Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Year in Social Learning Research - Irene Greif, former IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist

Last month I retired from IBM. I spent my last year focused on social learning, the backbone of any organization that identifies itself as a social business. Here are some thoughts about what I learned.

In a time of accelerating change, when the relationship between skills and jobs is rapidly being redefined, businesses are constantly struggling to keep their workforce informed, prepared, and engaged.   Across the globe, technological and demographic changes are challenging entrenched teaching methods.  As large organizations incorporate social technologies into their daily business, they are finding that "learning in context" follows very naturally – quite a contrast to traditional corporate training. 

At the same time, higher education is being disrupted by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are in their infancy, but as they develop they could replace college campus education as we know it today and transform the learning experience in general. Khan Academy makes educational material, and learning, available to anyone on the web. One thing is for sure, we need to find new ways to serve both the degree-oriented student and the lifelong learner looking to craft their own paths.

Striking similarities exist among the changes in the enterprise, K-12, and higher education – all are trying to address different aspects of the same problem. In business the challenge is keeping up with change, in K-12 it is enabling students to deal with change, and in higher education it is finding the right balance between academic goals and job-readiness.  We contend that all of these have common cause in social learning:  learning through peers, through project-based learning, internships and apprenticeships. 

And all can be supported by the same social technologies that are fueling both consumer-space socializing and business-oriented social business. In my own experience at IBM, I have seen many examples of this with our own research customers.
  • A multinational engineering and electronics company is now piloting Social Q&A, a system that gets you answers quickly from colleagues. It is just-in-time support for question answering and a great example of social learning -- you formulate a question, get an answer from a compatible colleague, and put the new information to use immediately, one of the best ways to internalize new information. And at the same time, you are helping build a database of answers for others.
  • A global leader in the building materials industry is using our system for “expediting expertise.” This system helps people analyze their personal skills gaps and provides learning paths to close those gaps by modeling the behavior and language of experts.  Personalized paths are created based on the individual’s distance to expertise and instrumented social software that recorded the way experts put together their own route to mastery.
  • For Boston Children’s Hospital's Open Pediatrics project, IBM created a social learning environment that supports apprenticeship, collaboration, and skills development. Experts at Children’s Hospital develop content on pediatric intensive care practices that is delivered to hospitals in remote locations. Questions can be posed at any point in the video, and experts or peers in their geography can supply answers and advice from their own experience.  The learning engages both learner and mentors and approximates face-to-face apprenticeships that would not otherwise be feasible.
Though the previous examples are all business oriented, they can be applied in an educational setting. We are currently working with PTECH in NYC and Gwinnett County Public Schools in Atlanta, Georgia - both blazing new trails in public education from K-20. And we are reaching out to education researchers, looking for the ways that they incorporate social learning to see what we can incorporate from their experience into a business setting. In January at IBM Connect 2014 we will demo several social business that involve social learning at the Innovation Lab, which runs the entire length of the Connect Conference.  In addition, we highlight these projects on our Social Business web site with accompanying blog postings exploring this relationship.

Social businesses run on social learning. Education in the 21st century has to be social.  I believe it's time to bring business and education together on this topic.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

IBM Fellow Irene Greif Retires – A Pioneer in Building Workplaces that Work

IBM Fellow Irene Greif retired yesterday after more than 25 years with Lotus Development Corporation and IBM. Irene joined Lotus in 1987 as head of the Advanced Technology group and in 1992 created the Lotus Research group. In 200, at IBM, she expanded the Research team to become the Collaborative User Experience Group, and in 2008 she created the Center for Social Business, a global research effort on reinventing the way people work. Along the way, these teams built the foundations of Lotus Sametime and IBM Connections, and revamped email to be the social tool it is today.

A few days before Irene left IBM, she sat down with Chris Nay from IBM Research for a conversation about her journey from MIT in the 1970s to social business and social learning in 2013. You can find it here at Greater IBM Connection.

Irene speaking at the 2012 Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference, where she won the Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

IBM Research, Cambridge is hiring data visualization researchers

IBM's Watson Research Center (Cambridge, MA) is looking to hire a creative researcher to join the team at the Center for Innovation in Visual Analytics (CIVA). We are currently looking for candidates with a research track record in information visualization and a good understanding of human-computer interaction, decision-making processes, and social sciences.

Our research group aims to advance the state of the art in visual analytics. We are an interdisciplinary group comprised of computer scientists, data scientists, social network analysts, and designers. Our laboratory is located a few minutes from the MIT campus in an inclusive, friendly, open work environment.

We are working in a diverse set of truly fascinating projects ranging from pure R&D/papers (VIS, Infovis, CHI, SIGGRAPH), to applied mathematics, to prototypes for large global industries, to gallery installations.

