Reading summaries - week fifteen, Spring 2018

Class themes were The strategic leadership challenge for nonprofits in MGNPO and Mobilizing the power of social media in IDSC

Table of contents




Filling Essential Gaps in Nonprofit Leadership, Meehan et al. (2017)

  • For nonprofits to leverage the potential of new technologies and new ideas, everyone with a stake in the sector must work to narrow the distance between what nonprofit organizations might achieve and what they are actually achieving
  • the best nonprofits are able to master seven elements that constitute what we call “strategic leadership”:
    • mission
    • strategy
    • impact evaluation
    • insight and courage
    • organization and talent
    • funding
    • board governance
  • strong performance in all seven areas becomes an “engine of impact” and is capable of achieving real impact on an adequate scale
  • According to our analysis, more than 80 percent of nonprofits struggle in one or more of these areas
  • Much of the work of building more effective organizations needs to start, in particular, with the board members who oversee nonprofits and with the donors
  • Better governance at a board level starts with board members themselves. They need to approach their work for a nonprofit as a matter not of passive service but of active participation in the direction of that organization
  • board members must take seriously their duty to monitor the work of their organization’s executive director or CEO
  • Donors, we believe, must stop thinking small and start giving big - on a scale that will empower organizations to achieve meaningful impact
  • chronic problem in the nonprofit sector is that very few people in the sector dispute the value of impact evaluation, yet all too few people are willing to spend money on it
  • donors are the systemically pivotal player in this area. They have the leverage to demand evaluation of the programs they fund.
  • Before nonprofit organizations can pursue impact at scale over the long term, they must earn the right to scale. They can do so only by demonstrating their ability to excel in the essential components of strategic leadership. The best nonprofits are ones that absorb this principle

Nonprofit Strategy Leadership and Best Practices for Executives and Board Governance, Sloan (2017)

  • commonsense notions of strategy have provided nonprofit executives and board leadership with:
    • Guidance on Purpose, Vision and Mission
    • Discernment of Priorities, Goals, Objectives
    • Influence over Decisions and Policy Matters
    • Measures for Gauging Progress and Impact
    • Themes for Development and Advancement
  • What has been missing from this planning approach is a practical framework that connects everyday strategic thought and behavior of the organization.
  • emerging framework is one that brings together several things:
    • The mindset for growth, performance and change
    • The focus on nonprofit impact and natural goals
    • The premise that strategy has three key elements:
      • Direction … focus and choices
      • Integration … systems and resources
      • Execution … action and impact
    • The essential connections of the organization
      • The balance of strategy and culture
      • The balance of strategy and structure
    • The “Dual-Dynamic” nature of nonprofit strategy
  • strategic agenda – a framework that more fully engages people in the work
  • This simple framework connects the critical work of strategic assessment, the importance of strategic appropriation of resources and priorities, and along the way, executive and board attention to strategic accountability for outcomes
  • Best Practices that are generally associated with nonprofit growth, performance and change:
    1. Thorough Insights on Strategic Conditions, Frontiers
      • Perspectives on Stakeholder Requirements
      • Recognition of Change Forces and Trend Factors
      • Assessment of Market, Competitive Conditions
      • Perspectives on Capacity and Preparedness
    2. Balanced, Dual-Dynamic Attention and Strategic Focus
      • Near-Term Attention to Program Goals
      • Long-Term Attention to Program Goals
      • Core Programs … Strength and Impact Areas
      • New and Next Programs … Innovation Map
    3. Proper Engagement of Stakeholders and Influencers
      • Commitment to Generating Impact and Results
      • Service and Advocacy Mindset at Every Level
      • Collective Energy and the Capacity of Programs
      • Discernment that Speaks to Options, Choices
    4. Specific Accountability for Resources and Outcomes
      • Operating Measures for Resource Management
      • Progress Measures for Program Management
      • Strategic Measures for Program Development
      • Progress Measures for Capacity Development
    5. Balanced Development of Talent and Organization
      • Organization – Learning and Development Pathways
      • Organization – Collaboration, Invention, Dynamic Impact
      • Individual and Team – The Capacity to Deliver Impact
      • Executive Staff and Board – Power, Trust and Focus
  • Best Practices help pose the critical questions organizations must ask. They also help shape aspirational and navigational goals that nonprofit boards must address


