, require a more thorough vetting process that takes public perception, reputation, and contractual obligations, into account. Our Knowledge Sharing code of ethics began with the principle “First, Do No Harm.”

Challenges

Knowledge Sharing initiatives will inevitably face challenges like these:

  • Getting knowledge out of the private vaults of engineers, experts, and even the executive leadership, and sharing it among colleagues, partners, and customers
  • Stopping “learn and lose,” dispersion of data, informational chaos, lengthy information-release timescales, and constant interruption to knowledge acquisition
  • Creating a professional environment where people feel safe sharing what they know

Solutions

Establish a tradition of Knowledge Sharing in an organization, and introduce tools, platforms, and supporting technologies that advance Knowledge Sharing. Most importantly, bring about a culture that rewards and encourages:

  • Achieving repeatable processes for predictable results;
  • Making those processes accessible, iterative, adaptive, and intuitive;
  • Building an expert team that provides solutions, suggestions, and recommendations;
  • Putting in place feedback loops ensuring that knowledge is reviewed, commented—and if necessary, vetted—and kept up-to-date;
  • Creating and maintaining an archive of stories that the worldwide professional community can draw upon to prevent and solve problems;
  • Cultivating a global community that serves as “lightning rods” for Knowledge Sharing;
  • Listening, caring, being open and eager to help colleagues improve their skills and achieve better results on all activity levels ranging from the technical to the commercial.

The outcome of applying these solutions is that an organization creates a virtual “campfire” around which teams gather to trade stories and share what they know. When the people in an organization feel warm, safe, and excited bringing their stories to that campfire, you know your Knowledge Sharing initiative is heading in the right direction.

How a Conversation Becomes a Story

Good will, commitment, and ethics are essential ingredients in a successful Knowledge Sharing program. But how do you actually capture, refine, publicize, and disseminate knowledge in a way that people will access, read, and apply it? Here’s an agile methodology describing the knowledge capture, publication, and tagging process, from end-to-end. While offering a structured approach, it contains considerable flexibility for the executive leader running a Knowledge Sharing effort on the fly. With some patience, persistence, and a little help from your team, you can apply this model almost anywhere.

Phase 1: Capture

Identify an issue of importance, share the idea—still in raw form—on your internal chat forum or message board; or, delegate to your favorite writer to assemble a draft article or statement, and share it with the team.

Phase 2: Publicize

Identify the best person in your organization—perhaps the CTO, CMO or CFO—to review the article as a candidate for sharing publicly; ensure technical (or financial) accuracy, completeness, and appropriateness for going “live.” If you have the resources, assign someone to assure editorial quality. Take it public by posting to your organization’s Knowledge Sharing platform, blog, wiki, or social media page. Depending on its security sensitivity and writing quality, share it onto your corporate Facebook page, or to your LinkedIn profile. Tweet it. Encourage talk-backs. Request feedback. Pay particular attention to the reactions of your most critical readers (they’re always the most helpful and informative!)

Phase 3: Tag

Aid search by getting your Knowledge Sharing curator to tag your post using an enterprise tagging tool. This leverages its findability with metadata. The right combination of human tagging and A.I. algorithms can go a long way toward putting your article on the top of the Google results pile!

Phase 4: Go Viral

Aggregate your best-of-breed articles for periodic sharing via push email or a newsletter. Encourage and reward feedback from the readership and commenting by the community. Take it to a wider audience and maximize impact!

Phase 5: Repeat Process

Aided by Knowledge Sharing catalysts, repeat the process and create new knowledge assets, capture best practices, identify experts, and make teams smarter!

The Role of the Knowledge Sharing Catalyst

In a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem, a catalyst is both a role and a personality. She is a conversation facilitator, chat initiator, community builder, thought stimulator, as well as an evangelist. A focused and structured extrovert with well-refined social skills, the catalyst has the finesse and the affability to build a team of contributors, and the patience to act as curator of a growing base of knowledge assets. As an executive leader, we encourage you to identify and appoint a Knowledge Sharing catalyst to whom to entrust the routine but vital tasks required to make Knowledge Sharing thrive in your organization.

What a catalyst does

By definition, a catalyst, like in biology, acts on a substance to make it do its job or fulfill its purpose. Similar for a human catalyst in a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem. Here are several of the key functions your catalyst will be expected to perform.

