Category Archives: Productivity

Avoiding team meeting malaise

Have you ever sat around in a team meeting, trying to brainstorm and wondering why things just aren’t going very well?  Well it could be one of several factors contributing to the poor dynamics of the group. It could be the way that the group works together and how each of the individuals in the group produces their best work.


The New York Times reckons that creativity comes from groupthink and that introverts that prefer to work alone are main catalysts for innovation.  But how do you mix the two?

If being on our own makes us more productive, then how can we encourage creativity in teams.  Many meetings are wasted with large teams, together in a room trying to think creatively.

Some folks work better alone, some work better with others.  Often the loudest voice does not have the best ideas. Sometimes the failure could be down to the meeting, other fails might be down to the dynamics of the meeting. 

So how do you get the best out of meetings, and the personalities in the team?

No Goals. Without a goal, the ideas won’t start to flow.  Attendees won’t know what they are trying to achieve by the brainstorm.

Poor preparation. Giving attendees time to think about what the meeting will be about and how you want to progress the meeting giving them time to come up with something on their own that they can add to the mix.  A coffee break before the brainstorming session usually works wonders.

Game the brainstorming session. Turn the brainstorm into a competition with a token gift for the team member that produces the most number of unique  and workable ideas. giving teams a challenge usually adds an extra dynamic into the game.

Split the whole team into smaller sub groups. The brainstorming as a whole will be more productive than everyone sitting round in a large group looking for ideas.  Generate several lists from each sub group and discuss the results, choosing the best sub group idea back with the main group.

Stay uncomfortable. If people get too comfortable with each other they will relax and devolve attention and responsibility onto others. Shake up your group think by changing your sub groups round regularly.

It is possible for Intraverts to thrive in extravert environments but more important to give your teams the tools they need to do their best work.  If they are introverts, then leave them to brainstorm alone, others can work as a group.  Forcing introverts to work with others will stifle their creativity not enhance it.

Letting your team work in they way that each individual needs to work will avoid the team meeting malaise and energise the group as a whole..

Credit: JD Hancock

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


How to create lists in Twitter

I had a question from one of the attendees of my Introduction to Twitter course, so I thought I’d blog it to help others who might have the same question

How do you create lists?  I notice that some people are followed by 1000s of people how do you get to more than one person or do you have to write to them each separately?  It’s a shame none of my fellow Menta twitter participants aren’t out there tweeting, it’s great fun!

Well the answer is quite simple.  If you use Twitter, then the Lists option is here:


Click on the Lists link and sort your followers into Lists.

If you are using Tweetdeck, click on the + (Add column) sign at the top of the screen.

CLick on the second tab down which says Groups / Lists CLick on the button that says ‘New list’ and create your list:


You will find a similar way to do this in other Twitter clients such as Hootsuite or Seesmic

Start organising your Tweeps Smile


Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


Reply All emails make you less productive



  • We tend to ignore things that are sent to large groups of people.  The Reply All email must be relevant to someone else if it’s not intended directly at you.
  • Reply All threads often fork into 2 or 3 separate conversations, wasting further time as you manage each part of the thread
  • Reply All messages sent in anger can rebound on the sender and start a flame war
  • Can you trust everyone on the ‘To:’ line not to propagate the message further?
  • Is the message actually meant for each of the recipients?
  • Are you wasting their time Replying to All?

Be productive – don’t hit that icon… It could come back and bite you…

Image from the Division of Labor new rules of work project

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Mingly: Relationship management for Gmail

imageI quite like the idea of Mingly.  It’s a plug in for Gmail for Firefox and Chrome and it’s a relationship manager that merges your address books and updates together.  It’s aiming to bring your email and your social users together with information, reminders and updates in one place. Ideal lab think it’s going to go far, with a $500k investment from Idealab and others

Social aggregators such as this aren’t new.  Tools such as Xobni, Gist and the k that Outlook social connector have been around for a couple of years now but have focused on managing email and social activities from a rich client such as Outlook.

Mingly might just steal a march on these products  as it’s aimed at users with web based email systems.  It currently links Gmail with the big boys of the social networking world.


  • It merges Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with your Gmail accounts and creates a master address book with all of your contacts, significant dates and updates. 
  • It acts as a multi platform aggregator so that you don’t miss any of those important dates
  • It acts as a relationship maintenance tool – so you don’t lose track of what’s going on


  • It only works on Chrome and Firefox.  There is no support for IE.
  • There is no support for Hotmail – nor is there any indication that this will change
  • Considering this integrates with Gmail- there is no support for Google+ at all

Anything that successfully aggregates all of my social stuff in one place gets my vote.  Tweetdeck is brilliant for aggregating the actual feeds, but events, birthdays and other key dates get lost in the mix…

Oh to have something that did everything.  emails, social feeds, reminders, voicemails, faxes, events and updates… The truly ‘universal inbox’…

It would be stuffed to the gills I reckon Smile

Eileen is a social business strategist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


The evolution of productivity. From Cooltown to cool world..