Finding the Right Role for Social Media in Innovation, Sloan Management Review, Spring 2016

  • Increasingly, companies are attempting to navigate the social media landscape and use social media as a business tool to enhance performance
  • Despite this, there is a significant opportunity that isn’t being tapped: using social media to support innovation and new product development.
  • expected positive results are frequently not realized in practice
  • social media provides a game-changing opportunity for companies that learn how to exploit it
  • requires more than having a Facebook presence. In order to use social media for innovation, organizations need clear strategies and objectives
  • for wider business purposes, especially communication, and as a driver of internal interaction and knowledge management, social media seems to have become an established part of the corporate tool kit
  • social media tools can create unexpected challenges fur managers
  • companies should have dedicated structures and an innovation culture to capture the benefits
  • for many companies, the results of using social media for new product development fell short of expectations
  • companies that benefited the most from using social media for new product development were those that used social media in every stage of the development process; they built organizational processes and structures to support new product development activity.
  • managers need to develop a strategy and be sure they have the right processes and people in place to be successful.
  • need to figure out if their goal is to understand the latest trends in their marketplace and obtain customer insights, to co-create with customers to develop new ideas and concepts, or to support the launch of their new products and use social media to create awareness and positive word of mouth among users
  • Companies that lack a vision of what they want to achieve by incorporating social media into their new product development process won’t be able to reap the potential rewards.
  • For the purpose of illustration, we describe three different “camps”: camp explore, camp cocreate, camp communicate
  • To realize the potential of social media for new product development, product developers must engage in three interrelated activities:
    1. they need to listen to and learn from user-generated content
    2. they need to engage and facilitate dialogue with customer innovators
    3. they need to find an audience of early adopters to create excitement for new products and collect feedback for their improvement
  • activities are not sequential but overlapping
  • companies need to pursue an integrated social media strategy that pulls together a wide range of different skills, capabilities, tools, and infrastructures.
  • To tap the potential of social media, innovators have to determine which skills and competencies they need to be effective in different stages of the new product development process
    • early stages, strong market research and data analytics skills are critical
    • later on, most essential skills are ability to communicate with different types of customers, and ability to understand and manage impact of positive and negative word-of-mouth
  • obtaining data for new product development has been time consuming and labor intensive.
  • data and business intelligence made possible through social media have the potential to transform this area
  • Camp Explore
    • company’s objective is to identify market trends and to generate customer insights
    • activities are designed to extend the breadth and depth of how organizations search for innovations
    • people will learn to read the signals from large, diverse, disconnected, and unstructured pools of data
    • learn to analyze and convert blog posts, tweets, and user-generated content into valuable insight
    • acquire skills in computational techniques to unveil trends and patterns within and between the various data sets
    • will encompass data analytics, machine learning, sentiment and textual analysis, data screening, evaluation, and data privacy
  • Camp Cocreate
    • actively engage and involve customers in their innovation process
    • activities here are geared toward developing collaborative skills and facilitating interaction with users
    • learn how to work with customers and to cocreate value with them
    • learn how to engage, identify, and select the right participants and develop the right incentives
    • Creativity is both an input and an output
    • develop skills in relationship building and gain experience in the art of conversation and dialogue
    • learn how to become better facilitators and community manager
    • learn to develop and select ideas and product concepts that are suited to both target and nontarget market customers
    • obtaining rich input from unconventional users can be an important factor
    • managers can learn to use social media sites to post their own ideas as well as to explore what others are doing
    • opportunity to get dozens or even thousands of motivated users to engage with a task
    • Relationships between companies and online communities don’t just happen - they must be monitored and managed
    • when companies cocreate with customers, their products have been found to be more innovative and better suited to the market
    • Social media allows individuals and communities to share, cocreate, discuss, and modify company- and user-generated content.
  • Camp Communicate
    • companies often face the challenge of launching new products into crowded markets
    • Simply being innovative isn’t sufficient; new products also need to be introduced in compelling ways
    • Social network sites can provide innovative and interactive means of communicating with customers and trigger interest in a new product.
    • emphasizes marketing communication skills: how to tell a story that resonates with the target market and, specifically, how to do this via Twitter or other easy-to-consume formats for mobile users
    • how to identify and connect with opinion leaders and early adopters in a way that resonates
    • communication is multidirectional- a steady flow of arguments, comments, and modifications
    • messages can be hijacked and subverted
    • can’t be in full control of communications
    • important skill is learning how to manage the risks associated with negative word of mouth and how to use positive word of mouth to the company’s advantage
  • Customizing Your Social Strategy to the Platform
    • what was important to the innovation process was not use itself but the approach taken
    • Companies that seek to use their social media capabilities to inform their innovation efforts should keep the following recommendations in mind:
      • Emphasize the social
        • companies that recognized the importance of the “social” and helped to create an environment conducive to socializing - in other words, one that helped people to create or enhance relationships - benefited through people’s subsequent engagement
      • Customize your approach to each platform
        • For instance, Facebook is predominantly a platform to enhance interpersonal relationships, while Linkedln is primarily a vehicle for professional networking
        • Because Facebook is a more personal platform, people using it are more likely to be willing to share knowledge and ideas. Inhibitions are lower, and this can lead to more self-disclosure.
        • On Linkedln, companies can be more direct with individuals and groups when inquiring about products and features. Companies may have specific technology and product groups where specific design needs can be solicited from groups of engineers
  • A dedicated strategy
    • Having a Facebook page, creating a brand community, or having a social media page dedicated to a new product launch will not, on its own, improve a company’s innovation performance.
    • companies need to recognize that there isn’t one social medium -but numerous different platforms and networks
    • social media use does not automatically lead to improved performance in new product development. To achieve that, companies must develop a dedicated strategy that links social media to product development and to their corporate objectives
    • product developers need to learn how to engage users and how to maintain a continuous conversation
    • requires understanding the different types of social media and how they can be used in different ways
    • it’s critical that top leadership play an active role by encouraging cooperation and idea sharing among the various players
    • there may be the need for a “social media innovation leader” whose job is to align the different strategies and tools and help define a coherent social media strategy
    • job would not only be to manage relationships with users and contributors (vital as this is) but also to manage the relationships