Network

Get friendly with your teammates, chat them up, schedule Skype and WhatsApp sessions with them. Ask them about site visits to customers, partners, and suppliers. Find out about technical issues and problems they’ve encountered in the development cycle. Get on Zoom, TeamViewer, or Telegram with them, and listen to what they’ve got to share. Become a master practitioner in the art of the conversation. Within appropriate limits, get really flirty here!

Research

Do your homework. Or delegate a team member to do it for you. Ask the right questions. Educate yourself and your team to become better-informed investigators.

Follow-up

Set reminders prompting planned follow-ups with contributors. Ping them with emails or text messages. Get on Google Hangouts with them. Track your email requests with reminders to nudge them. Send out pings for comment and review of write-ups. Be the shepherd that drives and champions the Knowledge Sharing effort.

Dashboards: Analytics at Work

A dashboard provides each user or visitor to a Knowledge Sharing portal with the information they need, at a glance, to make better informed decisions regarding key aspects of their daily work and where to focus attention. A dashboard acts as graphical frontend to a Knowledge Sharing portal that enables people to find things quickly and do things easily. It visualizes the display of knowledge assets in a structure that’s logical to the user, and optimizes that display in a way that’s most effective and meaningful. In addition, it employs A.I. mechanisms to learn about who the users are, what they do, and what they need and want to know. Depending on the profile of the user logged into the portal, the dashboard offers a targeted set of indicators informing that persona regarding items relevant to performing their professional functions.

For a dashboard to be of value, it needs to display informative and actionable content. Here is a mock-up example, created using open source tools, depicting how a Knowledge Sharing portal can optimize knowledge assets, providing your team with the essential functions they need in performing their daily work. The dashboard presented below is optimized for you, as CEO, or for the CIO to whom you’ve entrusted Knowledge Sharing in your company. It contains a set of tile cards, reports, and indicators giving insights into how your Knowledge Sharing platform is being utilized. You can instantly obtain basic stats and metrics regarding site visitors, daily articles posted, subscribers joined, comments pending, status of contributions, and articles consumed over a particular time-frame. This data, updated in real-time, provides you with the details you need to determine the effectiveness of your Knowledge Sharing program, helping you find out, for example, who’s engaged, and who needs outreach.

KS_Dashboard_VoH

A good dashboarding tool provides a highly personalized user experience. Enhanced with Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), in addition to displaying reports and newsfeeds tailored to particular users, it supports auto-generated notifications and auto-triggered pushing of content to people, teams, and wider audiences. Push decisions are driven at the platform’s back-end and are based on users’ shared characteristics, expressed interests, level of engagement, and patterns of behavior.

A variety of open source solutions are available to help your team get organized around its Knowledge Sharing efforts. There are dozens out there, though here’s a short list of a few that come recommended.

  • OpenKM – create a fully-featured knowledge base
  • eXo – popular for intra-team collaboration
  • Slack – great for supporting the social collaboration aspects of Knowledge Sharing
  • myBase – appropriate for organizations that depend on research and that want to create deep knowledgebases
  • Google Drive – a reasonably powerful Knowledge Sharing tool that’s widely integrated. Provides a great place to get started because it’s ubiquitous and familiar to all
  • Zendesk – great for supporting customer service efforts

Leveraging A.I. Algorithms and Machine Learning

A good knowledge sharing platform combines:

  1. Metadata about shared knowledge – that is, articles, videos and different types of postings;
  2. Data about the platform’s users – meaning, those posting and consuming knowledge; and
  3. Business Intelligence (BI) algorithms that cross-reference ‘a’ and ‘b’ to present an optimized view geared to the informational needs and professional function of individual users and teams.

A growing assortment of powerful A.I. tools and innovative machine learning technologies is available to support your Knowledge Sharing efforts. Portals, platforms, and search tools integrate these mechanisms to analyze, manage, and optimize your content, and target it to your various audiences. Several of the key automated functions that can help drive a Knowledge Sharing effort include:

  • Analyzing a user’s reading patterns, remembering topics that interest them, and using that data to make smart recommendations
  • Identifying disengaged users and selecting the kind of communication and content most likely to get them back on board
  • Predicting who’ll read which articles and matching content to audience
  • Automating content curation to strengthen search, while making “push” attempts more likely to succeed
  • Providing a personalized user experience that serves up the right content, to the right people, at the right moment, anticipating what the user wants to know before they’re even aware they want to know it.

