Putting a Plan Into Action: Internal Social and Community Management Strategies at Work

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at the J Boye intranet conference. During the conference I shared the story about how at Walgreens we’re using community management strategies to roll out a new social intranet, develop an internal social media program and build communities of practice. During my talk I shared this quote below which is from the internal communications lead, an influential person on the corporate communications team.

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The quote resonated with conference attendees and I thought I’d share more of the strategic backstory of that quote and explore some of the goals and tactics I’ve used and why you do need a community management and internal social strategy.

When it comes to community management these are the three goals I’ve had ever since I started at Walgreens:

1. Demonstrate to the organization what community management is and why it’s critical to the business.

2. Demonstrate how community management supports the broader goals for rolling out a new social intranet.

3. Have the key stakeholders and leaders understand and buy in to goals 1-2.

These three goals, which are part of a broader strategy, have been a welcomed beacon as I’ve had to steer the development, launch and growth of our employee communities through the choppy waters of change and many storms of uncertainty along the way.

I created those three goals knowing I was introducing new business concepts to the organization. I also created them with the future and the unknown in mind, because in today’s business environment the one constant within all organizations is change, and you have to be able to create a community management strategy that is solid and focused on answering the question “how do the employee communities support the business?” And your strategy must also be fluid, flexible, and adaptable to the ever-changing needs of the business.

But can and should you create an internal social media strategy? Is all the hard work of building employee communities worth it? Yes. And yes. And hopefully by the end of this post you’ll takeaway a few things you can use to do the same at your company’s journey as you aim to do the same.

If you want to change the world…

Introducing community management concepts, launching an enterprise social network (ESN) within a large organization, and having it all deliver real business value, is no easy task. For sure, I’ve had a lot of help and inspiration from others along the way.

There’s a favorite story I love to re-read that can be summed up by saying “if you want to change the world, don’t try to change the entire world at once. You must start first with yourself and then focus on those directly around you.”

I love that story because it makes things simple. It drives home the message that you must start small and begin from within and work outwards if you want to see lasting, meaningful and transformative change happen in the world.

I’ve always aimed to practice that helpful bit of “begin from within” wisdom in my personal life and it’s turned out to have a lot value in business too. So I decided to use this same wisdom to achieve my three community management goals. I first focused my attention on the influential people directly around me and then expanded my evangelization efforts from there.

How did I begin? What did I do?

Yes, there was already a general sense of buy-in about the value of internal social media and community management. That’s why I was hired in the first place.

But to take things to the next level, and scale the vision enterprise-wide and make the concepts of internal social and employee communities indispensable to the organization I knew I needed to go further.

I needed to deepen the buy-in and make it even more personal, valuable and meaningful for leaders, stakeholders and middle management.

So I began by sharing the concepts and value of community management in easy to understand ways with those around me in meetings, on internal road tours and in informal one-on-one chats. I focused on influential people in the organization like the internal communications lead mentioned above. Put simple, this was part of the strategy behind the execution work as I aimed for my three goals and and this work is what some call the iceberg effect of community management.

The Iceberg Effect is basically all the critical and often unseen work community managers do to grow communities and develop the program. You can’t see this iceberg effect work happening in the online network, but nonetheless these behind-the-scene actions are highly strategic and crucial to beginning, sustaining and growing employee communities and any communities management program at a company.

Now, what I’m going to share with you on the rest of this post is 1) some of “iceberg effect” behaviors I’ve done and 2) what I felt strategically needed to happen in order to achieve my three goals.

Why Do Internal Social Media Programs Fail?

I’ll start off by saying that there are many reasons why most social intranet and community management initiatives fail at companies. One big reason, I believe, is that those who have failed to get real value of their social intranets and employee communities fail because they’ve relied only on the “deploy and pray” method hoping that “if you build it, they will come.”

If you lack a clear strategy and defined business goals and only rely on the “deploy and pray” method, you’re falsely hoping to your demise. Employees and the organization will not somehow magically know how to use these new tools to collaborate, connect and share ideas at work. Community management and internal social media are still too new and there’s way too much behavioral change that needs to happen for companies to assume these concepts and practices will just be instantly and easily adopted by employees.

Just like any other function within the business, you have to have a plan for your internal social media and community management program. You have to have a roadmap and a vision. You have to guide, teach and explain how a social intranet, collaborative employee communities and the concepts of community management support the business. You have to clearly communicate and demonstrate how all these tools combined together help employee solve problems and get work done more efficiently and effectively.

Don’t call it “Facebook for the enterprise”

One other barrier to adoption and initial buy-in is that the technology platforms of employee communities often look like and feel like Facebook or other external social media platforms. And because of this you have to convincingly explain and demonstrate how the goals of your employee communities are different from what people experience on Facebook or other internet communities.

I mentioned this briefly in my J Boye talk that if you want to get buy-in or adoption, you never (ever) want to call what you’re doing “Facebook for the enterprise” or overuse the word “social.”  I’ve used the word “social” very carefully and strategically these last three years and I would suggest you also do the same and stick to using words and phrases like “collaboration, knowledge-sharing, enhancing communication, trust-building, connecting, engagement, innovation,” (to name few) when talking about the value of your employee communities.

“Deploy and pray” doesn’t work

Now, all that said, after a few years of watching the enterprise social network and social intranet industry play out, we know that the “deploy and pray” approach doesn’t work. You must put strategy before technology for it work. You can’t just stand up a social intranet or community platform and walk away hoping the business value will magically appear. Having dedicated resources and budget to assure the community strategy is created, communicated, executed and nurtured is vital to success.

Another big reason for lack of success is the hard work part. Doing anything meaningful and lasting takes time and energy. It takes the things like having clear business goals and doing the iceberg effect behaviors to work. And I would say this is especially important to understand when building and growing employee communities of practice.

It’s like raising a baby

To share another metaphor, being a father has helped me to realize and illustrate to others the need for putting in the hard work of nurturing employee communities. My son just turned two and I see many similarities between raising him and launching and growing an internal social media program. If I didn’t “invest” in him — feed him, hold him and be patient teaching him knowing and trusting that he will eventually walk, talk and develop beyond infancy — then why should I expect that he’d make it past being a baby?

Laying a solid foundation of knowledge and awareness of what community management is just like nurturing an infant’s growth. And without a doubt, doing this work these last three and half years was critical to realizing that quote and reaching the first stage of success with my three goals.

And because I’m passionate and I believe in the power our employee communities at Walgreens have to transform the business, I’ve often considered our employee communities to be “my baby.”

And with my three goals in mind I’ve moved forward knowing that if nurtured, fed and invested in, our employee communities will provide value. And they have. In many ways.

My 3 strategic behaviors

Okay, so what specifically did I do to achieve my three goals?  I started small and focused on those influential stakeholders around me. In those influencing relationships I focused on doing three key strategic behaviors that are critical to developing a community management program in the early stages.

1. Do short and simple business value storytelling

Demonstrating business value and articulating your community management strategy in simple and impactful ways is vital. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to explain new and complex things with storytelling.

How do I use storytelling to explain the key elements of community management and share success stories? I always look for moments within our communities where a particular action or series of events supports our business goals. I then connect those examples to tangible business results and begin crafting the short success story.

Humans love stories, so I relied on my love for movies, screenwriting story arcs and telling concert fans stories to come up with a concept I call “business value storytelling,” which is basically using the story arc to explain how employees are getting value from the community and using it to work better, stay connected and find information faster.