Identifying Influential and Susceptible Members of Social Networks, Sinan Aral, Dylan Walker, Science 2012

  • Identifying social influence in networks is critical to understanding how behaviors spread.
  • Estimation in a representative sample of 1.3 million Facebook users showed that younger users are more susceptible to influence than older users, men are more influential than women, women influence men more than they influence other women, and married individuals are the least susceptible to influence in the decision to adopt the product offered.
  • influential individuals are less susceptible to influence than noninfluential individuals and that they cluster in the network while susceptible individuals do not
  • The recent availability of population-scale networked data sets generated by e-mail, instant messaging, mobile phone communications, and online social networks enables novel investigations of the diffusion of information and influence in networks
  • One particularly controversial argument in the peer effects literature is the “influentials” hypothesis—the idea that influential individuals catalyze the diffusion of opinions, behaviors, innovations, and products in society
  • a variety of theoretical models suggest that susceptibility, not influence, is the key trait that drives social contagions
  • On average, susceptibility decreases with age (Fig. 1). People over the age of 31 are the least susceptible to influence
  • Men are 49% more influential than women (P < 0.05), but women are 12% less susceptible to influence than men
  • Susceptibility increases with increasing relationship commitment until the point of marriage.
  • whereas married individuals are the least susceptible to influence
  • People exert the most influence on peers of the same age
  • Also seem to exert more influence on younger peers
  • Found that women were less susceptible to influence than men
  • individuals in equally (and more) committed relationships are significantly more influential
  • The following inferences can be drawn from our results:
    1. Highly influential individuals tend not to be susceptible, highly susceptible individuals tend not to be influential, and almost no one is both highly influential and highly susceptible
    2. The “influentials” and “susceptibles” hypotheses are orthogonal claims. Both influential individuals and noninfluential individuals have approximately the same distribution of susceptibility to influence among their peers. Combining studies of influence with studies of susceptibility will therefore likely improve our understanding of the diffusion of behavioral contagions
    3. There are more people with high influence scores than high susceptibility scores
    4. Influentials cluster in the network. Influential individuals connected to other influential peers are approximately twice as influential as baseline users. Clustering of influentials suggests the existence of a multiplier effect of infecting a highly influential individual. However, such individuals also tend to have peers with only average susceptibility
  • the work does have limitations
  • it is still not clear whether influence and susceptibility are generalized characteristics of individuals or instead depend on which product, behavior, or idea is diffusing
  • our results show that the joint distributions of influence, susceptibility, and the likelihood of spontaneous adoption in the local network around individuals together determine their importance to the propagation of behavior
  • More generally, our results show the potential of methods based on large-scale in vivo randomized experiments to robustly estimate peer effects and identify influential and susceptible members of social networks.

