Google Thanks Keyhubs

January 10, 2011

How’s that for a catchy blog title?  Well, it’s true.  Google has thanked Keyhubs.  And, like millions of other businesses, if you advertise on Google you have likely been thanked by them as well.  So, what’s the big deal?

What’s remarkable is not that Google has thanked us, but, as you will see in this video, the way in which they have thanked us is, literally, out of this world.

We have all seen junk mail letters come in the guise of a personal note just for you:  “John Smith, you have been selected to win 1 million dollars!”.  The art of customizing spammed messages has been around for a while, but Google, I believe, has taken it to a whole new level. Big waste of their own money?  Perhaps, but I, quite frankly, was taken by their fresh creativity and humorous audacity.  It reinforces to me that Google is much more than a search engine firm making money off cheap ads or smart-phone operating systems.  No, this display of ingenuity reminds me that Google is a global force for playfulness and innovation that has, and will continue to, change the course of history.  If it elicits similar feelings for you, then those are marketing dollars well spent!

Cool video aside, Google is celebrating 10 years of AdWords and we are celebrating a year of strong growth and expansion.  If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you have helped us in some way or another.  Maybe you told a friend about our service or twittered our praises on Facebook.  Perhaps you partnered with us on a client engagement or took a chance on becoming a first-time customer.

While we do not have millions (yet!) to spend on fancy gratitude ensembles, we still want to take this moment to give you a heartfelt thanks for supporting our efforts.  Without you, we’d be nowhere.

Best Wishes for 2011 and beyond!

– The Entire Keyhubs Team

Know Your Influencers!

November 10, 2010

Some of you may have seen the following viral YouTube clip of a cute little girl and her “catchy” dance. What starts out as an ordinary “home” video, turns into a remarkable work of special effects and creativity.

Like most viral videos, you see it once or twice and move on, but given my line of work, this one made me reflect a bit more.

In short, it is a great illustration of how we influence people in ways we don’t even know. Thanks to the pioneering research of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, we are learning that the essence of this web-sensation is actually not that far from reality.  Ideas, behaviors, and even things like obesity, spread through social networks in contagious fashion.

The video does a nice job of demonstrating how dance moves can be contagious too, spreading quickly from child to adult and beyond.

If positive and negative behaviors can travel in networks up to 3 degrees of separation, what are the implications for organizations and businesses?

To date, I have asserted that mapping key hubs within organizations is essential for helping them uncover the hidden lynch-pins critical to day-to-day operations. Given the latest research on social networks, what does the following map tell us about influence in the workplace?

Employee 121 has a tremendous impact on the cultural and productive health of this mid-size technology firm.  So much so, that their first degree network reaches over 15% of the organization:

Go three degrees out and 80% of the company is touched via one, very central employee.  An employee who is perceived, by peers, managers and subordinates alike, as a key contributor to a positive and productive work environment.

Employee 121 is not the CEO, nor do they sit on the leadership team (not surprising given talent and influence transcends hierarchy), yet if the research about behaviors and social networks is true, this person commands a great deal of power in the organization.

What if they are not on board with the company strategy/direction?  What if they are thinking about going elsewhere? What if they come to work and woke up on the wrong side of the bed?  We all influence each other, but highly connected individuals, such as employee 121, can affect a lot of people.

On the flip side, here is the stress network of the same company:

Most of the stress in the organization is emanating from just 3 individuals.  Wouldn’t you want to know who these people are and take steps to coach, mentor and expose (to them) how they are affecting the people around them?  I am sure they do not wake up thinking, “How many people can I piss off at work today?”.  Showing an anonymous visual map of their influence, can help crystallize matters and move them in a direction of positive change.

With this kind of information, companies can more effectively manage talent and/or mitigate negative influencers that have far-reaching effects on the health and well-being of an organization.  Furthermore, firms can leverage/mentor the key influencers to more efficiently drive change, strengthen culture and build morale.

While some business leaders would contend that they know who these people are, our experience has shown there are always surprises.  Invariably, the social mapping process uncovers hidden influencers – a finding consistent with the business literature, which affirms that managers and executives frequently mis-identify their best networkers.  It is why articles in Harvard Business Review have stated that “mapping employees’ relationships can help managers harness the real power in their organizations”.