Acquiring the most appropriate A.I. tools and implementing them on your Knowledge Sharing platform will go a long way toward ensuring that your content reaches its audience, keeps users engaged, partners informed, and customers feeling connected.

Call to Action

The success of an organization, distributed or local, is fueled by its communicative openness, and its ability to collaborate, adapt, and share. That means taking knowledge assets out of the private vault, and placing them into a common area, accessible by all, filtered by relevance and pushed to those who need them. Good intentions are important getting a Knowledge Sharing ecosystem launched. But sooner rather than later, you’ll need to develop some social, entrepreneurial, and technical skills, or delegate to someone who’s got them. As a leader, consider that Knowledge Sharing, while playing upon the idealistic character of humans, isn’t being done exclusively for altruistic reasons. For people to be willing to participate, there needs to be a clearly identifiable business benefit. That payoff is the profitability of saving time, reducing hassle, removing obstacles, selling product, and preserving reputation. At the same time, sharing makes us feel good about ourselves, our teams, and our work. Beyond rewarding people with bonuses, perks, movie passes, and gourmet chocolate, a successful Knowledge Sharing program, implicitly or explicitly, will exploit the very human need to care and to feel included in something larger than ourselves.

Exercises

  • Go out and network. As a leader, you’re doing that already. This time, talk to the techies. Ask them to be specific about any problems they’ve encountered and how they’re solving the issue. Remember, people like to talk about themselves, especially when they can place themselves in a positive light, and feel trust in the interaction. Back them with the management level support they need sharing the story about how they solved the problem.
  • Start a Knowledge Sharing blog. Or a podcast. Or a Wiki. Or an email newsletter. Or, just go ahead and post that favorite product description to your LinkedIn profile. While the medium you choose can be important, what’s way more vital is your commitment to keeping it provisioned and updated with interesting, relevant, readable, and searchable content.
  • Recruit a Knowledge Sharing evangelist. Nominate someone in your organization to launch your Knowledge Sharing initiative. Encourage and incentivize your team to:
    • Become more conversant in your organization’s products, technologies, and services. Rewarding people with Amazon gift certificates is nice, but what’s far more effective is cultivating a sense of ownership, which leads to a feeling of belonging and identification with the team’s success
    • Get familiar with Knowledge Sharing tools and their strengths and limitations, including finding out how they’re leveraged by A.I., which is becoming increasingly central to engagement.
    • Deploy those tools in alignment with your organization’s vision and goals.
      Yes, of course this is difficult! Remember to reread the chapters on Your Personal Leadership, Being Authentic, and Pillars of Alignment.
  • Recruit contributors. As your knowledge sharing initiative gains traction, appoint team members to provide material, write articles, tweet, chat and spread the word about how Knowledge Sharing is already yielding results. Encountering skepticism or even resistance? Take a step back and acknowledge that you’re doing something courageous and even revolutionary in your organization, and that it’s not always easy.
  • Be a Knowledge Sharing sponsor. Become that person at the leadership rank who generates enthusiasm, from the C-level down to the grassroots, and who can allocate resources (human and material) to your Knowledge Sharing effort. How you do this may depend on the nature of your organization and the degree of trust you’ve so far managed to inculcate in encouraging people to take initiatives. Most notably, only you, as sponsor, has the prestige to give the evangelists and contributors the support they need to lead and implement the organization’s knowledge goals.

Looking forward to hearing about your Knowledge Sharing journey!

Dave Egyes

Email: david.egyes@gmail.com
Skype: davends
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daveegyes/

March 17, 2017

Gratitude Porn (not) and Real Appreciation

Posted in Commentary, Israel, politics, society, running tagged , , , , at 3:39 pm by degyes

I have no idea who these guys are.

Security Guys at Marathon.jpg

But they were willing to pose for a photo after I stopped to chat with them. I wanted to express my appreciation for doing their bit among the many thousands of emergency services, military, and security contractors who made today’s Jerusalem Marathon possible. Ordinarily, I feel gratitude in my heart, though I tend to hold it inward. I’ll usually try to remember to say thank-you to an individual or small group if I feel a sense of appreciation, or if it’s just the courteous thing to do. But today was a little different.