One story I’ve shared many times is about an employee who didn’t even use social media outside of work or initially understand the business need for our communities. He came to our employee community with a real business issue and was able to solve his problem in 30 minutes, where in the past the issue would have taken him much longer and cost the company much more money, time and outside resources. As a result of his experience that person is a champion of our employee communities. I’ve told this story many times since to turn more skeptics into believers.

I’ve also refined this story and others like it into short “elevator pitches. Doing this has helped to achieve my three goals, because in my discussion with leaders and stakeholders time is often short and you have to be able to tell a compelling story that gets the point across and resonates quickly.

2. Always answer “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)

The second strategic behavior I did when working with stakeholders and leaders was to always answer “what’s in it for me” which involved:

1) knowing their area of the business

2) Understanding what is most important to them

3) Understanding what business problems they are trying to solve

Part of this WIIFM process also involved partnering with who those leaders and the stakeholders they trust. I then made sure to clearly explain that our social intranet and employee communities are not another thing they have do, but instead our social intranet and employee communities are tool and resource to help them do what they do better and more effectively and efficiently. Explaining that and mixing in consistent business value storytelling, I built momentum and gained that all important initial buy-in to move things along.

We still have a lot of work to do but I know this approach is working because as time has gone on I’ve seen many leaders and managers either strengthen their support or have their all-important “aha” moment. And when they have their “aha” moments it has inspired them to go on to share the business value success stories of our employee communities up the ladder and across the enterprise with their peers and other stakeholders and business partners.

This transformation within leadership and management is inspiring to see. It’s an important part of any internal social media and community management journey. Leadership and management have to see it for themselves in order to share the good news with their peers.

Like word-of-mouth marketing you need to inspire advocates and champions to talk and spread the word about the value of your employee communities. Internal social media and community management doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. Especially in the early stages of adoption, you have to constantly be selling it, marketing it and demonstrating how it supports the business.

Yes, this all takes hard work and time. We’ve certainly had bumps and numerous obstacles along the way, like any company does. And we’ve only just begun the first mile of the marathon. But it’s been an amazing journey and I’m excited about the road ahead.

3. Build relationships; you can’t scale the vision alone

The last key thing I did (and still do) is build relationships.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t do it alone. You need to get the support and buy-in from others in the organization. Grass roots will only take you so far. You can’t scale in a silo. If you want to have long-term success, you need to building partnerships between corporation communications, IT, legal and HR, just to name a few of the key stakeholders. You need these partnerships to work through budget challenges, organizational changes and the many other obstacles that are sure to arise during your journey.

And as you build those foundational relationships, one way to have long term success is to start small with your communities. Or what like to call “Starting small, but thinking big.” This is how successful communities start and we have taken that approach too. I started by focusing on getting a series of small wins so that we could begin building the initial momentum to work towards achieving my three goals. Part of this early wins stage involved furthering the initial buy-in and strategically experimenting with our grass roots initiative to refine our business case.

But, again, in order to move past the creation andy early wins stage you need to proactively and strategically cultivate the grass roots success with a top-down support from the C-Suite. You have to show leadership how what is happening in your grass roots stage is aligning and supporting your original business goals. Then you can begin focusing on the middle layer of management to further scale the success.

Only using the top-down push or only using grass roots doesn’t work for long-term success. You have to strategically use both together at the right time for your organization. Experimenting with, proving out and refining your business case during the grass roots stage gets you going and then the top-down support fans the flame, and then you continue to build momentum by focusing on the layers of middle management gradually over time.

Benchmark and discover next practices

In addition to business value storytelling, answering WIIFM and building internal relationships it always helps to do solid industry benchmarking and learn from others too. If you’re looking for data and more best practices you can dive into the recent Community Management 2014 report. Learning from the best practices of gurus like Richard Millington, and following along on one of my favorite Twitter chats, like the weekly ESNChat has been a valuable resource too.

Internal social media, the ESN industry and the practice of community management within organizations is still in its early stages and we have a lot of work to do until value of community management is fully understood and realized as a must-have for community and business success.

That said, I am encouraged when I look at the SOCM 2014 data and collaborate with my fellow colleagues on the ESN chat. I can see that the industry and practice of community management is clearly maturing. And I believe those companies who are already implementing these concepts and those that get started now will be at a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What’s Your Story?

If there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, I hope you see that starting with a solid strategy, connecting your goals to your companies business goals, starting small and working hard to clearly demonstrate the value of community management and getting others to understand are all critical elements to the long-term success of your internal social media program.  Yes, it’s all worth it, especially if you want to demonstrate how your communities support the business.

What’s your story? What’s worked for you? What have you learned?

 

3 Reasons Why I’m Running My First Marathon

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I’m getting ready to do something I haven’t done before. Run a marathon. I’ve done a half marathon before and the experience changed my life. So I thought it was time to embark on a journey to connect with the world and people around me in new and exciting ways.

Why am I running a marathon? Well, for starters, the challenge fits nicely with my 3 words journey this year. Throughout 2014 I’ve set out to do and work on things related to those three words – pushing, stretching and growing myself – and running 26.2 miles to put my mind, body and spirit to the test is right in line with what my 3 words are all about. Endurance and long-distance running
allows me to do all those things and I’m excited to see what I will discover.

 

Running For A Reason

 

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But I’m not just doing it for myself. If there’s ever a chance to use running as a way to help others, I’m all in. And same goes for running the Chicago Marathon. This year I’ll be part of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) PowerTeam. My aunt has been battling MM for several years and it’s an honor to be able to support her and others and make my miles matter to help a worthy cause. If you’d like to donate to the cause you can visit my donation page. Thanks for helping out and spreading the word.

And the other cool thing is that I won’t be running this race alone. Yep, It’s a family affair and I’m pumped to be running with my brother Joe who ran his first marathon last year. He’s been sharing some marathon wisdom with me already and I’m looking forward to a little brotherly bonding and competition out on the road.

Training Body and Mind: Great Running Reads

As I mentioned before, running is a natural part of my life and an important element of my creative process. Running is one of the ways of how I cope with life’s challenges. When I run I think through things. I escape. I find balance. I find clarity. I find out who I am. And I love to learn why other runners run and what their experiences are like too.

That said, in preparation for the marathon, I’ve been soaking up a bunch of running books and one of my recent favorite reads has been diving into and soaking up George Sheehan’s 1978 classic book Running & Being. I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book before but I’m happy that I’ve found it now.  Running and Being is a beautiful journey through the mind and heart of a runner who’s wrestling with life, searching for meaning and pursuing the spiritual truth of why runners run. If you’re a runner and you haven’t read this before I highly suggest you check it out. Heck, even if you’re not a runner, it’s hard to read this book and not want to laced up up your shoes and head out on the road.

The book is packed with passages that have deepened my love and appreciation for running. Several passages have stuck in my mind while I go on my road runs. One passage that has really stood out to me was when Sheehan says he wasn’t sure “if he was a writer who loves to run or a runner who loves to write.” I can totally identify with that because running plays such a major role in my daily creative and writing flow. I can say too that I run to write and write to run in my own way. He also deftly articulates how during the running experience “sweat is like a baptism” and “pain is like sanctification.”  I love those ideas, and as I’ve been training and building my base miles, I’ve been meditating on what those thoughts mean to me and what the race experience will teach me about life.

Another book that I’ve enjoyed is Marshall Ulrich’s Running On Empty. This book chronicles his journey to run across the United States and other endurance adventures. What I’ve enjoyed the most is that it also explores his experiences struggling to balance his love for running with the other relationships in his life. He shares how he not only pushed through and overcame the physical pain but he also shares the emotional and psychological pain he endured.

