Archive for June, 2010

Getting to know web 2.0

During last weekend I read some highlights of Aleksandra Krotoski’s PHD thesis on Social Influence in Second Life, and after I passed it to a friend at Strathclyde Business School, he replied sharing a program the author recently completed for the BBC on the Virtual Revolution.

Its been fascinating getting familiarized on the current state of play with internet technology.  It was surprising to me to find that I was unconsciously assimilating the new web without really trying to understand the real cost of it!  I like FREE!   The image above snapped from the first episode of Krotoski’s show demonstrates from Britain the web mathematically modeled around one single day’s web traffic.  The size of the planets show the web brands that matter i.e. the ones that have the most influence and potentially the most dangerous!  The web, the great leveler and democratizer has been reduced to a handful of mega brands from Silicon Valley including:

– 1 search (google)

– 1 market (ebay)

– 1 bookshop (amazon)

– 1 social network (facebook)

– 1 encyclopedia (wikipedia)

– 1 university (just kidding – not yet!)

So, the great leveler lends itself to amplifying the human flaws of oligarchy, power, elitism, and hierarchy after all, but it seems somewhat more extreme than in bricks’n’mortar companies – at least I can still decide to buy Coke, or Pepsi, or ….(as I type this I naturally flick across to Google to search for the top three brands and then into Wikipedia… strangely I can’t find a clear answer – and Coca Cola keeps coming up first in my web search – there might be a conspiracy there!) Ok, but I think you get the picture.  The web is being dominated by free – but is it really free? It is not, every search, preference, purchase, email, blog is either being tracked, mined or used in some way that advertising and consumer targeting is refined.  We are the product, our data, our photos, our blogs, our online and purchasing behaviour, it is not the content.  What a shocker!  Ufff, how will this data be used in future?

Well, talk about being woken up from a dream!  Krotoski and the BBC team cleverly share the history and the tensions inherent in the web throughout their programme, and helped me bring the once hidden into view.  Perhaps now I have a better sense of the opportunities and the cost of free on the web.

In terms of my research into value shifts from learning inside Second Life – well, is this not even a more intrusive invasion of peoples privacy through their avatars?  Last evening I went dancing on a cruise ship (image below), went on safari in Africa and flew around the Eiffel Tower with my wife!

Now the owners of this data (I’ll assume Linden Lab) unlike tracking the traditional 2D web page to page behaviour, searches and content was actually tracking every gesture, location, conversation and behaviour.  Ouch.

In terms of other activities, I have made a shift in terms of coaching content and I am considering using the concepts of Sustainability in business as an area of focus for the research.  I will be looking for possible sponsors over the next few months.

Marwa, an Alumni from the MBA sat with me and a friend early in the week giving us a demo of nVivo the qualitative analysis software….very powerful – but no native mac version unfortunately.

Finally, I have been searching for a framework around understanding values and I think I found one with the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS) developed by social psychologist Milton Rokeach.  Now I’m wondering, what values sits behind the concept of Sustainability in Business?

So, in summary, this week has contained much learning and some shock, nevertheless, I must now search for answer to new questions i.e. what does this mean for my research?  How can I make it safe?

I don’t have the answers yet, but I will be investigating further – and google is watching…. anyone know of a lesser known but still effective search engine? lol.

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Coaching Experiment in Second Life

I would have waited to post another blog until next week, however, after running my first 1:1 coaching experiment yesterday inside SL I had to get my thoughts down somewhere safe.

The above location is my space inside SL, it is my office (my home – with the bed removed and a nice advantage of the virtual world being able to quickly change your surroundings!).   It was purchased from Linden Lab and I decorated it with some standard Linden library objects like the lamp, cheap seats, the parrot, and the flamingo :o)

During the first half hour together PinkSamurai (the coachee) and I chatted about all things SL.  She has been a resident for two years and explained many things and places I should consider visiting.  It was the first time inside SL that I had used voice communication at any length, and it stood up to my high expectations and hopes that it would transform the experience (see blog June 19 for textual communication experience inside SL).  My gestures are minimal at the moment, but at least the avatar’s mouth is moving while the person behind the avatar is speaking.

During the pre-coaching conversation I felt totally present, however, once we started the coaching this changed for me as I started taking notes in real life (RL), and left my avatar entertaining my coachee visually.  Interestingly enough PinkSamurai did tell me that she felt I was totally engaged, she never realized I had left the avatar looking at her.  In her words, “I though you were engaged and didn’t feel that you were writing or looking around”, while in real reality I was writing and speaking in my office had moved into the actual coaching practice!

This mental shift between RL and SL during the coaching activity is an interesting insight, and to stay present in the SL world perhaps I need to find a way of recording my notes in SL rather than in RL!

