by Steve King
You can’t miss all the noise around Twitter these days. A Google news search turns up over 50,000 Twitter news hits last week alone.
But we haven’t seen much on Twitter and information discovery, which is one of our primary uses.
Twitter is a great research tool. We use it almost every day to discover new information about topics familiar and unfamiliar to us.
The most powerful part, in our opinion, of using Twitter for information discovery is the role humans play. Tweets are, mostly, entered by people. This provides nuances and slants on the information sources that traditional search tools do not.
For example, if you search on “small business innovation” in Google the results are web pages containing those words. With Twitter search the results are tweets that a human thinks are relevant to the topic of small business innovation. We’ve found this to be a subtle but important and powerful difference.
Social search – considering the interaction or contribution of search users – is often cited as the future of search and information discovery. Twitter search is a form of social search that is here today.
You can also quickly find out who is passionate and knowledgeable about a topic through Twitter. We recently needed to learn more about the economic stimulus package and health care. Through Twitter we found several experts and were able to connect with them using Twitter direct messaging.
We still use traditional methods are search for information discovery, but Twitter has become a valuable research resource in our work.
by Steve King
Intuit and Emergent Research recently released a research brief on small business innovation.
The research focuses on the key factors that drive, enable and amplify small business innovation. The report is part of the ongoing Intuit Future of Small Business research series and the first of several research briefs on small business innovation.
A key finding of the research is that small businesses have six inherent attributes that make them natural innovators. These are:
- Personal passion: Personally invested, most small business owners are willing to try new approaches to make their business more successful.
- Customer connection: A deep and direct relationship with the market and customers helps small businesses understand customer needs, identify new opportunities, and fix problems quickly and efficiently.
- Agility and adaptation: Unlike large corporations, small businesses can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and implement new business practices.
- Experimentation and improvisation: When pursuing new opportunities, many small business owners and managers aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise, accepting failure as part of the path to success.
- Resource limitations: Small businesses are adept at doing more with less. And these resource constraints lend to their innovative mindset.
- Information sharing and collaboration: Small businesses traditionally rely on strong social networks to share information and inspire innovative thinking. Online social networks extend and amplify this practice.
These attributes provide small businesses with the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions and identify and exploit new opportunities.
The research also shows that small business innovation is not limited to tech or high growth firms, but used broadly by small businesses of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy.
Interestingly enough, one of the research findings is that small business owners and managers do not consider themselves or their business innovative. Most feel that innovation is something that only large corporations or venture backed companies do.
But despite not describing or seeing themselves this way, most small businesses are natural and continuous innovators who strive to improve their businesses and provide increased value to their customers.
The entire report and related materials are available at www.intuit.com/futureofsmallbusiness.
by Steve King
In our research on very small (fewer than 5 employees) and personal businesses (one person businesses) we consistently find that work flexibility, work/life balance and the ability to work on their own terms are key reasons people start or work for very small businesses. Often these small business owners and employees left corporate jobs in search of more flexible work and the ability to work on their terms.
Leaving corporate America for more flexible work has clearly captured the imagination of the public. The hugely popular book The Four Hour Workweek celebrates self-employment, work flexibility and work/life balance. More recent is career coach Pamela Skillings book Escape from Corporate America, which is a how-to book for those “stressed out, burned out, or just plain bummed out” by their corporate jobs.
The desire for increased job flexibility and work/life balance is so strong and the appeal is so broad that we consider it a major driver of the growth of small business (see our research report Demographics and Small Business). Because technology is making it cheaper and easier to form and operate a small or personal business, corporate employees can easily leave for more flexible small businesses. This is resulting in small business becoming a growing talent competitor for larger corporations.
Flexible work is also prized by those continuing to work at larger corporations. Competing for Talent, a recent report by Deloitte’s consulting group, discusses this topic and points out:
“For today’s workers, hefty compensation packages and fancy retirement plans just aren’t as appealing as they used to be. What they really want – more than anything else – is to control when, where, and how they work. They’re happy to work hard, but want to do it on their terms. And by the way, we’re not just talking about “Gen Yer’s”, also known as, “Millennial.” As it turns out, recent retirees who are re-entering the workforce want many of the same things as their younger counterparts. So do “Gen X’ers,” although most are too afraid to ask.”
The next decade will see the talent war between big and small business intensify. Web 2.0 technologies are making work flexibility and small business employment more viable. High performance employees are increasingly attracted to the flexible work options provided by owning or working for very small and personal businesses. To compete effectively for talent, larger corporations will need to provide much greater job, career and work flexibility.
by Steve King
We recently released a new report in our Future of Small business forecast series called “The New Artisan Economy.” In the report we talk about the re-emergence of artisans as an economic force.
Next-gen knowledge artisans are amplified versions of their pre-industrial counterparts. Equipped with and augmented by technology, they rely on their human capital and skill to solve complex problems and develop new ideas, products and services. Highly productive, knowledge artisans are capable individually and in small groups of producing goods and services that used to take substantially larger teams and resources. In addition to redefining how work is done, knowledge artisans are creating new organizational structures and business models.
As our economy continues its shift towards ideas and innovation, the new knowledge artisans will be crucial to competitive success. Corporations will need to better understand knowledge artisans and how they work. They will also need to design work policies, organizational models and IT infrastructures that attract, retain and support knowledge artisans.
The new knowledge artisans share several important characteristics. First, they tend to have excellent end-user IT skills and expect to have access to the latest tools. Most knowledge artisans are power Internet users and comfortable with a wide range of IT and internet applications and software.
Knowledge artisans are highly collaborative. Because they often work in distributed, cross functional and cross organizational teams, they understand the importance of information sharing.
Knowledge artisans use a broad mix of collaboration tools to communicate with and share information across their teams.
Knowledge artisans tend to be analytical. The rise of the Internet has created vast new pools of data and information. Knowledge artisans understand the need to convert these complex data streams into useful and actionable information. Using analytical business tools and data visualization, knowledge artisans are shifting decision making from gut-instincts towards objective analysis.
Knowledge artisans are mobile and connected, but not “always on.” They tend to work from a variety of locations and are always connected. But being connected does not mean always-on. Instead knowledge artisans work when and where it best suits their needs. They schedule their own hours, choose their work location and even pick projects and teams that interest them. While knowledge artisans work very hard and put in long hours, they want to work “on their time” and “on their terms.”
Knowledge artisans are looking for values-based work. Knowledge artisans want to work in a manner that reflects their life values. The values knowledge artisans mention most are work/life balance, sustainable business practices, social responsibility and giving back to the broader community. We also hear knowledge artisans talking about “meaningful work”, “working independently”, and the pride of using their knowledge and skills to accomplish something.
The competition for skilled knowledge artisans will be intense. These highly valuable workers have many career options and job choices. Corporations that fail to develop business policies and IT infrastructures that support knowledge artisans will lose them – and come under increasing competitive pressure from firms that are able to attract, retain and support knowledge artisans.