I “only” ran the 10K this year. That’s after two years of doing the half-marathon. I just got too darn busy this time around, what with “leaving” Cisco, finding new work, getting ramped up and settled into my new professional life, and all that. I simply didn’t have the time to train the way I had the past two years. I realized that, and decided I’d join the throng doing the 10K, as for me that’s more of a fun-run, not requiring a level of preparation that’s beyond my scheduling constraints. [By the way, yes, also I’m tremendously grateful for being fit and healthy, though that’s not the main thrust of this communication.]

WARNING: if you get easily ticked off and flared up reading religio-political commentary, especially where frictions in Israel society are exposed, in all their ugly hostility, please stop reading now. I don’t want to get folks’ anger buttons pressed, and expose their resentments. That’s not my aim, not my purpose, and it’s not what I’m myself feeling right now. My aim is … appreciation.

There were demonstrators at the marathon this year.

Maybe they were out there in past years, but if they were, I hadn’t noticed. This year, around kilometer 3, on King George St., I nearly tripped over one. Had that happened, I’d almost surely have gone flying. On the infrequent occasions that I fall when running, I tend to recover my balance or at least manage to go into a roll, and thus prevent serious injury. But who knows. The field was so crowded this time, and I was frankly clueless that the person blocking me was actually _trying_ to cause disruption and damage.

Honestly, my mind didn’t acknowledge that there could possibly be demonstrators intentionally blocking the path of the runners. My “תן כתף זכות” (“give the benefit of the doubt”) mechanism kicked in and registered him as a photographer, because there are actually photographers who sit, unobtrusively, along the route, snapping pictures.
So what was I to think when suddenly, I saw a police officer literally drag the demonstrator out of my path, just in the nick of time as I was about to plow into him full throttle. And a few additional cops were guarding some of this demonstrator’s buddies, whom they’d apparently managed to apprehend and pull off to the roadside, moments earlier. The demonstrators were chanting slogans, though it was hard to make out what they were shouting, as I was plugged into my running music.

Further down-route, there was another demonstrator carrying a sign. Something about the marathon being terrible for the Jews, and government policies that harm yeshiva boys. Though to be honest, I don’t know if the latter guy was connected with the first group.
To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t for a micro-second feel any sense of anger. From the get-go, my predominant emotion–really the only thing I felt about the incident–was gratitude and appreciation toward the police officer who exerted himself dragging away the demonstrator prior to my having a collision, and his colleagues who were involved in managing the situation. And also toward the other runners, who stayed focused on the race, and kept their collective cool.

That we’re living in such “interesting” times, and somehow manage to pull off a full-blown city-wide athletic event, in Jerusalem of all places, is to me nothing short of miraculous. Thank you, God, for again bringing us to this season.

May we merit the ability, the willingness, and the heart-felt desire to practice really listening to one another, acknowledging in thought, word, and deed the Essential Humanity that unites us as a Species.

Thank you, everyone.

February 3, 2017

Personal Re-branding

Posted in Career, spirit tagged , , , , , at 1:06 pm by degyes

Here’s the talk that I gave at Megacomm 2017, as a participant in Reinventing Yourself—Expert Advice on Personal Rebranding and Transitioning, a panel discussion on which I participated along with Nathalie Garson, Charlie Kalech, and Sigal Abbatovi Shamir, and moderated by Sara Halevi Kalech.

On November 13th, I got fired.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

No, I didn’t say it was one of the easiest things.

It still isn’t. I’m still adjusting.

So what was so great about getting fired?

What makes you sure I’m not putting you on with overheated self-help hyperbole, or singing kumbaya for my own self-aggrandizement?

The answer is … opportunity.

To do what?

To develop professionally, to have new experiences, and to grow personally too.

Forbes magazine recently asked the question:

How many careers do we get in a lifetime?

The answer is we don’t know because it’s a moving target.

But we do know that for most of us, it’s more than one; likely it’s several.

And we can certainly expect to have more than one job.

So you may be wondering, how many careers has this guy had?

How many jobs have I had?

The answer–in the ultimate sense–is one; one career, one job. And this applies to all of us. Because …

You are the founder and director of You, Inc.

And I’m the founder and director of Me, Inc.

No, you won’t find these companies by searching Google or by looking on LinkedIn.

Because they’re not companies in the conventional sense, of course.

Rather they reflect an attitude, a mindset, or even better, a way of experiencing work, relating to your job, and managing your career.

