Carol Rozwell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Content, Collaboration and Social team. Ms. Rozwell explores social business strategy, including social media, social networks and collaborative communities. Read Full Bio

Congratulations to the MIX Digital Freedom Challenge Winners

by Carol Rozwell  |  April 9, 2014  |  3 Comments

Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working with the dedicated folks at the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) on the Digital Freedom Challenge.


‘The challenge kicked off in August, 2013. It posed a simple but disruptive challenge: how to give people the autonomy at work they crave without spinning the organization out of control. We challenged innovators to tell us how they would cultivate five freedoms in their workplace:

  • The freedom to connect with anyone anywhere in the world.
  • The freedom to contribute and to make a real impact on the basis of merit rather than position.
  • The freedom to create, to use one’s skills to improve and experiment without a fear of failure.
  • The freedom to choose where to work, when to work, how to work, with whom to work, and what to work on.
  • The freedom to challenge by speaking up, pushing back and taking an active role in decision making.

It was exciting to be part of the challenge. The participants’ submissions show that the idea of a digital workplace that gives workers autonomy is not some vague, futuristic vision but a reality today.

The five winners were announced last week. They cover a wide range of forward-thinking approaches that enable workers’ creativity and enthusiasm. Check out the stories on ideas such as::

  • Using social media to do work “in plain view”
  • Self-building job roles
  • Collaborative decision making
  • Creating time for reflection into work processes
  • Building the liquid organization

We at Gartner think that espousing the five digital freedoms is a leading indicator of business performance. Today, companies that capitalize on them are in the minority but before long, the freedoms will be commonplace in the workplace. And those organizations that ignore them will be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining an engaged workforce and attracting new talent.

My advice: be a catalyst for change. Kick off an exploration of how to exploit the five freedoms in your in your organization. Gartner clients who would like help setting up a workshop can contact me.

Think about how much fun it will be to go to work when your creativity is put to work!


Category: Change management Collaboration community Social media Social networks     Tags: , , , , , ,

Data Is Like a Dead Chicken

by Carol Rozwell  |  March 4, 2014  |  2 Comments

With all the hype around big data, there is a misconception developing that more data is a good thing. This is wrong. Wise leaders of business intelligence and analytics initiatives understand that data is like a dead chicken. Once data is collected, it becomes a problem. It must be organized, reviewed, managed, updated and eventually discarded – all of which requires a thoughtfully designed plan. It requires effort and work. The energy required to administrate information of dubious value is just not worth it.

This leads us to two best practices:

  • never collect data you don’t plan to use
  • when you do decide to collect data, use it quickly before it gets stinky

For those who believe that more is better, this advice may not be well received. We’re conditioned to think that having more information, more ideas will give us a wider range of options to chose from. The leader of an analytics initiative thinks that the more parameters they measure, the better the decisions they will make. The leader of an innovation challenge thinks that the more ideas the campaign generates, the more successful it will be. Both are harboring a false assumption. Collecting data from multiple social media sources and tracks a myriad of metrics costs money, both in terms of a vendor’s product offering and the effort required to analyze it. Unless you a absolutely clear about the decisions you want to make and the input required to make them, the investment will be wasted. Experience tells us that the most successful innovation campaigns are those that are narrowly scoped and thereby produce fewer – but more actionable – ideas.

Using data before it gets stale and stinky is also important. This means there needs to be attention to both the collection of (theoretically) useful insight and its disposal. Many organizations make the mistake of keeping everything, forever. A wiser approach is plan to discard information at the time it is collected and stick to the plan.

Data is like a dead chicken. And unless it is used, it quickly becomes an albatross.


Category: IT Governance Knowledge management     Tags: ,

Do you see what I mean?

by Carol Rozwell  |  January 30, 2014  |  1 Comment

So often we use this expression as punctuation to a statement we’ve made.

“This is how I see it. (Insert declarative statements here) Do you see what I mean?”