Whether I agree with or complete understand his reasons, I do appreciate Ulrich’s honesty and vulnerability in sharing the emotions he felt because, as other long-distance runners can agree, running (especially training for a marathon) can take time away from family. It’s extremely valuable to hear how another runner who’s also a father and husband, has worked through the struggle sharing both how he succeeded and failed.

To wrap up this post I want to share one passage that Ulrich quotes that has really resonated with me:

“All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” – James Thurber.

That quote stops me dead in my tracks and forces me to think about why I’m running this marathon.

Yes, of course, I’m running to stay healthy but there’s more to it. Yes, I find immense joy and pleasure when I’m charging down the road and flying through the woods and hopping over logs and rocks on the trail. But I know that for me running is very much a ongoing journey of meditation and discovery that impacts all areas of my life. There’s a lot of teaching myself discipline too. I believe that the joy of running is that much sweeter when you’ve successfully taught yourself discipline and learned how to control and grow your mind and body.

So then I’ve been asking myself…

What things in my life are inspiring and driving me to run? What do I enjoy the most about running? What fears and anxieties am I running from? What goals and accomplishments am I running to? What things in my life do I need to put behind me? What things should I be running to instead of worrying about the past? If I didn’t run how would my life be different?

My Three Reasons

For me, what I know is that right now I run and am running this marathon for three reasons:

1. To challenge myself to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And to see what this race and running will reveal about who I am in all those areas, and all the while having fun soaking in and embracing both the pleasure and the pain.

2. For my aunt and to support and raise awareness for all those that have been impacted by Multiple Myeloma.

3. To build relationships with others, especially with my brother. I want to do something together that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.

These three reasons make up the mental foundation that helps to keep me grounded and focused when my mind wants to wander and focus on the pain and consider stopping or quitting. Yes, running is a joy and pure fun, but I know that there are days when it’s not fun and it’s just pure discipline and hard work and I’m using these three reasons as reminders both to get me on the road and keeping me running.

During my training I’ve had several runs already during which my mind was flopping all over the place and my body didn’t feel good, but I struggled through the run and that battle to build mental toughness was a great lesson to learn and I know there are going to be moments during the marathon where I’m going to be challenged mentally and physically; and so too in life. And the beautiful thing is that my running experiences are powerful moments that I can transfer to other areas of my life, such as what it’s like to launch and run an internal social media program at Walgreens.

That’s all for now. I’ll be sharing more about my training experience as the summer roles on and I’d love to hear what your experiences are like too.

If you’d like to donate to the support my MMRF fundraising efforts, you can visit my donation page. Thanks for helping out and spreading the word.

Good luck to all my fellow Chicago marathon runners!

No Sports for A Year Update #1: Oh, The Things I’m Learning!

 

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It’s been 136 days since I began my experiment to not watch any sports for a year.

So how’s it going?

Well, it’s been fun, hard and revealing to say the least. And here’s a collection of thoughts, findings and questions that have surfaced so far.

It’s Simply Complicated

For the most part, some days it’s easy and other days it’s hard not to watch sports.

I’ve noticed that the degree of ease and difficulty has fallen into and been dependent on these three categories:

  • My current emotional state; to what degree do I need sports to help me escape from or cope with any given life situation?
  • My engrained habits; how much of my body and brain’s auto-pilot has been trained to just flip on a game without even thinking about it? (Apparently I do have some degree of sports addiction.)
  • The impact on my relationships; How do I connect with people and what have I learned from this crazy choice I’ve made?

 

The Big Games: A Big Deal or A Big Waste of Time?

When it comes to the big sport events I’ve started to keep a tally of how many I’ve not watched. In a funny way I’ve actually become somewhat proud of myself that I’ve been able to do this and take this experiment this far. Like running a marathon, this experiment has become a true test of endurance and in some cases I feel like I’m developing a new not-watching-sports muscle.

So far I’ve not watched the Super Bowl, Olympics, Final Four, NHL Playoffs, MLB opening day (yes, I consider that major sporting event for the last 30 years of my life). Yes, I have missed watching these games, but on the other hand, I’ve not. Why? Because I’ve been able to finish books, write, run, spend time with family and do other things that have more meaning for me.

This is a strange and unsettling discovery that I’ve had to wrestle with. I’m at odds with that feeling because I’m not quite sure what that means.

I’ve had to ask myself…are the Big Games really important to me or are they just a big time suck holding me back? If they are important, then why? What do I get out of watching them? What do I lose if I do? Who do I lose if I don’t watch the Big Games or any live sports?

To be honest, there’s a part of me that really loves to watch live sports but there’s another part of me that loves the feeling of doing those other things. I’m not quite sure on the value or significance of this conflict of feeling. But I know it’s turning out to be a thought that I must unpack and understand. And hopefully I’ll have more clarity as this experiment continues.

What If…We All Didn’t Watch Sports For A Year?

I’ve also started to think about the financial impact of this sort of experiment. What would happen if everyone in America did this for a year?

That said, I heard this enlightening  commentary by NPR’s Frank Defourd about the supporting the home team from the comfort of your couch. In it he mentions that the fact that sports teams don’t make as nearly as much money when people go to the ballpark as when people watch on TV at home.

So, yes, I’m probably making a very (very) small dent in the revenue department of major sports teams, but, I wonder…what if more people didn’t watch sports for a year? What would be the financial impact of that?

Besides the money, other thoughts have popped into my head like…

Would the world be a better place if we didn’t watch live sports? Would we all see sports in a different way? Would this new perspective empower us to value the relationships and connections we have with other because of sports? Would we end up watching more live sports after we’ve realized how much the act means to us and others around us?

Heck, I know this experiment is starting to do all those things for me.

One of the things I’m being forced to do is to think more deeply about why I do watch sports, how live sports has changed my life and how live sports is both a healthy and unhealthy emotional escape.

Why Do I Get Emotional: It’s Just Live Sports?

I’m being forced to think and go deeper to understand why I get all teary eyed and emotional when I tell people about my first time watching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my dad. Or why I feel within myself a visceral mix of emotions (joy, excitement, sadness, grief, etc) when I tell them about my fondest memories learning how to yell “Green Bay sucks” in sub-zero weather at a Bears game when I was eight years old. Are those buried emotions, and not actual live game itself on TV, the driving force behind my desire and need to watch live sports?

Besides the emotions and psychological fodder that has begun to bubble up, the other  habitual and social challenges.

I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to avoid watching sports in our culture. Sports are everywhere; on our minds; at the core of most social interactions. Sports even define our worldview and for some it’s a religion deeply rooted in fabric of our lives.

Yes, I knew all that stuff before I started doing this experiment but now I’ve had the chance to step back and think about what all that stuff really means. And I’ve been forced to ask myself the tough questions.  Is the amount of live sports we watch good? Is it bad? If so, why? And what do we benefit by watching hours and hours of live sports?

How does live sports help us make sense of the world around us? How does it help us we cope with life’s struggles?

Yes, there are many good things about watching sports but, like all good things in life, watching sports has a dark side and I’m realizing that too.

Watching sports can help us avoid things we must do. Watching sports can slyly and subtly make us too sedentary (mentally, physically and socially) where all we do is play the spectator too much and never get off the couch to join in the game. I do have to say that I’ve enjoyed playing sports more now that I’m not watching as much.

Of course the goal here (no pun intended) is to strike a healthy balance and aim to find the right mix of watching and doing. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out what that means for myself.