But what does this really mean?

It means actively seeking out opportunities to do new things, take on new challenges, and grow in ways that you might not have anticipated.

I’ll give you the example I’m most familiar with … myself.

I made Aliya about 25 years ago.

I frankly hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What was worse, I had hard time admitting that to myself … I certainly couldn’t admit it to others.

I started off teaching English. And then, a couple of years into the Aliya project, I got into hi-tech through technical writing. Some friends teased me that I’d be writing on the back of shampoo bottles. I’m still waiting for that assignment.

After about a year of technical writing, I was told I’d need to learn how to write macros, you know, those programs that automate activities in Word and other tools.

At the time, it was pretty scary. I hadn’t been one of those kids who took quickly to computers when they started appearing all over the place when I was in middle school.

I found a friend to teach me the essential control structures and syntax of BASIC. I got my boss at the time to order some books and reference guides (this was before the Internet had really taken off).

And I learned programming, or at least enough to get myself going on the job.

Eventually, I wrote and published some articles on Word automation, and became rather adept at the programmatic side of MS Office. Without calling it re-invention, I’d had my first taste of what would evolve into a set of adaptive habits that would come in handy throughout my career.

Some years later, at another job at a different company, a product management assignment came up. A whole new set of skills were needed. Another opportunity.

And then, some years later, project management. Followed by technical journalism and newsletter writing. And most recently, training teams in financial compliance, project auditing, and due-diligence procedures.

This last assignment was almost a four-year stint. What was special about it was that it took me WAY out of my comfort zone. Previously, I’d been quite phobic about anything having to do with money. Oh boy, did I have to get over that fear fast. In fact, I had to convey to others a sense of confidence explaining financial policies, processes, and procedures.

What’s the common thread in all this? Does there have to be one?

Not necessarily, though I find that identifying a common thread helps in placing some understanding and awareness around the process that’s going on.  

For me, that thread is communication. That’s my core skill, and the one I always draw upon, and tap into.

What do I mean by communication?

Beyond all the buzzwords, technical terms, tools, technologies, and industry jargon, what I value most is communicating with human beings. Knowing that about myself has been invaluable. But getting there has taken some introspection and soul-searching. It also requires patience and the ability to weather what might appear initially as negative experiences or setbacks.

For you, the core skill might be written communication; or spoken; or maybe it’s a love of technology, finance, product acceleration, information architecture, content design, or user experiences.

But these are really just examples of things that professional communicators do at various points in their careers to learn new things, to expand their skill sets, grow their knowledge base, succeed on the job, or at the next job, or at some point off in the future.

I’ve come to call this the Art of Reinvention. Or, a set of habits that helps you weather storms in your career, turn setbacks into growth opportunities, or simply to keep the faith and see the positive in whatever circumstances you find your job situation.

Embracing reinvention is not necessarily the easiest path.

But I believe it’s the right one.

Because if nothing else, it gives you a chance to tap into the best parts of yourself, to hear the voice that reminds you to remain calm, to draw upon your wellspring of confidence, and to be resilient.

I hope these last few moments have been helpful in some way, or at least provided you with some take-home ideas for things to think about.

I’d anyway be happy for your feedback. And that includes letting me know what you didn’t like about this talk. Maybe you’ll be helping me with my next reinvention assignment!

Thank you all.

January 5, 2017

NDS-Cisco: Moving On

Posted in business networking, NDS-Cisco, Torah tagged , , at 1:34 am by degyes

Miketz, the Torah portion that was read last Shabbat, begins with a dream, and is followed moments later by an abrupt awakening; into the reality of impending famine. Pharaoh is not a particularly noteworthy leader. However, he is able to acknowledge his limitations. He does this by delegating management — in this case, of the Egyptian empire—to Joseph, who for all the imperfections in his family life, is clearly possessed of a Divine spark, and a deep wisdom that affords him a view into the future.

Pharaoh’s dream doesn’t only portend famine; it foretells also a period of abundance. We can learn from Joseph to see the purpose in both—times of scarcity, and times of abundant plenty—and to tap into our deeper wisdom and act with intelligence, so that we can aim to stay —despite external circumstances—in a place of abundance.