It’s interesting that we use the word “see” when we ask whether the listener understands what we’re talking about, especially considering that quite often we are only using verbal statements or written text to express our point of view. Rooted in the use of the word “see” is an important notion. People really do need to see – meaning they must be able to visualize – what we are talking about in order to understand it. Real engagement and commitment – “buy-in” in corporate buzzword speak – requires comprehension on both an intellectual and emotional level.

This intense involvement is not always necessary, of course. In our professional lives there are plenty of situations where a worker simply needs to understand on an intellectual level what needs to be done. If I need to meet a client, the facts about where and when will suffice. However, if I’m meeting with a client to help them plan how to make their social networking initiative successful, then another level of understanding is necessary. They must be able to see, feel and internalize what I am suggesting, to visualize the concepts and interact with them on an emotional level. Without this additional cognizance, the understanding of the intentions behind a statement is reduced.


As we learned in the Socially Centered Leadership maverick research, communication that conveys intent is critical for employee engagement. A number of renowned business writers such as Gary Hamel, Daniel Pink and Jim Collins also cite the need for goals to resonate with employees, particularly during times of organizational change. This means that the language used to describe the change must help people visualize the change and how it will impact them. It must be powerful enough to engage them in the higher purpose the change aspires to achieve.

So watch your language! Draw a picture and create a connection.

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Let Me Show You What I Mean

by Carol Rozwell  |  December 16, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Last week while I was out visiting clients, I had the chance to meet with a newly-appointed CIO. We met in his office which was adorned with two huge white boards on which he openly displayed the team’s priority projects and his musings. We chatted a bit about the importance of open communication and buy-in to successful outcomes.

I asked him whether he was getting any feedback from the team on the projects. He said that from time to time when people walked into his office they might comment on a thing or two. So I suggested that perhaps we might want to take his communication “show on the road” to get more input. By moving the whiteboard outside his office, any random passerby could provide input on the topic at hand. He could crowdsource ideas.

Today, he let me know he’d moved the whiteboard outside his office on Friday, posed a challenge and by Monday he’d started to receive comments. Even if this test doesn’t produce a “silver bullet” solution to the challenge he posed, it’s still a winner. He showed his team that when he asked for ideas and suggestions, it was not an idle request. He removed a potential barrier to contributing – the fear of walking into the boss’s office. And he showed them he has the courage to listen to any and all ideas.

This is a great story that dovetails well as we approach the end of the first round of the Digital Freedoms Challenge. As you may recall, Gartner helped architect the challenge, an exploration into how the five freedoms – the freedom to connect, collaborate, contribute, create and choose – are changing our workplace.

Please make sure to get your suggestions in by the end of this week, December 20. Just click on the link and submit your story or your hack.

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Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks     Tags: , , , , ,

Parents, you know this. They do what you do, not what you say!

by Carol Rozwell  |  November 5, 2013  |  1 Comment

Social apps are still seducing leaders of social initiatives. The seduction of social is simple (and alliterative): because Facebook can grow its adoption to over a billion people without seemingly doing anything, if we just pick the right social app all our employees will start using it.


Employees’ need compelling reasons for using the social apps their organizations provide for them. But that’s only part of the adoption dynamic. And here’s a shocker: well-designed implementations do not have collaboration as the end goal. Nope, that’s correct. Collaboration per se is not the end goal. Well-designed implementations of social apps aim to make it easier for people to get their work done. They are focused and specific to each worker’s needs.

But even some thoughtfully planned efforts lose steam. When this happens, it’s useful to examine whether senior managers have a “do what I say, not what I do” attitude about the enterprise social apps. Because this is the stinging truth: if managers proclaim the need for collaboration, knowledge sharing and the like but are not actively demonstrating their belief in these principles by their activities in social apps, their words belie their truth attitudes. And employees, like petulant children, will pick up on this disconnect and emulate what their leaders do, not what they say.

It’s essential to help senior managers, as well as the sponsors of social initiatives, recognize what “support” means. With previous technology roll-outs it might have been enough to say nice words about how much better one’s work life will be when the new functionality is available. But social initiatives are different. Senior leaders must make sure their words and their actions are consistent.