So, before you can “use  your influence[rs]”, as the cute-catchy-dance-video suggests, we think you ought to know them first!

If you need help identifying the key hubs in a group, department or company, drop us a line – we would love to assist.

This month’s blog post is an opportunity to update you on some recent activities.  Keyhubs is busy working on a diverse range of projects, that I thought would be of interest to the blogosphere at large.  These projects may give you some ideas on ways to use the emerging technique of organizational network analysis (ONA) to your advantage.

New CEO Integration

Keyhubs is helping a newly hired CEO understand the people landscape (key influencers and dynamics) in his organization.  What would ordinarily take months to uncover, he can see within days. This application of ONA is discussed at length in the following BusinessWeek article.  

Large-Scale Change

Ever have a good idea sabotaged by people politics and gridlock?  Keyhubs is helping an academic hospital navigate the hidden relationship dynamics ahead of a major technology-change initiative.  By understanding how work really gets done and who the key influencers are, we can significantly increase the chances of success for large-scale transformations.

Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Keyhubs is helping a research center understand the collaborative dynamics across scientific disciplines.  By mapping relationships, this California-based institute hopes to better understand where the silos are between research groups and leverage key bridges to strengthen ties and foster more collaboration.

We have some other exciting projects in the works and look forward to sharing those with you in the near future. Stay tuned!

I have been reading the “Power of 2”, by Rodd Wager and Gale Muller, and was intrigued by some of the research cited in the book.  Specifically, how partnerships at work serve as a powerful driver for engagement, satisfaction and happiness.

Some interesting findings:

1) Employees with just one collaborative relationship are 29% more likely to say they will stay with their company for the next year and 42% more likely to intend to remain with their current employer for their entire career, compared to those with no partnerships.

2) The median number of work partnerships for an American employee is just four….even though the highest levels  of happiness and employee engagement kick in when a person has 5-10 good alliances.

3) 16% of the employee population has zero partnerships at work. Asked if they have ever had a great partnership at work, nearly one-quarter of employees say no.


This data made me think about the Keyhubs work we have done with some clients. Following is the collaborative network of a small, 50 person division.  Some folks have much more partnership activity than others:

The median number of partnerships in this network is 4 – inline with the national average. 25% of the employees have 6+ collaborative relationships (i.e. highly engaged).

There are 8 people with zero collaborative relationships — or 16% of the workforce – also inline with the national average:

If partnerships tell us something about employee satisfaction, do these maps tell us about the engagement fabric of an organization?  Can these maps help firms create strategies for sustaining and boosting collaboration?  With this information in hand, can your company do more to help bring isolates “back in the fold”?

To reiterate what I discussed in an earlier blog post, mapping informal networks can help organizations visualize employee engagement, minimize the risk of turnover and provide insight regarding partnerships at work – a leading indicator of employee satisfaction.

Have you ever worked in an organization where someone was extremely critical to day-to-day operations, yet surprisingly low on the ‘totem pole’?  Have you ever been shocked by a promotion/hire that was given to someone who seemed unfit for the job in light of other, more capable, internal candidates? Did you ever wonder why management was not more aggressive about retaining a person who was almost indispensable to business continuity?

This is a phenomenon I have frustratingly witnessed on many occasions during my 15 years in the corporate world and it is the kind of talent mis-management that I think is rampant in the workplace, especially in mediocre/under-performing businesses.

It is estimated that the cost of turnover is roughly 1 times the salary of the person leaving (Saratoga Institute of PWC). How much more is a company losing when they fail to retain one of those hidden gems? And why is it that these people frequently go unnoticed to senior management?

Part of it is probably due to natural ‘blind-spots’ that come with being a manager. When you are two or more layers removed from day-to-day activities, it is easy to lose sight or touch with who the key lynch-pins are. Some managers are very connected to their employees and understand the spectrum of talent across their team; however, as you move up the chain of command, the accuracy of this perception can get thwarted and skewed.