Confession: My Eyeballs and Live Sports

I have to be honest and say that my eyeballs have caught glimpses of games over these last several months.This is because of the simple fact that I can’t cut myself off from the world and the world is full of sports. I’ve been at sports bars to connect with co-workers and friends, and it’s nearly impossible to not let your eyes fall for a split second on live game. But in those situations yet another thought has intrigued me.

In these situations I’ve both realized how much a welcomed distraction sports are to relationships, especially in those awkward moments where nobody has anything to say and we’re all just watching the game, sipping our drinks and then a dramatic play happens and we all cheer together or comment on how great the play was, maybe do a little smack talk, swap some hive-fives and then the next conversation starts.

I’ve also realized how hard it is to truly focus on the conversation when a billion sports games are flashing and flickering all around me on giant flat screen TVs. Again, is this truth a good thing or bad thing? I also know that what’s happening in these social sports situation is nothing to just gloss over and avoid. There’s something big happening here.

So to answer some of these questions and make sense of my own experiment I’ve turned to the experts.

secret live of sports fans

In the book the The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans Eric Simons explores this crazy sports-watching obsession we have. It’s been great to read the book and fascinating to read his work and put a sociological and biologically context on my own experiment. I’ve been learning just how genetically wired we are to love sports and why it’s important to be aware of the chemical process that’s going on in our bodies when we watch sports. On future updates, I’ll be sharing more about how that book is shaping and enlightening my own experiment.

Family and Friends and The “Fake Sports” Conversation

I’ve taken special note of the responses and reactions of family and friends. When I first started out my family and friends were aware of my experiment and they would ask me about it and want to know why I was doing it. In some cases some family even went so far as to not watch a game because they didn’t want me to “break my vow.”  Yes, they actually called my experiment a vow. Like I’m a monk on a religious quest. I thought that was interesting.

But now that nearly 6 months have gone by, those same people have largely forgotten. So what I’ve had to do is either gently remind them that I can’t when they ask me to go hang out and watch the game.

Or if I find myself in a “hey, did you watch that game last night” water cooler conversation I’ve been testing out a “fake sports” conversations sub-experiment and pretending like I did watch the game. I carry on the conversation using my past sports knowledge. Why do this? I want to see if they can figure out that I didn’t watch the game and I want to see just how much of an impact not watching sports has on relationships beyond family and friends. I also want to so what I might discover about the role that watching live sports plays in initial interactions with those around me. To be honest those “fake sports” conversations have been some of the more expectedly entertaining and fascinating parts of this experiment and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I discover.

Those most people have forgotten, I do have to credit my younger brother Ken for keeping my experiment always on his mind. While at work he continues to send me texts of game scores and messages with pictures of Wrigley field asking me if I remember what that place was.

Thanks, Ken. Those texts are priceless. Your playoff beard is coming in nicely too. Maybe I should have grown a no live sports beard? Maybe next time.

The Real Reason I Watch Live Sports?

One of the hardest, most fascinating and revelatory parts of not watching sports has been the impact it has had on my relationships.

Even though I’m an introvert (I recently discovered and accepted this), I still love connecting with people. I love relationships. I love getting out of my own head and into the hearts and minds of others. So I’m an introvert that loves to be an extravert? I’m not even sure what that means?

What I do know is that by doing this experiment I’ve begun to think more about how I’m wired up and how watching sports impacts and has influenced the type of person I am and the type of person I have become.  In some cases I’ve realized that I could actually care less about the game that’s on TV and I’m watching it because I want to connect with people.

In some cases I’ve realized that I also watch sports to prepare for interactions with people.  What does that mean?

Well, here’s what I think that means.  If I’m meeting someone for the first time I always try to find a common ground. And in most cases, live sports is that common ground.  But now that I’ve removed watching sports from my life I’m finding that there’s an awkward pause. Do I tell them what I’m doing or do I have a “fake sports” conversation with them?

It’s been a 50/50 split. Sometimes I carry on the fake sports chat or sometimes I tell them about my experiment. And I’ve been surprised in both situations.

Sometimes people are interested and they ask me about it and other times they say “oh, that’s cool.” And then nothing comes of my “no live sports” disclosure and we then try to talk about other things.

Other times I’ve had some really great chats about why other people watch live sports and they start to ask me what I’ve learned and then they end up sharing a live sports story about themselves.

What’s been both fun and challenging is my process for picking which people I tell and which people I have a fake chat with.  Those type of situations have been interesting to experience as it’s shown me the level of skill or aptitude certain people have for being able to talk about more than just the game and instead go deeper to explain what the game means to them and why they watch sports.

And I really want to know the significance of the awkward pause. What does that say about me? About that person? What does this tell me about the connection I have or don’t have to those around me? What does this say about the role that live sports plays in how we all relate and connect with each other?

This No Sports Experiment has been both beautifully strange and utterly fascinating to me and I’m still sorting it all out. I’ve actually have more questions now than when I started this experiment. There’s just so much to it and each day a new thought and revelation rabbit hole pops up that I love to jump down into and explore.

That said, there’s been lots more that I’ve learned but I wanted to share these initial insights with you to see what you think and I’d love to get your take on this too.

That’s all for now on this update and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. My 19-month old son Calvin just woke up and it’s time to be a dad and hang out, run around the house listening to Wilson Picket’s “Land of 1,000 Dances” and Gold Frapp’s “Ooh La La” over and over again because that’s what we do on Sundays, besides watch sports. Well, maybe not this year, anyway. And maybe I’ll tell him all about this crazy experiment when he gets older.

My Three Words: Health. Hunger. Habit.

livefix chris catania garden

For the last several years, I’ve watched others do the “my three words” yearly mission. And it’s time for me to jump in.

Yes, I’ve thought of my three words before, but I’ve just thought about them.

Until now, I’ve taken little action to crystalized my three words, write them down and truly make them the focus for a year of my life.

So in 2014, I’m doing it.

It’s the end of February and by now many New Year’s resolutions are toast, or hopefully you are still going strong.

If you’re struggling, hopefully this post comes at the right time and it will inspire you to get started or get back on track if you’ve lost some steam.

Let’s be clear, though.

My three words aren’t resolutions. They’re guideposts and word triggers packed with personal meaning and significance.

I’m using them to quickly remind and ask myself:

 “What are the most important things to do, measure, refine, and think about on a daily basis?”

I can quickly look at my three words and go through a quick and simple rundown in my mind and to see how I’m doing on a daily basis.

I’m aiming to review my three words nightly before my head hits the pillow and I’m using them to help me focus as I start my day.

But I’m not just sharing my three words with you just to do it and say I crossed something off my To-Do list.

No. I’m sharing them with you because I know that by making my three words, and my thoughts about them, public it’s making them more real to me, AND I’m also inviting you to hold me accountable and dialogue about them. (I’m serious. Tweet me. Ask me about them @chriscatania.)

I’ve shared this kind of personal goal stuff before and by whenever I’ve made it public it’s helped immensely. Sharing personal goals publicly has given me that much needed lift and accountability boost to keep going when I don’t want to.

I know for a fact that telling you what I’m aiming for in life in this blog post helps me reach me goals and change my life for the better.

That said, I’ve decided to say no to all the doubt in my brain and I’ve clicked “publish” on this blog post so you can join me and we can help each other. Yes, in case you’re wondering, I do have more details on these words including how I’m measuring success, but I’m not sharing that stuff here.

I want to keep it simple for now. Just three words.

So let’s do this!

Without further ado, here are my three words.

Health.

I chose the word “health” to remind me that I want to focus on developing and staying healthy in all areas of my life, specifically:

1) Physically

2) Mentally/emotionally

3) Spiritually

Those three areas are foundational to be being the best husband, father, friend and co-worker I can be. Yes, there are more details to these “health” areas of my life but I won’t share them here on this post.