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Are we clamping down on the wrong things?

by Carol Rozwell  |  September 24, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

I stayed at a hotel recently where the manager must have been very concerned about people stealing the irons. The hotel underwent a major renovation which included furnishing each room with an iron. Previously, you had to call down to the front desk and ask to have an iron delivered to the room if you needed your clothes pressed. Really quite a bother.

Now, each room has its own iron and ironing board. However, the iron/ironing board combo is not well designed. The undersized ironing board has the stand for the iron bolted on to the end and the iron is attached to the stand with spiraled cord, presumably so it would not be hijacked.

There are a bunch of problems with this approach. This means that you cannot lay out a normal size pair of pants on the ironing board. It’s too short! It also means the iron itself is difficult to maneuver because of the “don’t steal me” cord. And who would want to steal the minimally-featured irons hotels provide anyway? In all of my years of business travel, I’ve never coveted an iron I found in a hotel room.

So here’s a hotel that spent a boatload of money to provide an amenity for its guests, but made it very difficult for them to use it.

Unfortunately, there are many companies whose leaders do the same thing with their ideation programs. In speeches and emails, they proclaim a desire for innovative, new ideas to solve vexing problems but then they sabotage employees’ participation in these programs. Some of the commonly encountered worst practices are when:

  • Ideas that are too different, too outlandish are ignored or, worse yet, removed from consideration
  • Certain groups of people are excluded from participating in ideation campaigns
  • Contributors don’t get feedback on the status of their submitted ideas

The challenges organizations face today are too complex to be solved by only 2% of the population, which is the case when critical decisions are made solely by senior leaders. That’s one of the reasons we’re exploring the freedom to contribute in Gartner Peer Connect. Social technologies open up a world of networking possibilities that are evident in our personal interactions, but they should not be limited to just those personal activities. Courageous leaders will want to exploit the knowledge of all employees to keep their organizations operating at peak performance. They want to break through that barrier of low employee engagement that prevents most organizations from becoming all they can be. Gallup’s latest poll on employee engagement found that 70% of American employees are not fully engaged and that this is costing the U.S. economy between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. Encouraging contributions to ideation programs not only surfaces amazing things, it also increases engagement and commitment.

We hope Gartner clients will join us in Peer Connect to share their thoughts and best practices for enabling a creative, engaging workplace where all employees are not just invited to contribute, they feel compelled to contribute because they know it will help the organization accomplish its mission.

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Category: community Social networks     Tags: , , ,

The Boiled Leader – Digital Freedom at Work

by Carol Rozwell  |  September 11, 2013  |  3 Comments

Many of us who took natural science courses during our undergraduate work were exposed to the story of the boiled frog experiment. The experiment showed that a frog sitting in a beaker of water would not attempt to escape if the water was heated gradually enough. The lesson we are supposed to learn from that story is that is we do not pay attention to the gradual changes in our milieu, we may suffer dire consequences.

For this reason, I find it useful to look back periodically and take notice of the changes that have occurred. By comparing “then” to “now” using specific examples, we can assess whether our response to change is keeping pace.

One area that concerns me is the progression of leadership approaches for a social business era. My Gartner colleague Deb Logan and I identified the concept of the socially centered leader in last year’s maverick project (Gartner clients can read the research). This year, we’ve been exploring how technology enables a deeper level of engagement for those leaders who espouse the characteristics of socially centered leadership. When we speak of the socially centered leader, we don’t just mean the manager whose position is assured on the organization chart. We also include anyone who is in any ad hoc leadership role. When you think about how much project-oriented work we all participate in on a regular basis, it’s easy to see that there may be as many as two to four times the number of informal leaders as formally appointed managers.

An interesting potential future for leadership emerged from the research. As organizations become more democratic, more and more employees will have the opportunity to be involved in the decision making processes of their companies or agencies. These will be important decisions – both strategic and tactical since presumably we’ve automated as many of the operational decisions as possible – not the inconsequential ones without any significant financial impact. Socially centered leaders exhibit a fact-based decision style that includes input from multiple sources. That much is a given. But what other changes might we expect as the workplace becomes more social and employees crave a level of freedom at work that they already have in their personal lives? Organizations fuss over “bring your own device (BYOD)” to work issues, what about “bring your own freedoms (BYOF)” to work?