From PinkSamurai’s feedback she had felt a bit rushed but overall she did say that she gained some clarity on some points and had a moment of truth with respect to some values and focus saying – “It worked very well at making me think”.  This last comment is nice to hear and at the heart of the Brain Based Coaching method!  You can check out the recorded session at my mobile me site:

Perhaps my interest in the experiment and the impromptu nature of the meeting meant I had not prepared well for the session and being self critical for a moment it led to a lower performance from me than usual.  Coaching skill aside, I did enjoy trying the new medium, nevertheless it was not perfect.  During the 35 minute session the VPN dropped once, I lost voice completely 2-3 times, often my voice was not clear for PinkSamurai, and there was some lag causing some talking over each other.  These technical issues will in turn need to be addressed somehow as they are a direct threat to the learning experience.

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My Research Blog

Since the first cohort meeting I have been quite busy.  Dr Catherine at the end of the session was showing us her avatar in Second Life for some research she was doing!  My first impression was…COOL!

One of the problems I had been thinking about before seeing Second Life is how can I scale executive coaching on the MBA program so that it might be realizable?  1:1 coaching is something that would be expensive and not particularly interesting to academic faculty and administrators, I had been thinking about if I could attempt to bring in both group and peer to peer coaching into the mix – then it hit me!  Why not try to use immersion within virtual worlds to get the same outcome!  I would then be able to bring students from different cultures in different regions in different time-zones to leadership development!  I think I have stumbled on something.

Since then, I have become a resident in Second Life, started reading on the phenomenon, checking out the virtual economy, bought a house, placed some furniture inside – and in the spirit of discovery even met a neighbouring fairy who through her prosthesis and bizzare annimations helped me lose my virtual world virginity – my god, I am only 5 days old!!  This was difficult explaining to the love of my life that it was part of my familiarisation and research :o)

During last weekend I participated in a business school brainstorming session inside SL but I was disappointed that it was a bit slow without voice!  UAE’s Telecom provider blocks VOIP, however, I have since found a way around it.  I do feel a little nervous that the learning curve is quite steep and might be a barrier to students adopting SL, however, there is still time to find ways to make it easier.   Alarming news this week was that SL owner Linden Lab is laying off 1/3 of its workforce

Some suggest that they need to push towards the social networking side more with a browser version, and I also heard a rumour that they will allow residents to use their own names going forward rather than the forced surname i.e. Daxter in Kiwicito Daxter was not my preferred choice!

This week I joined the International Coaching Federation and continue my work on the Results Coaching System, and gaining the required coaching experience (I need 100 hours) for full Associate Coaching Certification!  I see this as a pre-requisite to starting my research in the program.

So, i’m inside SL, I joined the ICF and continued to focus on this project – a good week!

As for the coming week I wand to read more on Group Coaching and Peer to Peer coaching models, get more experience inside SL, in world and out of world self identity, and continue to talk to people about this project!

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First co-hort meeting

Well, since obtaining my Masters in Business Administration April 2010, I learned one thing – I like academia – research – stretching my mind – and the search for new knowledge. So to continue on this journey it feels natural even if a little daunting to start the PhD or DBA/PD. Where am I so far! Well, I have been reading and thinking through some converging influences such as my MBA experience, receiving Executive Coaching, the state of MBA, and the need for the next generation of Leaders in organisations. Social responsible leaders with solid values and a sense of the importance of their role in society and sustainable development. I have started to draft a proposal, supported by loads of reading on concerns with MBA programs and the benefits of Executive Coaching. June 8, I attended a potential “cohort” group under the guidance of the business school from the University of Strathclyde. In some ways it felt like an interview – perhaps it was!!

There were three presentations; mine on MBA graduate development with coaching; another from within Heath care and the other on project management. It was fascinating to see how far each researcher had come in preparing their idea for research. I sensed that one of my cohort candidates needed for more focussed thinking, and the other that perhaps the thinking had become to focussed and positivist, nonetheless, still impressive and convincing! Of course this is only my personal bias coming over – I like the get a deep sense of things and immediate tendency towards quantitative results lack for me…. but hey, as my Master project advisor said, “Choose the method that best helps you answer your research question!”.

I certainly felt comfortable with my effort, nevertheless, the predictable yet still needed to be heard comment was said namely, “You need to do some more work on refining you ideas!!”, and “Read much more….”. Overall, I liked the balance of support and being challenged achieved by the three senior academics who attended the meeting! I look forward to meeting the future cohort members – I think two or three more! The purpose of my blog is my attempt to enter the modern world of technology to assist my research and the journey as I go through it. It will serve as a home of my research and be a place where participants can check on my intentions for the purpose of establishing trust and credibility! It will also capture my thoughts and feelings, my struggles and triumphs as I go along! At present, I feel excited and worried at the same time – excited that along with some talented MBA students we can do some serious action research on Leadership development and personal transformation – and worried that trying to take this on in a part-time capacity will come with great sacrifices personally and for my family.

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