Are you this candidate? Contact

Key responsibilities:
  • Use thorough understanding of data analytics to drive the design and creation of new visualization paradigms
  • Identify and explore new sources for data generation, creating innovative tools for data mining and processing
  • Interpret, analyze, and model complex datasets for visualization and communication
  • Develop methodologically sophisticated tools for statistical inference and predictive analytics
  • Create avant-garde visualization platforms that bridge the gap between data, analysis, and understanding
  • Investigate creative human computer-interaction systems for deeper levels of expression and engagement

Skills and Qualifications:
  • Data processing, modeling, analysis, and visualization skills
  • Programming and scripting language proficiency in: C/C++, Objective C, Java, Python, Matlab, R, Ruby on Rails, HTML, XML, CSS, PHP, Javascript (and associated APIs and libraries: jQuery, WebGL, three.JS, JSON), Actionscript 2.0 & 3.0, GLSL, Cg, HLSL, Applescript, and Unix Shells
  • Comfortable working in a variety of IDEs, including Eclipse, Xcode, and Visual Studio
  • Comfortable Developing for Following Platforms: OSX, Unix, Windows, Android, iOS, J2ME, and the Web
  • Knowledge in all Adobe Creative Suite Applications

  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Readiness to travel 10% travel annually
  • Proficient verbal and written English

  • Doctoral Degree
  • At least 3 years experience in JavaScript
  • At least 3 years experience in C/C++
  • At least 6 years experience in Data Visualization
  • Fluent English

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa Recognized with Japan's Prestigious Medal of Honor

The Japanese government  has awarded the 2013 Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon to IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa for her outstanding contributions to accessibility research, including the development of a voice browser for the visually impaired.  First awarded in 1955, this medal is given to individuals who have contributed to academic and artistic developments, improvements and accomplishments.

Chieko, who became blind when she was a teenager, put her life experience to work. Her goal: to answer questions like "How can we easily access products and information without using the sense of vision to communicate and interact?" and "What kind of interface will adapt to user needs?" 

Joining the IBM Research Tokyo Lab in 1985, Chieko set out to work on Braille digitization, well before PCs and the Internet were household words. In the late 1980s, she collaborated with Braille libraries and volunteer groups from across Japan to advance the digitization project. The group launched an inter-library Braille network in Japan with the goal of putting Braille books online in 1988. 

Read more about Chieko at IBMResearchNews - her story and her long list of accomplishments as a researcher, inventor, designer, developer, author, and over the past two decades.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

IBM Connect 2013 - One Innovation Lab...Four days...700 demos

The 2013 IBM Innovation Lab was one of the best attended since we started the lab over 12 years ago at Lotusphere. This year we had three main themes:
  • Smarter Social Business:  tools to monitor social media to know what's being said, understand the message being delivered through visualization, and predict the effect of responses through simulation. Two examples...
    • TwitterViz, from Steve Rohall, is a visual dashboard that offers rapid insight into  the TwitterSphere. Users can enter key word/s and get real-time results of top words, their sentiments, topic clusters and co-occurrence of terms. Bring your favorite terms and see what the world is saying about them. TwitterViz is brought to you by the IBM Center for Advanced Visualizations.
    • OmniProfiling from Eben Haber, explores social data to provide richer profiles to better serve our customers.  It creates “omni-profiles” of many traits from content on social media, and provides ways to view and explore this information both at an individual and group level.
  • Smarter Workforce: social technologies and analytics that empower the workforce. Two examples...
    • Timeline Visualization for Case Management, from Yannick Assogba, is a timeline-based visualization currently applied to case histories. The visualization allows one to quickly identify what has happened in a case and discover issues in the execution of a process.
    • 1x5 Enterprise Crowdfunding, from Werner Geyer, inspired by the crowdfunding phenomenon on the Internet, brings crowdfunding to the enterprise. The 1x5 prototype was a 30-day internal trial that demonstrates how tapping into the collective intelligence of your social workforce can foster innovation, lead to more engaged employees and better decision-making about investments, and increase cross-departmental collaboration. It is now being used by other groups across IBM.
  • Best Fit Expertise:  innovations to help a business tap into the expertise in their organization when they need it. Two examples...
    • Smart Social Q & A, from Lin Luo, helps people get good answers quickly. When a question is posed, the system searches the existing set of questions and responds immediately if an answer exists. If the question is new, the system finds people who can answer it, bringing together the knowledge stored in the heads of the crowd to solve problem. And, our system works within IBM Connections.
    • Visualizing the Social Graph, from Inbal Ronen, is a dynamic visualization of community evolution, allowing a community owner to replay the activities in the community over time. You can observe and get insight on how and why certain behavioral patterns occurred, who contributed, what they did, and when. And you can see interactions between multiple communities.
Check out a longer list of research projects at the Center for Social Business web site.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Get a Social Business Checkup at the IBM Connect Innovation Lab

Is your organization a Social Business? 
  • Are you enabling your workforce to delight your customers?  
  • How far along are you in making social technologies a central part of your business?
Spend 20 minutes at the IBM Connect Innovation Lab and find out. What can I do in 20 minutes? 
  • Take the IBM Business of Social Business survey.  
  • Meet with researchers from the Center for Social Business, thought leaders from the Institute for Business Value, and consultants from IBM Global Business Services. They will help you to compare and analyze your results. 