I remember when I worked at HP, I was blown away by the innovations in technology hardware and software that was coming out of the futures lab.  Biometric readers for log on, cars that knew where the next petrol station was, devices that recognised who you were and digital displays in cars.  I was looking at an unlikely technological brave new world that amazed me.  At the turn of the century, satellite navigation systems weren’t common and had a large margin of error, phones didn’t have nice user interfaces, and cars weren’t very intelligent.  The Cooltown video, developed by HP in 2001 showed an incredible world, with connected systems, location aware devices and email that responded to voice commands.


The video is now a trip down memory lane.  Did you recognise the early versions of things you use every day like the smartphone, email that talks to you, web conferencing, VOIP calling  and GPRS tracking?  Technology like this is now part of our daily lives.  Software such as Windows has evolved significantly too since the early days of the GUI and Microsoft have been giving tasters of how the future of productivity is going to look like 10 years on from here…

I’m sure in 10 years time, we’ll be looking back at this video and wondering what all the fuss was about, but hopefully videos such as these will inspire us to create the need for the next technology generation.  it may only be a dream now, but… who knows?

Eileen is a social business strategist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Internet Addictive Disorder: Can you bear to disconnect?

Look around you.  Are you in a public place?  If you’re reading this and there are folks around you, what are they doing?  Are they chatting to their friends, are they reading a book?  or are they hunched over their digital device being ‘productive’ on their way to work?

Chances are, if you’re on a train, bus, or other communal place, able to receive 3G or Wi-Fi, then folks will be connected to their devices like a drowning man hangs on to a lifebelt. We depend on our connectivity, and heck we miss it when it’s not available whenever we want it to be.  Are we all addicted to the Internet, to being connected, to being online?

You might be addicted to the internet, but don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Between 5% and 10% of Web surfers suffer a Web dependency and it can alter the way your brain is wired.  It has been also  theorised that these changes reflect learning-type cognitive optimizations for using computers more efficiently, but also impaired short-term memory and decision-making abilities.  Does all of this IT make you happy?

The Advanced workplace blog speculates we’re addicted to, and in fact enslaved by our mobile devices

But it’s possible to take a break from your PC, a holiday without your phone.  It’s possible to manage without connectivity for a few days.  Try to step away from your computer.  The Internet will still be here when you return Smile



Image credit: Xkcd

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Do smartphones boost productivity?: Unbalancing our work life blend


I had some interesting comments after my post the other day showing smartphone market share ratiosThe graph obviously shows US data – and Symbian isn’t called out specifically as a smartphone, is it therefore a feature phone? 

It would be interesting to view this from a global perspective – but of course, the stats are hard to gather in this way.  We look at the world the way we see things.   

In the UK we see a lot of Android phones here  – but is that the case in other parts of the world?  It’s difficult to get an all up view of the market – every region has such differing usage patterns – but here in the UK, we’re not usually seen without a mobile device of some sort in our hands…

The Grapevine has an interesting post viewed from a UK specific perspective.  In order to work smarter – not harder, staff pressure companies to integrate technology and are pressurising their bosses to give them smartphones and make them more productive.

In our world of always on, always connected, always locatable, always available, the question must be:

Are you always productive?

…or are you using your smartphone to pass the time because you’re bored?

Does owning a smartphone make you more productive at work?  Does the fact that you’re constantly available online make for a better work life blend?  Here are 5 things to think about and consider whether you are actually productive for work -  or not

      1. If you triage your email as soon as you wake, are you really focusing on your work?  Is your home life equilibrium being compromised by the fact that you’re ‘on duty’ as soon as you get up?  How many hours of home life each week are you spending with your thoughts and activities focused on work?
      2. If you commute into work by train, do you really focus on that important business email that you’re sending via your smartphone?  Do you send an abbreviated message because you can’t face typing the full email with links etc. from your hand held device?  Do you really read that email, or do you scan it to get to the next email in the list?
      3. Do you check your social feeds from your device at home?  Do you check your social feeds in the office?  If you’re checking your email at home, then surely it’s ok to check your social feeds at work?  Does  time spent on each activity balance out 50: 50? Do your social activities interfere with your concentration at work?
      4. Do you walk along the road checking your feeds on your device?  Have you ever bumped into someone because you were distracted?  If you have a free few moments – say you’re waiting for someone, do you stand and wait, or do you check your email, or social feeds
      5. Do you limit the time you spend checking your email?  Do you work for your company 8 hours a day, 10 hours or more?  Are these hours really productive? Are you really happy with your work life balance?

Smartphones are an amazing add on to our digital life.  They are a enabler for our thirst for knowledge and the need to be connected to our contacts and friends.

But do we honestly work any more efficiently with them?  or do they just add to our ever increasing workload as we struggle to keep up? What do you think?

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: Flickr