Farewell_NDS_Cisco_Jan_3_2017.jpg

Gathering to bid farewell to me and to friend and colleague Batya Neppe

As Beresheet winds down, and we transition into Shemot a few weeks from now, it’s always with a pinch of sadness that I feel myself saying goodbye to a family story—not always a family without problems—but what’s clearly a series of family narratives in Genesis—as we enter into the wider world of nationhood that we emerge into during Exodus. I experience this latter book as perhaps less personal, but nonetheless a necessary step in growing out of our previous confines.

To borrow a phrase from Cisco management, it is with mixed emotions that I’m talking with you here today. On the one hand, I’m sad as I face leaving so many dear friends and fabulous colleagues of many years. At the same time, I realize that this is a necessary step; that only by blowing the dust off of skills, talents, aptitudes and abilities long dormant, do we really extend ourselves beyond merely surviving … only in doing so can we truly stay alive.

IMG_20170103_123150~2.jpg

Passion? Excitement? Energy? Focus? It’s up to you!

I’ll share some personal examples that I believe could be informative for us all.

During recent weeks, I’ve done things that I’d only imagined doing over a period of decades.

  • Attending professional networking events and startup gatherings; not just to passively sit back and watch slides and listen to lectures, but with the aim of approaching strangers, pitching them ideas, and really hearing their feedback.
  • Participating in more general networking events like meetups sponsored by NBN. Some have asked, Why would you want to meet with Millennials, with people half your age? Well, one of them might be your next boss!
  • Taking a good look at your resume; and if you haven’t got one, write one. Send it around for feedback to the people who scare you the most.
  • Doing some pro-bono consulting, getting a sense of what running a business and managing clients is like.

Rabbi Nachman says “כל העולם כולו, גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר לא לפחד כלל”, that the whole world is a narrow bridge and the important thing is not to fear at all. I don’t fully agree. Fear is an emotion that all human beings share, and in fact, it’s part of our humanity. The important thing is not to allow that fear to take over and get the better of us. I hope we can all use it as a springboard to enable and inspire us to take proactive steps to prepare for any eventuality.

Yes, we’ve certainly been exposed to a lot of jargon and standard motivational phraseology these past several years at Cisco; and it can sometimes be a bit off-putting. But the important thing, I believe, is to ask what we can do to stay positive and true to ourselves.

Passion? Excitement? Engagement? Laser-focus? Well, that’s up to you. Because only you can decide what parts of yourselves you’ll bring to work. Though what I can say with near certainty is that the future direction for SPVSS won’t come from the top-down. Rather it will come from grass-roots efforts to chart a course for the business unit and making a convincing case to the leadership. Will Cisco succeed in selling subscription-based, cloud-hosted video and security products? I don’t know for certain, but I sure hope it does; and what I do know is that if it does work out, it will come down to extending ourselves beyond our comfort zones, taking some calculated risks, and reaching into the best parts of ourselves … in a word, being like Joseph.

Will you do it? I believe you will. And I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you what I believe sets you apart. Four words, all beginning with “I”.

Will you innovate?

Will you be inventive?

Will you improvise?

Of course you will! You’re Israeli!

… you know how to make things work. You’ve all done some great and courageous things in your lives, and there’s room for more.

The takeaway message here is that, like Joseph, you have the power to decide how to respond to circumstances. There’s the option to remain a prisoner. And there’s the option to reach into yourselves and find the resources that make you special, and that give you a sense of limitless freedom. What’s more—like we learned in Knowledge Sharing—you can collaborate to make those special qualities exponentially more powerful.

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A parting gift for Batya

Folks, יהיה בסדר, it’s going to be good.

You’ll make it good.

That’s the NDS spirit. That’s you at your most real.

Thank you all, and God bless.

August 15, 2016

Smoking Hope: The Morale Factor and Medical Outcomes

Posted in ethics, medicine, Philosophy, spirit tagged , , , at 2:52 pm by degyes

A short speech delivered to Har Hotzvim Toastmasters on August 10th, 2016.

I hope you’ll enjoy!