What I will tell you is that I know that when life gets crazy and I start to lose focus on what matters, it’s usually because I’ve stopped making it a priority to devout time to nurture at least one or more of these three “health” areas of my life.

Hunger.

There are two reasons why I chose hunger in 2014.

First, I want to stay hungry. Not hungry for food (which isn’t usually a problem) but more like Rocky Balboa in Rocky I and Mr. T in Rocky III, and Rudy in Rudy. (Yes, I’m a big fan of Rocky and sports underdog movies. No shame here.)

Seriously, though, I want to stay hungry for growth. I did grow a lot in 2013 but I want to be more intentional about it in 2014.

I want to feel that rumbling in my stomach and in my soul as I aim for my goals in all areas of my life.

I want to keep my eyes on the prize, be proactive and not let life’s distractions, negative thoughts, and other mental junk food that comes hurling at me on daily basis, stop me from being hungry for what matters in life.

Secondly, having a hunger and a thirst for bettering yourself is exciting and it’s contagious. I love being around people who are hungry for life and learning.

What I mean is that I want to inspire a hunger for others.

I once heard someone say that what you do in life and what you share with the world should inspire others, and what you do should improve the quality of life for others too.

So I’m taking those great thoughts as a personal challenge and I’m aiming (and hoping) that by staying hungry for growing, learning and constantly evolving who I am will inspire others around me.

But, again, let’s be honest. Maintaining that hunger is hard. And that’s why I’m sharing this with you, remember? So we can help each other stay hungry. Do we have a deal? Thanks. I know you’d be with me on this one.

Now on to the last word.

Habit.

I told you before that I purposely don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

Why? Well, because New Year’s resolutions only happen once a year and why should we wait 365 days to change what we’re doing? That would waist so much time.

In my short time on planet earth, I’ve learned from others (and by failing myself) that creating daily habits that I can gradually build on is the better way to go. It’s better than creating New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve learned that aiming for gradual habit change gives us more power to create a lasting foundation for behavior change. When we look at the challenge to change habits as a “one day at a time” (or even one minute or second at a time) thing, it’s not as overwhelming for our brains.

Yes, no doubt, changing our behavior is one of the hardest things to do.

But one thing I’ve learned is that knowledge is power. And taking the time to read and understand what drives our habits and behaviors has helped me reach my goals.

I love reading books and blogs to soak up as much knowledge as I can, and I highly value taking an experimental approach to life in general. That’s why I do these Fitbit and No Sports For A Year Experiments.

I read what others have learned, and try to apply it to my own life,  and I also learn by doing (succeeding and failing) myself.

And when it comes to reading books about habits and understanding how to change them, I’ve had the pleasure of learning a lot from The Power of Habit, Nudge, and One Small Step Can Change Your Life. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking these books out as there is a lot of excellent research and practical stuff you can do to help change your habits.

Alright, these are my three words for 2014: Health. Hunger. Habit.

And Yours?

What are your three words this year?

Thanks for sharing and be courageous today and always, my friends.

Note: The photo above is of a zig zag bridge in the Japanese garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden. It’s designed to get you to stop and think about where you’re going.

Recap Video: Talking with The Community Roundtable about Community Management and Our ESN at Walgreens

 

 

enterprisesocialnetworkcrspotlight

 

I recently had the pleasure of kicking off the Community Roundtable’s new Community Manager spotlight series. It was tons of fun chatting with Jim Storer and sharing the inside scoop of the development of our enterprise social network and employee communities journey at Walgreens.

Highlights of the chat include: an overview how how we launched The Wall, our new social intranet, and how we’re using community management strategies to support the business, build trust and drive the adoption of the digital workplace. I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear what you think. 

Check it out here.

 

 

Fitbit Experiment Part 4: 11 Things I’ve Learned So Far – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

fitbitone3milsteps

This Fitbit experiment has been fascinating. It’s really opened my eyes and I’ve learned a lot.

So, in no particular order, here’s a quick round up of all the things I’ve learned so far; the good, bad and the ugly, and what I’m looking forward to in 2014.

1. Having a daily goal of getting 10k steps helped bring structure to my life. Without a doubt, using the Fitbit One to have a clear, simple and attainable activity metric to shoot for each day helped me live a healthier life and proved to be a welcome ally  to conquer the personal fitness challenges noted below.

When I first got the Fitbit back in September of 2012 I started out with the goal of getting 10,000 steps a day because that was the recommended standard. 14 months later it’s still a worthy challenge to attain, so as my experiment rolled on I had to adapt my plan and evolve things a bit.

Basically I was challenged by the usual suspects to find a consistent time where I could  integrate getting my 10,000 steps in to my regular workout or supplement my workout with getting steps.  For me the biggest obstacles to staying healthy and working out were and still are:

  • Creating a workout program that’s integrated, flexible, realistic and based on SMART goals
  • Staying consistent, maintaining momentum and balancing the demands of work, life and being a new dad

 

2. We need simple metrics to stay healthy. To help battle those above challenges, one of the biggest things I learned is that having two metrics to shoot for helps to maintain momentum. I learned that I don’t always have the time when unexpected events put a wrench in my workout schedule, or I am challenged to adapt to the ever-changing sleep schedule and required dad-attention time of my growing 15-month-old son Calvin.

fitbitmertics

 

 

As you can see by the image above, I use the Fitbit mobile app to track both steps and active minutes. For my P90x workouts I have to manually enter in the activity, and it would be nice if Fitbit figured out a way to integrate active minutes into the friend leader boards because on some days I’m below 10,000 steps but achieved or exceeded my AM goal, but it doesn’t always show up in the leaderboards.

So what I’ve done is aim to create habits that help me get either  1) 10,000 steps a day or 2) at least 30 minutes of activity a day through running or short-burst higher intensity workouts.

3. Be flexible and get creative. This point became even more true during my Fitbit experiment because I’ve come to realize that it really helps to aim to squeeze in quick 5-20 min walking breaks or sneaky steps, where I get anywhere from 500-1200 steps, or squeezing in a short more high intensity workout like short 30 min run at a faster paced versus a long 60 minutes run. Taking this approach helped to maintain momentum and keep me on track towards having a regular active habit. Doing this short burst approach also lead to longer periods of healthy activity over time.

4. Make a game out of it. Many times during the fall and winter of 2013, and especially early in 2014 with the Polar Vortex clamping down on us in the Midwest, it’s been challenging and nearly impossible to get outside to go for a walk, so we’ve had spontaneous step challenges in our house during which we run around the house to see who can get to 10,000 step first. And when I got close to 3 millions steps I challenge my self to hit it before the one year mark in September and did.

These moments are actually really fun and I would love to be one of our neighbors looking in and seeing us running around wondering whats going on. In addition to gamifying my personal health at home, I’ve also been developing the habit of walking around the house while watching watching movies or my favorite TV shows.

  • Speaking of games, I created a fun little game at work where I challenged myself to see if I could get 10 steps before 5pm on a workday.  Through a combination of taking short breaks from my desk, no longer taking the elevator and using only the stairs and experimenting with walking meetings, I did get to 10,ooo steps before 5pm twice.
  • “10k steps before 5pm” is something that I’ll continue to shoot for this year. Doing this challenge at work I did notice that taking the short walking breaks gave me a welcomed creative physiological boost to my brain to power me through several writing projects and daily deadlines.

