Your employer is watching

And listening, and applying predictive analytics at the same time.

Excellent shout-out in Marginal Revolution (a blog by a couple of award-winning economists, not rebel types) on an FT piece (gated for most of us, unfortunately) on how some employers are improving productivity by measuring employee interactions with each other (interestingly not with clients) and noting employee tone of voice in the process.

It seems talking things through with your peers really does make things better. It also turns out that a sustained spike in dulcet tones while mixing it up on break is in fact highly correlated with productivity improvement.

Employers take note: this kind of experiment is the tip of the iceberg and only goes to prove the old saw, “What get measured gets improved.”

Read it here.

A light has gone out

Dr_James_MartinJames Martin died recently. He was 80 years old. He died swimming off his house in Bermuda — there are, I’m sure, worse ways to go.

Dr. Martin was a formative thinker on technology and software development. Many of the ideas we consider foundational today — rapid iterative development, reusable component libraries, fourth-generation software languages — were all ideas he either created or greatly advanced. In his 1978 book The Wired Society Dr. Martin predicted how revolutionary what we now call the Internet would become. He was nominated for a Pulitzer for that book, which was just one of more than a hundred books he wrote.

There would be no agile-development-based, SaaS global talent management industry today without Dr. Martin’s many contributions to computer science. He invented new ways of working for programmers, analysts and engineers. He also made major contributions in other fields. He even, over dinner one night at his house on Agar’s Island in Bermuda, dreamed up the idea for what eventually became known as Bowie Bonds, the bundling of intellectual property like song rights into pre-packaged and market-priced revenue streams (and yes, David Bowie and his wife Iman were guests at the dinner).

When Ray Ruff, Michelle Sparks, Emily Chan and I started NetDimensions in 1999, a lot of people told us we were crazy. They said a Hong Kong-based, globally-focused, enterprise technology company that was not even VC-backed (we were effectively employee owned) had no realistic chance of survival.

One of our few industry friends in the early days was Headstrong, a consulting company James Martin founded and chaired. The Headstrong folks did take us seriously. They liked our approach and were willing to partner with us when we most needed the support of a serious industry player. So I am grateful to Dr. Martin and to all of the Headstrong executives who were willing to listen to a new company with some new ideas, including Steve Kucia, Paul Kidman, Liviano Lacchia and Peter Deacon in Asia, Rinze Koornstra and Cor Broekhuizen in the Netherlands and all of their wonderful colleagues in Chicago.

That was almost 15 years ago and we did survive. Now we’re listed on the London Stock Exchange AIM and traded in the U.S. on the OTCQX. We have offices in seven countries and hundreds of clients productively using our solutions in more than 50 countries around the world. Our software touches millions of lives today.

So we are grateful and I’d like to say thank you to the folks at Headstrong who supported us early on.

On behalf of NetDimensions we wish you well and we remember Dr. Martin with the deepest respect.

Save the date

We have announced three Next Steps conference locations for 2011 — all in September. The first in Chicago; the second in London and the third in Bangkok. Please come.

At Next Steps you can network with your peers from different industries, share your best practices, provide your input into our new products, or just listen to how the latest developments in our enterprise knowledge, learning, assessment, compliance, and talent solutions can free up your people to do what they do best.

This year we will be offering a completely new NetDimensions Product Workshop on the second day led by our technical consultants and featuring two tracks with a total of eight different hands-on sessions. We invite you to enroll in this unique knowledge-packed training program to gain practical NetDimensions product insights that you can immediately apply in your own environments.

Come to the NetDimensions user conferences and let’s take the next steps together.

A “Top 100” list that talks back

A tag cloud example of the power of visual representation (see below — click the image once or twice to make it full-size).

Or you can explore the original posting here.

Admittedly, even a list of lists is still subject to curation bias. However, the authors make a point of providing method and target disclosure. This is a great example of what can be done (efficiently) to give people serious, actionable information.

What could you do with this idea at your company? Think a Top 20 list for customer service strategies or a Top 10 list for sales with click-throughs going to explanations and war stories.

There is a brilliant instructional design lesson here.