You can make a difference in the design of the workplace of the future! 
  • While you're in the lab, learn about the future of Social Business by seeing our newest innovations. 
  • Check out the research demos and share your ideas with our researchers. They are listening!

Friday, January 18, 2013

How can social technologies and analytics empower your workforce? Find out at the IBM Innovation Lab.

IBM Connect 2013 asks you to imagine the power of a workforce where people are in the 'best fit' jobs, fully engaged, empowered and highly productive. Picture a workforce as a network of communities where employees can instantly find the right colleagues, inside or outside the immediate work group, to fill gaps in their expertise, and tap knowledge across departments, across languages, across oceans. These images are no longer just visions of the future; today smarter workforces are driving innovation to bring products and services to market faster, resolving problems before they arise to improve customer service, and increasing sales by building new skills.

Being a social business is not only about new interactions with your customers. It is also about new interactions with your employees. A social business measures its employee engagement, acts in real-time to resolve workforce issues, and leverages social technologies and analytics to unlock the potential in its workforce. 
So, how do you unlock this potential?  Visit the IBM Innovation Lab at IBM Connect and see some of the new tools our researchers are developing to do just that. Here's a preview...

Steve Dill of the Almaden Research Lab asks "What if you could not only exchange information and ideas with colleagues, but share “work” with anyone in your “crowd” of colleagues?" The Work Marketplace provides a work exchange where people can post requests for work and find people to do it. Requests can be shared within a small community or across the enterprise. Colleagues can select, bid, or compete to do the work, and earn points as currency for the work they've completed. The Work Marketplace connects people and work in new ways to improve productivity and spur innovation. 

Werner Geyer of the Cambridge Research Lab will be demoing an enterprise crowdfunding project called 1x5. Inspired by the crowdfunding phenomenon on the Internet (such as Kickstarter), IBM Research has brought crowdfunding to the enterprise. In this demo, we will show you an internal crowdfunding prototype and results from a 30-day trial at IBM that demonstrates how tapping into the collective intelligence of your social workforce can spur innovation, lead to more engaged employees, foster better decision-making about investments, and increase cross-departmental collaboration. 
Casey Dugan, also from the Cambridge lab, will demo two related projects. Social Pulse offers enterprises a deep look at what their employees are saying on internal and external social media by augmenting social media content with enterprise personnel data. It presents sentiment and topic analysis aggregated by this demographic information through interactive visualizations, offering marketing and HR professionals valuable, real-time insights. IBMersWhoTweet is a crowdsourced solution that invites employees to match Twitter accounts to the employees who own them. Over 500 IBMers have helped classify 7,000 Twitter accounts, and we have studied different ways to increase participation. See them in action. 
Hiro Takagi, of the Tokyo Research Lab, wants to know if your company has  knowledge sources hidden away. Of course! We all have valuable data frozen in archived documents or sitting in an old team room on a server somewhere. Our new Social Knowledge Management tools will help you rediscover that knowledge and give it new life. We analyze several information sources and use employee interests and work contexts to make recommendations. Users can easily “like,” “mention,” or “bookmark” the information to reactivate the lost knowledge. And, to get people started, we use gamifcation to help that knowledge go viral.

If you are at IBM Connect, please stop by the lab. Talk firsthand to researchers from all over the world who are envisioning how the workplace will look in 5 years. 
We're located in the Dolphin Hotel in Asia 3.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Future is Now: The IBM Innovation Lab at IBM Connect

Tap into the expertise in your organization when you need it.
Your customers are talking. Are you responding? 
See how social technologies and analytics can empower your workforce.

IBM Research is known the world over for its global network of scientists who work on a range of exploratory research projects in search of innovations that advance the capabilities of technology as well as applied research projects to help clients, governments, and universities apply scientific breakthroughs to solve real-world business and societal challenges.

Meet team members from the IBM Research Center for Social Business whose work focuses on social analytics, collaborative decision making, best-fit expertise solutions, and other cutting-edge technologies—game changing research helping transform today's companies into tomorrow's social businesses.

Visit the Innovation Lab, Asia 3 in the Dolphin Hotel, at IBM Connect and share your ideas with top researchers and developers, see innovative prototypes, and tell us how what we are working on might help solve your top business challenges.