 

10kb45pm

5. Getting steps is contagious. The other exciting thing is that I was surprised that my sharing my experience through this Fitbit experiment has led to others in our corporate communications department getting a Fitbit too, which then led to us doing a special Steps experiment and feature story in our employee publication. And when it comes to our Walgreens internal social media programs, I started doing monthly activity challenges and sharing our steps experiences in our employee online communities. This has led to many great conversations about staying activity and now our employee online communities are a great source of motivation and encouragement.

6. You need a community to help you. As I just mention above, one of the most important things you should do when trying to create and stick to healthy habits is have a community to help motivate and keep you accountable.

I still stand by what I said in my last Fitbit post. And since that post the number of Fitbit buddies who are on my leaderboard has gone from 2 to 26.

I can’t stress enough how having buddies is to staying healthy. My community is a mix of friends, family and co-workers who are also striving for 10k steps and struggling with similar life change challenges as me.

I loved using the Fitbit mobile app to build community. Being able to simply click a button on my mobile phone to send cheers and short encouraging messages to my step buddies is awesome and  I love when I get the same from them. It often gave me that much needed boost of encouragement that I needed to get me over the hump and moving in the right direction.

I’m not going lie, on days when I don’t feel like doing  10 steps or I start to see my daily average slip looking at the leaderboards and seeing the faces of my step buddies is a welcomed motivator.

Speaking of community, another bonus in 2013 was the fact that getting steps was often associated with or led to more meaningful moments and social experiences. It gave me opportunity to be more emotionally and relationally healthy by building relationships on the short and long walks and hiking adventures. 

A big thanks to everyone I shared steps with in 2013. You all helped me get to over 3 millions step in 2013 and here’s to 3 million more in 2014. Keep up the great work – you rock!

Feel free to add me to your Fitbit friends here.

7. Tracking your steps can lead to saving money, free lunches and helping others.

In 2013 I connected my Fitbit account to the Walgreens Steps program which is connected to the Balance Rewards Loyalty program. So for every 200 steps I got 20 Balance Rewards points and with all the steps I did I racked up enough points to save some coin on several purchases.

One of my favorite early highlights of  my Fitbit experiment was my experience with Earndit. Earndit offers rewards for purchase or the option to donate your points to a worthy cause. Through the Earndit program I was able to also donate my activity points to help those in need through the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, Earndit stop doing the program in early 2013 and it no longer offers this “donate your points” option.

To be honest, the product discounts that Earndit offers for rewards are not very exciting or valuable to me, and it was much more rewarding and motivating to donate my points. I hope they bring that option back or at least some other company steps up (no pun intended) and provides this great service again, because knowing that getting steps not only keeps me healthy but it also allows me to help others in need was a great motivator.

toddlerfitbit

 

8. It’s time for a toddler Fitbit test. I let my son try on my Fitbit and now he wants his own activity tracker. I think this a great thing and it was the first step in my sub-experiment to let him wear a Fitbit for a day, or get him is own, to see how many steps he gets. I would love to do this because 1) it’d be interesting to compare his activity to mine and 2) I think building that behavior and giving him this sort of health data would be valuable for him as he gets older. Stay tuned for more on this.

The Bad and The Ugly

Okay, now for the bad parts of this Fitbit experiment.

8. They need to create a “find my fitbit” app. The one downside of the Fitbit One is that it can be easy to lose if you’re not careful. I lost it while fishing during the summer and had to buy a new one. Somewhere there’s a fish, or a frog that’s really activate now.

As activity trackers and wearable evolve in 2014 and beyond, I hope this will become less of an issue and they will figure out a way to make the trackers more integrated and easier to wear and harder to lose. Of the 450 days that I’ve had the Fitbit I’ve only lost it once. Making sure I have the device with me at all times has now become a regular habit. It would be nice, though, to have a feature where the Fitbit beeped and you could easily locate it, if you did lose it.

flex burn

9. The Fitbit Flex has some defects. Because I was enjoying my Fitbit One so much I bought my wife Colleen a Fitbit Flex for her birthday when the Flex first came out in the spring of 2013. Despite the many benefits of having the Flex, unfortunately, after only having it for 7 months, there have been several things that have made the experience concerning and disappointing.

  • First, around September, the Flex stopped holding a charge like it should. I did a quick search on the issue and found that others had the same issue. I follow these steps to see if it would work to resolve and it did. At the same time I contacted Fitbit support and they sent me a list of troubleshooting steps but the blog post was more helpful.
  • Then in late December Colleen had a nasty rash breakout on her wrist (see above). At first we thought it was a jewelry-related rash, but usually if she’s going to get one of those, the rash shows up pretty quickly and looks different. This one also seemed more like a chemical burn than an allergic reaction. So again, I took to the interwebs to see what others were experiencing and sure enough it was a known issue for others too. It even became a bigger issue as the press picked up on the rash issue but most reports focused on the Force and not the Flex-related burns.

I continued to trade emails with Fitbit support and had to answer a series of  customer feedback and trouble-shooting questions. They immediately offered a refund and replacement device. We gladly excepted and they sent Colleen a new Fitbit One.

All this said, I’m really disappointed with this whole rash situation because I’ve been a big supporter of Fitbit. To have Colleen experience the physical discomfort of the rash and know that her wrist still isn’t fully healed concerns me. I do hope Fitbit takes a good look at why this is happening and makes the necessary product improvements.

Looking Ahead…

So when I look at all the above things I’ve learned and experienced; yes, I still highly value my Fitbit and it’s a powerful tool for keeping things simple as you aim to stay or get healthy.

11. The future is exciting. As reflect on this list and I think about how my Fitbit experiment has evolved, I’m really pumped about the future. For all the issues and bad stuff I mentioned I’m still looking forward to the evolution of wearables and activity trackers, especially AIRO, a new device that tracks heart rate, nutrition and sleep in some very interesting ways.

I’m also looking forward to seeing wearbable devices like Fitbit and AIRO evolve more. We’re still in the early stages of using these devices in our lives and I believe the more we use them the better they will become.

Thanks again for following along! I’d love to hear about your Fitbit and other activity tracking experiences. Share them in the comments below.

 

CMAD: Join Us For A Chat About The Evolution of Enterprise Social Networks

cmad2014

It’s inspiring and encouraging to see how much Community Manager Appreciation Day has evolved since it was started in 2010.

Four years later CMAD has become the dedicated day to not only give thanks to community managers and recognize them for the work they do, it’s now become a 24-hour celebration where we also roll up our sleeves to talk about the business of community management and how it’s playing an increasingly key role in transforming companies internally and the customer experience externally.

On Monday January 27, you can look forward to a day packed full of valuable and forward-thinking community management conversations happening both online and offline. And this year I’m proud to be on the panel that will be diving into the topic of “The Evolution of Enterprise Social Networks” at 12pm EST on Google+.

During the chat we’ll be discussing “the evolution of enterprise social networks with topics such as: the beginnings of enterprise social; major advances in recent years; how ESN tools have changed and still need to change; the role of ESN community managers past, present and future.”

Key questions we’ll be exploring include:

  1. When was the first time you used ESNs and what characterized the technology and the experience at the time?
  2. What are some recent major advances in enterprise social in terms of use cases and expectations – not technology.
  3. How has ESN technology evolved and in what ways does it still need to improve?
  4. How important is a dedicated, full-time ESN community manager?
  5. How has the role of ESN community managers evolved? Where do you see it going?

I’m looking forward to sharing stories and learnings from my experience leading the internal social media programs at Walgreens and I’m excited to hear what the other panelists have to share too. Should be a great time!