The disparity between management perception and reality, in this respect, and how mapping informal networks can help bridge the gap, was discussed at length in this Harvard Business Review article.

Allow me to paraphrase:

CEO promotes Calder to head their technical division:

Dysfunction ensues. The CEO is unclear what the problem is, so he brings in some experts to help him out.  They ask him to map out what he thinks is the trust network in his organization.  The CEO thinks Calder is highly trusted:

When it comes to advice, Calder is very knowledgeable (based on everyone’s input) and is part of why the CEO put him in the leadership role.

However, when it comes to trust (via everyone else’ perception), Calder is on the periphery of the network. He is not a great people person and not a very good manager. This comes as a surprise to the CEO.

Based on the above network maps, who do you think would be a more suitable lead for the division?  If the CEO had these maps before making his decision, would he and the company been better off?

I like this article because it not only points to a common problem in the workplace, but provides a powerful solution as well.  Organizational network analysis (ONA) gives management a view into their company, based not on any one person’s point-of-view, but rather an aggregate of everybody’s perception. It capitalizes on the power of the wisdom of crowds, and delivers a much more accurate picture (literally) of who the key influencers are and where the hidden talent lies.

My own experience with ONA, through Keyhubs, has further reinforced this observation.

In one of the first network analyses I did (while in business school), we evaluated the knowledge hubs within one of my classmates’ company. When I showed her the following anonymized network map and asked her to guess who 44 was, she rattled off several names: the CEO, various VP’s….she went down the line until she gave up guessing. She was quite surprised to discover that employee 44 was the company’s sales operations specialist, one of her own direct reports! 44 was low in the formal hierarchy, yet so central/critical to the flow of important information. If 44 goes, many parties are left isolated.

Following is a project we did with an energy generation firm. They were interested in understanding who the ‘key hubs’ were on one of their large-scale, multi-national projects. When we showed the following map to their executives, they were quite surprised about who employee 10 was.

He was relatively new to the organization and low in the reporting structure, yet based on everyone’s input, almost indispensable to the project.  The following overlay of the formal ORG chart, helps emphasize this idea that talent and influence transcends hierarchy:

Executives would be in a much better position to evaluate, manage and reward talent, if they could see where each employee sits in the various informal networks that permeate the workplace.

Organizational network analysis (also called social network analysis) is exposing the perception/reality mismatch and helping firms identify the hidden lynch-pins that are central to critical operations.

If you have a story or experience about talent and influence transcending hierarchy, please drop us a note!

There is plenty of research out there supporting the value of having close friends at work. Higher satisfaction, stronger engagement.  Intuitively it makes sense: if you like the people you work with everyday, you’ll be happier and more involved.

While traditional surveys can help organizations understand level of employee engagement/satisfaction, Social Network Analysis (SNA) can help firms visualize it. This methodology uncovers the social anatomy of an organization and exposes key influencers and/or isolates in an otherwise, complex web of relationships.  If friendships can drive engagement, then visualizing a companies social network should tell you a thing or two about the health of an organization.

Below are mutual friendship maps of two different firms with roughly the same number of employees.

Which company do you think has higher satisfaction and engagement?  Which company’s social fabric is more vulnerable in the face of employee attrition or turnover?

Relative to Company B, Company A exhibits a tighter, denser friendship network – many mutual connections creating a strong social fabric.  Given the research regarding friends in the workplace, does this map tell us something about employee satisfaction, culture and engagement?

Company B has a much thinner (fragmented) social network. Look at what happens when three key social hubs are absent from Company B.

What else do these maps tell you about Company A and B?

Social Network Analysis is a relatively new concept to the business world, but it will not be long before this methodology is used routinely to visualize, measure and assess the overall health of an organization.

One of our clients used Keyhubs to understand how innovation was happening in their organization.  Quickly, they were able to see that new ideas centered around a few key individuals (22, 64 and 63).  Interestingly, these employees were not collaborating with each other.  Employee 70 was a source of collaborative invention (mutual connections between several different people); however, quite removed from the other innovative hubs in the firm.

Mapping keyhubs can give managers an effective strategy to quicken, stabilize and diffuse innovation within their company.