Many of us have a large degree of freedom already regarding who we work with. As a Gartner analyst, I can chose to work with any colleague, anywhere in the world if it makes sense and will produce good research deliverables for our clients. We are not alone in this approach. I’ve spoken with many project managers who tell me they allow lots of flexibility for project members when choosing teammates. Pioneering organizations such as W.L. Gore, Menlo, IDEO and Morning Star have turned traditional practices on their heads.

The upshot is that we will increasingly get to work with the people we want to work with and avoid the ones we don’t. And we all know some of those people, don’t we? There are multiple ways these people-I-don’t-want-to-work-with folks irritate us. They hog the glory, don’t do their fair share, whine incessantly, etc. Whatever special type of annoyance they favor, we do our best to avoid working with them. They just don’t play well with others. They can’t collaborate. Everyone in the peer group knows who they are, yet management takes no action.

This is about to change.

I’ve been watching the slow but inexorable progression of social workplace tools that have to potential to expose workers who aren’t effective collaborators. They identify contributors and acknowledge people committed to the success of the team as a whole. I expect that as social businesses mature, the requirement to uncover and re-educate non-collaborators will increase. Most often, we think of the need to increase collaboration within and among peer groups. I predict this issue will become as important for managers and leaders as it is for individuals. We need to pay attention to this shift or become like the boiled frog.

And I’m not alone in my belief. MIX (Management Innovation eXchange) is hosting a challenge that explores autonomy at work. The discussion is underway. If you have some ideas of how to bring this future to fruition, participate in the Digital Freedom Challenge. This is an important change and we all need to be prepared.


Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks     Tags: , , ,

Outputs are important, but behaviors are better

by Carol Rozwell  |  August 20, 2013  |  3 Comments

Our research prediction paints a gloomy picture for the success of social initiatives. We expect them to fail to deliver the hoped for value 80% of the time. The culprits are an over-emphasis on technology and under-emphasis on behavior change (Gartner clients can read the complete research note)

The fact that so many leaders of social initiatives are seduced by social technology is easy to understand. They look at the rapid adoption of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and assume they will see similar results. And if adoption will ‘go viral’ then of course there is no need to invest in tedious change management programs and training.


It is essential that social initiatives have a well-defined purpose. The business outcome needs to be compelling and complementary to the organization’s strategic objectives. That is a given. But simply stating the purpose only gets us so far. We also need to identify the vital behaviors that will allow us to achieve the desired outcome.

In their book “Influencer” the authors state that vital behaviors have three characteristics. The vital behavior:

  • Leads directly to better results.
  • Breaks self-defeating patterns.
  • Causes many other positive behaviors to follow naturally.

Vital behaviors are actions, not results. But changing vital behaviors leads to results. So for more success with social initiatives, the critical changes people have to make in their work activities must be understood and any roadblocks to making those changes must be removed.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. Most of the diagnoses I’ve done on less than successful social initiatives indicate that this crucial step is ignored.  The business case – or whatever justification approach you choose – must make it very clear how individuals and teams will work differently in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Let’s take one of the oft-stated goals of social initiatives as an example – knowledge sharing.  Knowledge sharing is a fine and noble goal and the business benefits seem obvious. Increase in sales efficiency. Decrease in RFP response time. Improvement in customer satisfaction. Who could argue with them? Before these results are accrued, though, the people performing the work need to change how they work today and do something different tomorrow. What that change is, specifically, is the vital behavior.

  • What does the sale rep do differently to be more efficient?
  • What does the proposal manager do to get the proposal out sooner?
  • What does the CSR do to answer the client’s question better and faster?

If these answers to these and similar questions are identified early on in the social initiative planning process, your efforts will be more successful, more quickly.