As prep for the CMAD chat about ESNs, I recommend checking out this excellent primer post by the panel organizer Jeff Ross who leads the internal community at Humana. Also, if you haven’t yet, I invite you to participate in the #ESNChat that Jeff leads every Thursday at 2pm EST.

Here’s more info on the panelists and how you can tune in Google+. See you there and enjoy!

Live Webinar: Talking with The CR About The Business Of Community Management at Walgreens

 community roundtable

 

When you’re building an enterprise social network at a large company and aiming to make your organization more social and collaborative, one of the most important things you should do is surround yourself with smart people who have done or are doing the same thing as you’re aiming to do.

That’s why I’ve enjoyed being a member of the Community Roundtable. The CR network is run by and is full of smart leaders who know their stuff when it comes to the business of community management. Over the last two years, being a member has helped to build and strengthen our internal social media and community management strategy at Walgreens.

It was a pleasure being on the advisory board for the 2013 State of Community Management Report and in 2014 the Community Roundtable is kicking off a new live webinar series called “Community Manager Spotlight” and I have the honor of being the first guest.

I invite you to join us next Wednesday January 29th @ 2pm EST for the 30 minute live webinar to learn how we’ve been using community management strategies to build our internal social media program at Walgreens and where we’re heading as our program grows. It’ll be lots of fun and I’m looking forward to sharing our story with you.

Get more info and register for the webinar here.

Why I’m Not Watching Sports For A Year

 

ESPNuninstall

 

It has begun.

I’ve officially started my “Not Watching Sports for A Year” experiment.

As you know, experiments have been at the center of Live Fix since the get-go and I’m excited to embark on this new sports-lated one throughout 2014.

I’ve been pondering this experiment for some time and always wanted to do it.

Back in November I mulled it over and decided that on January 1st I’d kick it off.

Honestly, part of me is a bit concerned about doing this.

And it’s that tugging mix of fear, anxiety and uncertainly and all the other emotions that are associated with not watching sports for a year that are fueling my curiosity to go ahead and do the experiment.

The other reason that those emotions are popping up is that, in some ways, watching sports has been therapeutic, a welcomed distraction to hard times in life, a place to take a time-out so I can tune out and give my mind a rest.

Watching sports has also been a valuable mirror that has reflected back to me important life lessons.

Watching sports has served as the backdrop and setting to many unforgettable moments where relationships got deeper and I bonded with buddies.

I can recall countless conversations with my family, friends and co-workers that are sport-related and centered around the Big Game or where live sports was the catalyst to the break the ice and got us to start talking.

And thinking about all those moments I wondered….

If sports didn’t exist, would we even have a reason to hang out and spend time together?

What else would have replaced sports as the shared event to bring us all together?

I even heard my dad say once that he associated the conception and/or birth of me and all of my siblings with a major sporting event.

That said, how important is sports to our lives?

Can we as humans simply enjoy watching sports, value it as a social connector or a healthy timeout from the craziness of life, but not get sucked into the black hole of sports obsessions and addictions?

Why Do I Watch Sports?

Besides live sports, I also enjoy watching sports documentaries, feature films and bio flicks like the Ken Burns Baseball movies, Bull Durham, Rudy, The Natural, and ESPN’s 30 For 30 series.

All of those have given me a good laugh, wisdom, inspiration, historical context and insight into how to playing or watching sports has impacted someone’s life for better or worse.

For example, I’ve watched many baseball, football or basketball games and walked away with some sort of metaphoric gem or lesson that I can use in my own life. And then watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 and learning the backstory makes the game and the lesson I learned even more valuable.

One last thing that I’m sure I’ll miss this year is watching a game through a strategic lens.

For some people, watching baseball, football, or basketball is boring, a real snooze-fest.

Sure, not every game is a nail-bitter or super entertaining. Heck, I’ve even got done watching a game and wondered if I could get the last 3 hours of my life back.

But for me, most of the time, watching a game of baseball is like playing chess. I love seeing how all the “games within a game” play out.

The strategic and behavioral side of watching live sports is probably what keeps me watching, especially when it’s not a Chicago team.

Most times I just want to see how athletes respond in pressure situations. Seeing how players, coaches, announcers and fans respond in the moments after a live win or loss provides a fascinating view into our minds and hearts.

As an added sociological bonus, social media has given us a great opportunity to really learn from these moments like never before, and I’m excited to use social media during my experiment too.

Something Is Creeping In And Taking Over

But what does concern me lately, and what is also motivating me to do this experiment, is that I’ve noticed an unhealthy mindlessness of watching sports start to creep in and take over. I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s like I’m watching sports to avoid doing something else.

And that’s when watching sports is no longer beneficial. And exploring this struggle is another reason why I want remove watching sports to see what it reveals about the “watching sports to avoid the real issue” factor.

What Have Others Been Saying So Far?

Like a lot of the other emotion-based experiments I’ve done before on live music, this is a personal discovery, an adventure to see what I learn and it’s been fun to see the initial response by some of my friends and family on Facebook.

As you see by the image above, there’s already some interesting comments coming in, and I love how all the comments say different things and present different avenues to explore. And I’m looking forward to learning from more responses and thoughts too.

What About Playing Sports?

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I’m still going to play sports because I believe that there’s still tons of value in playing sports to stay active as we’ve learned from my FitBit experiment.

I’m going to pay more attention to how my non-watching sports habits impact my playing and personal fitness habits. And I do expect to more deeply explore the balance between watching sports and playing them.

I Spent 687 Hours Watching Sports in 2013

You can’t do an experiment without crunching some numbers. You need a baseline so you know how to measure progress and get context. I did some quick math and determined that in 2013 I watched approximately 687 hours of Cubs, Hawks and Bears games.

Over six-hundred hours! This doesn’t even include how many hours I’ve spent watching other sports, other teams, or the pre-game, halftime, post game and the countless ESPN highlight shows, or the collective time I’ve spent meaninglessly scrolling through the ESPN SportCenter apps when I already know the scores ( as you can see by the picture above, that app was the first thing to go this year).

I told that 687 hours stat to my wife and she then asked, “Well, Chris, what can you do with all those hours if you’re not watching sports?” Great question. I’m going to find that out in 2014.

I’m looking forward to personally diving into more of what Eric Simmons explores in his book The Secret Lives of Sports Fans which is about why we are addicted to sports and how watching sports impacts our brains.

Of course, I’m not the first person to do something like this. A few guys who’ve done it before like this guy

But I figured I wanted to do it to see what I would learn about myself, others and the big wide world (of sports) around me.

Who knows, maybe I’ll discover that the right amount of watching sports is good for us, or not?

But what is the right amount? Is there a better or more beneficial way to watch sports? Hopefully I’ll discover answers to those questions and many others too.

What I Hope To Learn

To wrap this intro post up, here’s what I hope to walk away with 365 days from now:

  • Will not watching sports make me more productive? Will it allow me to better focus on developing my creativity, writing and things I’ve always wanted to do, or should be doing, instead of getting distracted by watching a game on TV?
  • How will not watching sports impact all the relationships in my life, friends, family and everyone in between?
  • What will it be like to write about not watching sports? Will I discover new things about myself and why I’ve watched over thousands of hours of sports on TV?
  • I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chicago sports, especially the Cubs and so what will it be like not to watch a game for an entire season? Will this ironically be the year they win the World Series? Will I then not get to watch it? Is this experiment a subconscious superstition?  It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work, right?

A Few Simple Ground Rules

Since many of you have asked, I wanted to share a few ground rules that I’ve set for this experiment.

