Mobilize mobs for a purpose

by | Jun 11, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

Why should you care about mobilizing a mob?

Let’s say you already tap into groups of employees or other stakeholders to take advantage of their wisdom.

Smart mobs are more powerful and provide the potential to deliver even better results. That’s because smart mobs make savvy use of technology. More people can participate in shorter time periods offering more diverse viewpoints, candid comments and uncensored ideas.

Nine years ago when Howard Rheingold coined the term in his book of the same name Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, the concept was more about giving power to the “mobile many.”

Today, smart-mob organizing is evolving to mean the use of electronic media or collaborative technology as a way to coordinate people to bring about purposeful business or social change. People can still come together in person; however, their voices get amplified when you include a technology component.

Take Powernoodle, an online collaboration cloud app for guiding faster, more informed decisions. It can help a group capture great ideas, reach a consensus and organize their data and decisions into action plans. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a member of Powernoodle’s expert community.)

As an example, here’s how one company used Powernoodle to tap into employee creativity and innovation. The company was exploring productivity opportunities and assumed its employees could contribute workable ideas.

The company launched three special teams to come up with the top five ideas for improved productivity in their functional areas.

Leaders charged the teams with ensuring their top ideas had a reasonable ROI. Plus leaders wanted the teams to demonstrate that team members:

1. Collaborated.
2. Innovated.
3. Enjoyed the experience.
4. Could commit to the project(s) they designed.
5. Would show progress in three months with 50% of their top projects.

Each team included members from the function, a trained organizer who facilitated the Powernoodle sessions and a business unit liaison if they needed more support. No managers served on the teams.

Once chartered, each team worked on its issue at its own speed, following the seven Powernoodle steps: 1) brainstorm, 2) categorize, 3) combine, 4) vote, 5) rate, 6) prioritize and 7) create an action plan. (You don’t have to follow all the steps.)

All three teams generated ideas in the double digits. They selected their top five based on ROI and the other criteria. They then presented their top five to the leaders to approve for implementation.

The leaders got their wishes: improved productivity and efficiencies with employees liking the experience.

In my experience to date with Powernoodle, it’s a flexible tool that you can adapt for many different purposes, such as online meeting facilitation in the moment or asynchronous. (The latter is especially useful for groups that are spread all over the world.)

Powernoodle also is great for developing or refining a strategy, conducting SWOT analyses, designing products or services, setting criteria or collaborative acts.

People offer their ideas anonymously, which ensures that all voices—especially the quiet ones—get heard.

For instance, when I recently reviewed the Excel spreadsheet that our Powernoodle session generated (Yes, say goodbye to messy, handwritten flipcharts as the record of your work), I was delighted. Not only was the Excel spreadsheet easy to read and work with, but the ideas were of very high quality.

(That supports the research that shows that individuals come up with better ideas than groups. As much as many of us love to do group brainstorming, it really doesn’t work all that well, as Jonah Lehrer wrote about in Groupthink: The brainstorming myth).

Also, from a personal standpoint, I could see my ideas throughout the final report, which of course made me feel terrific. Of course, they weren’t my ideas per se. They were woven into everyone else’s during the combination step of Powernoodle. Yet, the process felt much more inclusive and rewarding than jostling for air time in a face-to-face meeting.

As for the leaders of Powernoodle sessions and other smart-mob organizing processes, they’re able to gather better ideas at a fraction of the cost much faster than if they were to use traditional face-to-face meetings. They’re bypassing the echo chamber by connecting more people. Plus leaders are involving individuals in meaningful actions and getting good data from them. As a result, leaders can make better decisions in a more open setting.

By the way, this June 19 I’m conducting a webinar for the Best Practice Institute on June 19 at 2 pm ET on this topic. Please join me for Change Through Crowdsourcing: How to Use Peer-by-Peer Practices to Transform Organizations.

“Smart-mob organizing” is one of the 10 new leadership skills that the futurist Bob Johnansen has identified as necessary for a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous).

In his book, Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, Johansen says that in-person leadership will not be enough. Leaders need to understand the value of smart mobs and respect the role they play in business and society.

It’s time to think positive thoughts about the mob and mobs.

And if you want to get smart about Powernoodle, check out or email me.


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