May 11, 2016

זכרון ושכיחה – To Remember and to Forget

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:46 am by degyes

מאת: דוד אדג’אש, בין יום השואה ויום הזיכרון, תשע”ו, 6 במאי 2016

אני זוכר כאשר הייתי בערך בן שלוש, אמא נתנה לי מרק אלף-בתי של אסם, כמובן בעברית, וסיפרה לי שזה מרק שבא מישראל. לא ידעתי אז המשמעות, אבל כן הבנתי שזה היה משהו מיוחד

אני שכחתי לכמה שנים את הייחודיות הזאת

אני זוכר כאשר הייתי בן שבע, פתחתי את הדלת והיה עיתון, ראיתי בדף הראשי תמונה של אסון נורא שקרה במקום רחוק. אמא סיפרה לי שמחבלים – היא קראה להם “גוורילות” – תקפו והרגו ישראלים. התברר לי אח”כ שזה היה הטבח במעלות

ואז התחברתי וזכרתי את המשמעות

March 19, 2016

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016: Staying Connected

Posted in Family, running, spirit tagged , , , , , at 8:56 pm by degyes

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - start.jpgWhen I compare how little enthusiasm I had during the weeks leading up to this year’s race, with the pure, unmitigated, and open-hearted joy I experienced during the actual run, I’m only reminded of how important it is to consciously and actively work to perform the heavy lifting needed to move beyond energy draining karmas (read: ambivalent moods) and, as the famous athletic shoe company instructs, just do it.

I found myself deeply moved by the masses of Am Yisrael–and our dear friends and supporters, many of whom came at no small expense, to participate–running in this year’s event. I was moved to tears several times seeing how many participants were running in memory of victims of war and terror, as well as those participating to raise awareness and funds for those whose lives have been impacted by war, illness, poverty, and various misfortune.

I was also quite overjoyed seeing my lovely and wonderful wife, Ilana Sobel, *** four different times (!!) *** during the course of the race!! Thank you, sweetheart, for tracking my route and turning out to cheer me on … and for the great photo of me chugging away at km 11.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - at km 11.jpg
As you may recall from my post following last year’s race, I really connect with my Dad’s memory during the Jerusalem run, especially when things happen that can’t be explained in any rational framework. Last night, a very dear overseas friend with whom I hadn’t been in touch in some months, contacted me asking what impressed me as a deeply mystical question, one that’s quite out of my league … but right up Dad’s ally. That I was able to provide an answer by scanning him a page of Dad’s Kabbalah Notebook left me with an immensely connected feeling, which augmented quite powerfully during the last 4 km today, when my physical energy is rather drained, and I’m running more on resources of the Spirit.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - finish.jpgThank you all, dear ones near and far, for reading my post. And biggest thank you to the Ultimate Timeless Experience and Eternal Companion for bringing about the Conditions of Life on Earth for this moment to happen.

 

ברוך אתה יהוה, אלוהינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.

January 31, 2016

Springboarding and Radical Flexibility in Technical Communication

Posted in Commentary, Content Strategy, Disruptive Communication, Documentation, Knowledge Management tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:44 pm by degyes

This morning, I did something that I do rather infrequently. That is, I responded to a research survey, this one being conducted by a tech comms professor at a college in New Mexico. The request was to list—in the respondent’s opinion—the most important trends, technologies, and theories impacting the tech comms field over the past five years (with a limit not to exceed ten items).

Having been mostly out of the field for the past almost three years, since transitioning to the financial side of the technology sector, I realized my response might be perceived as a bit presumptuous. Though once I got beyond that initial reluctance, and betting I’d have what to contribute, my thought process got itself into gear. Then, as I started putting together my list (some of which I realize—like outsourcing and apps—are no-brainers), it got me thinking more deeply about the issue of surviving in the brave new world of off-shoring, crowd-sourcing, and rapid paradigm shifts. Which led, in turn, to my evolving theory regarding ‘springboarding’ — or, radical flexibility—as a job survival and career development strategy.

So here are my top 10 items for what we should all be maintaining in our field of awareness as we courageously plow ahead into the ever-changing, but always essential, professional practice of sharing knowledge with those seeking answers.