  • No watching ANY sports on TV, internet or mobile devices, this includes football, baseball, hockey, boxing, the Olympics, etc. This also includes if I’m at a party, a restaurant or a bar and there’s a game on, I can’t watch it. I’m especially interested to see how this rule impacts the social areas of my life.
  • Instead of watching the game I’ll write about it or do something else. I will also post a blog entry here on Live Fix at least twice a month, including shorter updates on Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram. So feel free to follow along.

I appreciate you joining me on this grand adventure and I’d really enjoy hearing if you’ve done something like this or what you think of my experiment. Thanks for sharing and — Go Cubs!

Video + Notes From Blogwell: How We’re Using Community Management Strategies at Walgreens

Continuing our exploration of community management and social media, here’s a video and the deck from a presentation I gave when I spoke at the Socialmedia.org Blogwell event in New York City.

My talk was about how, at Walgreens, we’re using community management strategies to build relationships, support culture change and engage employees within our internal online communities.

This was the first time I had publicly spoken about our internal social media story at Walgreens, and it was an honor to share some of the things we’ve been doing and how being strategic is a key element to building on our foundation and executing on our playbook.

It was great to also present among other companies like Verizon and TD Bank who also shared success stories and case studies about their internal social programs. It’s encouraging and inspring to see these and other collaborative employee communities and the role of social media continue to mature and develop behind the firewall.

As I mentioned before, when I talked about why I was on the advisory board for the Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management 2013 Report, the role of strategic community management will play an important role as employee online communities become more integrated into organizations.

Without a doubt, I believe employee communities will only grow in importance and prominence as they continue to provide real business value and play an increasingly crucial role in driving engagement, attracting and retaining top talent, empowering innovation and cultivating significant culture change in more and more companies.

That said, on a future post, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the intriguing results of this year’s SOCM report that focused on the value of community management and demonstrated a significant change in the standard “90-9-1″ concept that I mentioned during my talk. I’ll also share how I’m seeing a new type of persona emerge within our communities.

Until then, thanks for checking out the video and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’re seeing at your company and in the industry at large when it comes to community management.

Live Fix Radio Episode 41: Live Music Fashion On Stage and Beyond

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On this episode of Live Fix Radio we’re continuing our exploration of live music fashion and chatting with special guests Brittany Abeijon, editor in chief of The Facets Magazine, and JP Chookaszian, Urban Offering as we traverse through the exciting and controversial topic of what fans wear (and shouldn’t wear) when we go to concerts.

Not only do they dish out some crafty concert fashion tips and dapper insights, Brittany and JP both share excellent stories about how Woodstock, Sigur Ros, Jimi Hendrix, Sufjan Stevens, Ray Charles and Lady Gaga have all influenced and inspired their sense of style and personal creativity. Rock on and thanks for listening!

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Show Notes

News and other cool stuff we talked about:

 

Music featured during the show:

  • Sigur Ros – “Inni
  • Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”
  • Of Monsters and Men – “Your Bones (live at Park West in Chicago)”
  • Sufjan Stevens – “Christmas Unicorn (live at metro in Chicago)

 

Got a thought on this show or an awesome idea for a future episode of Live Fix Radio? Drop a comment below or share your feedback and concert stories with us on Twitter @livefixmediaFacebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341.

Live Fix Radio Episode 40: How Listly Builds Community And Connects Concert Fans

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On this episode of Live Fix Radio we’re continuing our exploration of the social curation and list-making platform Listly and chatting with it’s co-founder Nick Kellet about why Listly is an essential community building tool for concert fans, and a great way to share and remember your favorite live music memories.

And of course, we asked Nick to share a list of his most memorable concert experiences which include seeing Kid Creole and The Coconuts, Melissa Etheridge, John Cooper Clark, Blue Oyster Cult, and a funny story of how he ended up as a bouncer for an Anne Lennox show. Rock on and thanks for listening!

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Show Notes

News and other cool stuff we talked about:

 

Got a thought on this show or an awesome idea for a future episode of Live Fix Radio? Drop a comment below or share your feedback and concert stories with us on Twitter @livefixmediaFacebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341.

Cornell Students Using Physics To Predict Human Behavior, Save Lives At Rock Concerts

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I’ve got an excellent update to our ongoing experiments on concert rioting, live music fears and similar concert crisis related explorations.

According to Physics Central a group of students at Cornell University have begun to share their research about comparing concert rioting and mosh pits to the how molecules in gas behave with the plan of “using some techniques of physics to describe and maybe predict human behavior in times of crisis.”

This is really an amazing collection of research that has me thinking about a lot of other possibilities related to our previous experiments on riots, heavy metal shows and even our RIP and mourning explorations where lives were lost because of chaos as frantic crowd situations.

Here’s my favorite snippet from the article:

The project began when one student, Jesse Silverberg, took his girlfriend to a heavy metal concert. Not wanting to get involved in the mosh pit that formed in the audience–people get hurt–he stood aside and was fascinated by the motion of the crowd. The group’s movement resembled something he saw in physics classes, the disordered collisions of molecules in a gas.

Silverberg thought that might be an interesting study, and along with other students, created artificial mosh pits in a computer, using videos of rock concerts on YouTube as the template and converting the crowd into individual particles in the program using automated tracking techniques.

Bierbaum reported at the meeting that while the crowds seemed to be running around wildly, the researchers found two types of people in the patterns, subjects they called MASHERS (Mobile Active Simulated Humanoids). Some “flocked,” meaning they generally followed their neighbors. Animals flock the same way, Bierbaum said. So do fish schools. There is no bird or fish in charge. Those who stayed stationary, passive MASHERS, reacted normally when an active MASHER accidentally collided with them–they bounced–and then resumed standing still.

There’s also some very interesting and fascinating mosh pit data collected here that was used in the research along with this mosh pit simulator.

I also love it how Jessie’s desire to not want to be in the mosh pit led him to the discovery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at mosh pits and wondered why those happen and what purpose they serve at concert beyond a physical release or just a dangerously chaotic response to how the music is making us feel during the show.

And I’m pumped to see something positive come out of moshing and know that Jessie and his fellow students have given us some great insight through the lens of physics that could really make a major impact on the lives of concert fans.

Lastly, this makes me wonder about what other parts of the concert experience can be better understood by looking at other areas of life or scientific disciplines to find solutions to problems?

If we can compare mosh pits to gas molecules to make concerts safer, what other examples and comparisons can we find to enhance, improve and better understand the concert experience?

Like I said, this is great stuff and we’ll certainly continue to follow this story and share more updates as we dive deeper into the data and uncover more awesomeness.

That’s it for now. Let us know what you think of this study in the comments below and stay tuned for more as we continue to explore this story and have the Cornell students share more about their research and favorite concert experiences on a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Live Fix Radio Episode 39: Bon Iver Tattoos, Crowd Surfing Coachella and A Sublime Shakedown At Lolla

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On this episode of Live Fix Radio we’re continuing our exploration of Bon Iver and the power of the little things and chatting with fellow concert fan Isabel about how this picture of Justin Vernon’s “that was then” tattoo inspired Isabel to get her own tattoo. Isabel’s also tells us why she’ll never forget crowdsurfing during Bon Iver at Coachella and soaking in Cage The Elephant with her dad during a sublime downpour at Lollapalooza. Rock on and thanks for listening!

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Show Notes

News and other cool stuff we talked about:

 

Music featured during the show:

  • Bon Iver  –  “Holocene” and “Skinny Love” (iTunes)

 

Got a thought on this show or an awesome idea for a future episode of Live Fix Radio? Drop a comment below or share your feedback and concert stories with us on Twitter @livefixmediaFacebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341.