Brandon Klein Brandon understands that better teams are fundamental to all of our success. As a global thought leader, ushering in the 'Future of Work' revolution, he paves the way using data + design to accelerate the Collaboration Revolution. Brandon is the Co-Founder of the software start-up, Collaboration.Ai and an active member of The Value Web, a non-profit committed to changing the way decisions are made to better impact our world. Dec 07

Intelligently connect your employees, partners and customers to drive greater performance

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Is it worth engineering participants when you bring partners, customers and employees together at one the 11+ million events a year?

{originally published via Google for Work & The World Bank Group}

Last year, the World Bank Group was re-thinking the way they invest development capital in West Africa. With multiple parties from all over the world affected, convening the experts into one room was necessary to shift from billions to trillions in investment.

For 50 years, both corporate and dedicated conferences have been trying to connect the right individuals and businesses in efforts to reduce poverty. How could the WBG change this up to drive real impact?

Just like they were ‘re-thinking’ development capital, they had to ‘rethink’ their conference to drive true impact.  However, with millions of events going on around the world in the same, well established format… that clearly weren’t working here - what was the right solution? There is countless research and billions of dollars are spent to ensure good experiences and immersive events. Unfortunately there is a huge lack of research on helping each person succeed or strategies and approaches to improve actual outcomes.

To put it another way, before Google came along, old-school search engines simply indexed the websites that were out there and made them findable. Kind of like 99.99% of conferences bring people together with some content and then let people walk (click) around to find a path to success. Back in the day, some search engines provided ‘categories’ (Yahoo!) to help people navigate, kind of like conferences arrange similar topics or interest areas/tracks to help people out, maybe even a handy app to help them navigate or connect with people!

But Google was exponentially more successful because they used a combination of approaches including ‘network science’ - the study of influence between people or things (links) to present searches results that others had validated...  that were MUCH more likely to help you find what you are looking for.

So the WBG decided to take a similar approach, following an open source movement called data + design that integrates network science, multiple design methods and data analysis to achieve greater impact.

The organizers followed 3 steps:

 

Step 1: Get serious about data on the participants. With some groups, it is possible to only use social data. But given an analysis of the population that was going to be in attendance in Accra, including the President of Ghana, social data alone was not possible.

CleanShot 2018-12-07 at 10.34.44@2x
Existing participant data At the start of the event, there was virtually no participant connections online. Although the digital presence of the younger generation of attendee’s was strong, their networks did not overlap.  It was clear that the older generation of development finance experts have not yet adapted to the current digital world.

Fun Fact: Artificial intelligence engines can predict the interests and personality of participants to >90% accuracy

Step 2: Use event registration to your advantage. WBG treated registration as a ‘search’ mechanism to understand their participants and ensure ‘impact paths.’ They collected:

  • Knowledge/expertise areas

  • Specific skills

  • Near and short terms asks or requirements both personally and professionally  

  • Topics of interest and existing memberships

  • Existing relationships

  • 2nd degree relationships

  • Desired relationships

  • Overlapping/verified domains

 

This produced a starting state of the participants that looked like this:

CleanShot 2018-12-07 at 10.36.25@2x
Data from registration (pre-conference) The results identified seven distinct communities of participants with minimal overlap between them. Not surprisingly, these were defined as the existing silos between development community, finance experts, entrepreneurs, industries, etc. These silo’d ‘cliques’ have been separated for decades some participants reported.

Fun Fact. If a traditional conference format was selected, this graph of relationships would only improve by 4%. See Fast Company article on this research at the World Economic Forum

Step 3: now use the data to change your design approach. Creating the 2-day event design (agenda) following the traditional conference format clearly wasn’t an option. Current/trendy agendas focus on experiences and workshop style approaches, including; human centered design, open space, TED or even Stanford d.School approaches fall short here because they don’t take a systems point of view. For example an agile/rapid prototyping or a business model canvas around participants interests might be great, but these don’t come close to aligning with the social dynamics of established businesses.

 

Therefore a “data + design” approach was chosen.

 

What does this mean? Quite simply, in order to design an agenda, you must look at each participants data, their collective data, the connections between them and the short and long term objectives of the event. Only then can you integrate all of this into every participants exchanges throughout the event.

 

This style is not always intuitive. For example, people at conferences tend to connect/work with people they already know (or are one connection away) and ‘sign-up’ for content they are comfortable with. Data proves that these selections are almost always incorrect. Therefore each participant has to be mapped individually based on their existing connections, so that they get connected across the paths of content and people to achieve the long term goals. This frequently means that a banker is in a group with another banker (not an existing friend), but ALSO with an artist and local farmer to solve for risk mitigation! This would never happen if ‘self-organized’ or random and especially not in a structured agenda.  


CleanShot 2018-12-07 at 10.37.12@2x
Post conference ~ data + design in actionBy implementing the data + design approach, this map represents the connectivity of the attendees at the end of the conference. These are the same individual’s identified by the prior maps. By understanding each participant’s data points and intelligently linking them to one another, genuine connectivity ensued leading to the identification of 50 impactful projects.

Fun fact. If a traditional workshop style format was used, there would have been 5x less projects identified to help transform West Africa. Access the TED event guide to see how this is quantified/achieved and how you can do it too!

So what does this all add up to? In controlled tests at other conferences, including TED, engineering participants and their data using data + design approach produces 5 times more direct outcomes/projects or tangible next steps for long term success. It also produces up to 4 times more ‘high quality’ connections per person. Video from event available here.

web collaboration, finance, development finance, Data Science, opendata

Brandon Klein Brandon understands that better teams are fundamental to all of our success. As a global thought leader, ushering in the 'Future of Work' revolution, he paves the way using data + design to accelerate the Collaboration Revolution. Brandon is the Co-Founder of the software start-up, Collaboration.Ai and an active member of The Value Web, a non-profit committed to changing the way decisions are made to better impact our world.