  • Off-shoring, meaning, expand and deepen training in order to keep US-based TC’s relevant in current market.
  • Outsourcing, similar to above, though focused on “manpower” firms as the competition as opposed to overseas TC’s.
  • Crowd-sourcing, meaning, forcing the question as to ‘why do I need in-house TC’s if the customer will anyway Google their questions’?
  • Cloud-based documentation, meaning, ability to host documentation in a highly modular fashion where updates can be made on-the-fly and in a way that’s transparent to the customer or end-consumer.
  • Video and animation. YouTube contains lots of real gems, offering ‘how-to’ instructions for everyday applications like Word and Excel, as well as for specialized and highly-specialized solutions. Screen-cam tools enable reasonably quick creation of animations and storyboards that have replaced more “traditional” text- and still image-based documentation. These skills are must-haves for today’s TC.
  • Single-canvas presentation solutions (for example, Prezi), which have made fast-paced animations another need-to-have skill for TC’s. (I actually prefer to call these tools “infinite canvas” or “non-linear object path.”)
  • Documentation on-the-go, meaning docs — or any information —consumed via apps.
  • Metrics, that is, the demand for TC departments, teams, and individual practitioners to prove their added value by demonstrating statistically how documentation products and services contribute to the bottom line.
  • Agile methodology, which is a whole philosophy, but I’m referring specifically to having the customer or end-consumer play an essential role in the feedback loop that impacts the documentation that the software (or any product or service) provider delivers.
  • DevOps, which is another whole philosophy, but I’m referring specifically to TC’s needing to keep up in an environment where continuous development and continuous integration rule the day.

In closing, I’ll add that perhaps the most important item, not included in the list above, is what I would call spring-boarding or perhaps “radical flexibility;” that is, the awareness that your professional practice is likely to change considerably in tone and in scope every two or so years, and could even become completely unrecognizable and in need of swap-out after three to five years.

Wishing us all much success as we go forward.

-Dave Egyes

 

October 11, 2015

Dvar Torah – Beresheet – Tzvi and Ne’eman’s Bar Mitzvah

Posted in Commentary, Family, Torah tagged , , , , , , , at 11:05 pm by degyes

Ma’aseh Beresheet

בראשית was your Grandfather Yitz’s favorite parsha. He taught that בריאת העולם, the Creation of the World, was the greatest act of Love that God ever performed … and continues to perform. What a wonderful thing that you both got to read Grandpa Yitz’s favorite parsha, and that you did it so beautifully.

We also know that the Creation of the World wasn’t only an act of Love, it was also a tremendous act of Will … of רצון, and that the Creation of Humans, which happened shortly after, was no less an act of Love and Will.

However, as Ne’eman pointed out in his D’var Torah, it didn’t take long before the Humans that God created weren’t exactly acting in sync with God’s Will, as their behavior both inside and outside Gan Eden would demonstrate.

Eating from the עץ הדעת was just the beginning. By the end of the parsha, sadly, Man has become consumed by evil … and God is preparing to destroy the world. And as Tzvi just discussed in his D’var Torah, society had collapsed and the moral structure of the world had fallen apart.

What can we learn from this story? The world’s very first story?

We have to wait a few months … or maybe a few thousand years … or perhaps a few billion years, to transition from בריאת העולם to מתן תורה, when we receive a set of commandments that we can apply toward Guiding Human Life on Earth.

But we’re still left with the question: How do we bring our own Will into alignment with God’s?

We have lots of great teachings — and teachers. Yet we live in a time when it’s not always entirely clear to us what we ought to be doing with ourselves, our time, our attention, and even our thoughts.

When do we go out and seek answers from our Sources? And when do we focus our attention inward and seek answers from within?

When do we look for guidance in the law, and when do we look into our own hearts?

Tzvi and Ne’eman, I think you’re both developing a toolbox to help you wrestle with these questions. I’d even say you’ve both been working on gathering those tools for a while already.

We hear a lot these days about the importance of making good choices. The news is filled every day with stories about people who made poor choices.

Yet how do we know whether the choices we’re making are the right ones?

In trying to answer this question, I wrote down a few ideas that I thought of today to help guide you.

  • Choose good mentors.
  • Choose friends and companions not for their popularity and status, but for their honesty, integrity, and decency; because they can help you become better people.
  • Strive to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular.
  • Be kind to Planet Earth … and to its people.
  • Remember that people are never perfect. None of us will ever be. Be patient with people.
  • And then, have patience, and even more patience.
  • Remember that the easy answers are often not the right ones. Take time to really think!
  • Most importantly … Keep adding to this list!

I love you boys. I’m happy for your accomplishments. And I’ll admit … I’m proud of you.

Thank you Ilana for making the impossible a reality.

Thank you Mom for your wisdom and love.

Thank you dear friends for your kind support, and for making our simcha so special.

May we all merit experiencing מעשה בראשית … constant creation and renewal … in every moment of our lives.

Mazal tov!

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