Why Your Customers Social Identities Matter, Champniss et al. (2015)

Idea in brief

  • The issue
    • Often customer behavior turns out to be very different from what marketing research predicts
  • Why it happens
    • social group that customers identify with when they encounter a product or brand influences how they react to it.
    • subtle changes in context can make customers shift their social identities quickly
  • How to address it
    • Market research and the design of customer experiences should take social identity into account
    • Companies can also quickly create new identities that will inspire targeted behaviors


  • People are highly social animals, belonging to many social groups
  • People don’t identify with all their groups at the same time, of course
  • Social identities are important for marketers because they guide people’s behavior at any given moment.
  • When it comes to a purchase, the group you identify with at the time of the transaction is a very important factor in your decision.
  • But a customer’s social identity at such a moment can’t be easily captured
  • Subtle shifts in social context can dramatically change what group we identify with at any instant
  • Companies can subtly influence which social identities customers will tap into and can even foster new identities altogether with very little effort
  • A social identity is the part of our self-concept that results from our perceived membership in a group
  • there’s a set of behaviors that we recognize as appropriate to a given group.
  • Our social identity helps us understand how to act in a context in a way that enhances our distinctiveness and status.
  • Different social identities can be triggered with relative ease and speed
  • The implications for marketers are obvious. If social identity shapes decisions, then a company’s marketing strategy should encourage customers to tune in to an identity
  • The first step is to shift from the traditional focus on an individual’s attitudes to a focus on the individual’s social self.
  • retrospective interviews won’t reveal which identity was selected when. To find that out, it’s necessary to observe consumers over time
  • can be done by literally tagging along with them during their customer journeys or through technology
  • Once the range of possible social identities has been surfaced, the marketer’s strategy should be to achieve one of the following goals:
    • Boost the signal strength
      • When consumers identify with a social group that has a well-defined, positive image, they tend to select products that most clearly broadcast membership in it
    • Help customers tune in better
      • a company’s communications may inadvertently suggest that using the product will clash with behaviors required of members in a relevant social group
      • This can often be fixed by simply reframing the messaging
    • Add a song to the station’s playlist
      • Social identities aren’t supported by just one behavior but by a collection of behaviors (or playlist, if you will). Another option for marketers, therefore, is to add a new behavior to the recognized set. That can be done by suggesting a new goal to the group
    • Find a different station playing your song
      • Sometimes customers encounter a product when they’ve adopted a social identity that promotes behaviors at odds with a product’s value proposition. In these cases smart companies look for ways to trigger, or prime, a more constructive identity.
  • Social identities are more than a lens for understanding customers’ current social behavior. Marketers can actually create new social identities to both deepen the relationship with existing customers and attract new ones
Written on April 22, 2018