Category: Change management Collaboration Knowledge management Social media Social networks social software     Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Socially Centered Leadership and Technology. What do you think?

by Carol Rozwell  |  June 25, 2013  |  3 Comments

During 2012, I undertook a maverick research project with my Gartner colleague Debra Logan. We explored the evolution of leadership in a social world that we eventually called socially centered leadership.

The hallmarks of the socially centered leader are:

  • Clear, honest, and credible communication that articulates intent
  • Transparency
  • Emotional engagement and personal generosity
  • Humility
  • Fact-based decision style

Our recommendations to people who aspire to socially centered leadership are to:

  • Elevate your team’s mission; articulate it simply, clearly, and often
  • Encourage as much transparency as possible without breaking the law
  • Prioritize and systematize genuine personal contact with your workers
  • Stimulate experimentation, make and admit mistakes
  • Develop a competency in collaborative decision making

The need for a more humanistic, socially centered leadership style are clear. The numbers tell us that high levels of employee engagement correlate with high organizational performance. We cited a number of examples of such studies in our report. Following the report’s publication, Gallup conducted its eighth meta-analysis on the Q12 using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries. Within each study, Gallup researchers statistically calculated the work-unit-level relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes that the organization supplied.


Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).

As part of our research we interviewed many interesting people. (My blog on the Vineet Nayar interview. Gartner clients can read the completed report Maverick* Research: Socially Centered Leadership)

This year, we are continuing our research by exploring how technology supports or subverts a socially centered leader. (This effort is complemented by work Elise Olding and Jackie Fenn are doing to study how a better understanding of the brain will change how we work.) We’ve interviewed a variety of wise people. We will publish research of our findings in September and conduct workshops at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo events in October and November.

So far, they’ve argued the side of the argument that technology can enhance the socially centered leader’s engagement with employees. I’m wondering if there are downsides to the use of technology to increase the engagement between a socially centered leader and their employees. What do you think? We know that technology cannot make up for a lack of the basic skills of a socially centered leader. But when it’s used with proper intent, can it be misapplied or even backfire?

Let me know what you think. Comment on the blog or send me a tweet @CRozwell.


Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks     Tags: , , , , ,

Please don’t call me “human capital”

by Carol Rozwell  |  April 22, 2013  |  3 Comments

Have you ever been in one of those situations where it was very clear the person you were speaking with wasn’t listening to you? A simple example of what I mean is that routine tete-a-tete that occurs when people first get on a phone call. Social convention tells us to inquiry about the other person’s well-being. The exchange that belies real attention to the routine goes something like this:

Caller 1: “Hello, how are you doing today?”

Caller 2: “Hi there, oh I’m doing great! And how are you?”

 Caller 1: “Fine. Things have been going well today. How are you doing?”

The error of feigned interest seems more obvious when it’s written out than when spoken – the issue is that caller 1 didn’t really listen to caller 2’s response. Hence, they asked the same question over again. The supposedly polite social ritual of asking how their colleague was turned into a “do loop” because they were distracted. The unspoken message of the exchange is clear: “I am supposed to ask how you are but I really don’t care because I didn’t take the time to listen.”

This is a simple example but we all can think of many other dismissive situations that regularly occur in the workplace.

So why am I bringing up this trivial example?

Not a week goes by that I don’t get multiple announcements of some new approach for “getting the best out of your human capital” or “managing human capital for business results” or in deference to the current hype around big data “using analytics to increase human capital performance.” Yes, I understand it’s a commonly used term for the collection of employees that work for an organization, but think about the message it conveys. If management thinks I’m just another interchangeable piece of human capital, then why should I contribute my best efforts, my unique skills to my work?

Perhaps my visceral reaction to the term human capital stems from a summer job I had working in a factory as a QA inspector. There I was, indeed, human capital. It was piecemeal work and we were paid as long as we performed a minimum number of inspections per shift. Not more, just the minimum – as I was politely but firmly informed by a fulltime employee on the (single) occasion I exceeded the quota. (Well I was young and thought I was supposed to do my best.) It didn’t matter if I had a brilliant idea for improving the QA process or came up with a better way to perform a quality check, as long as I finished the minimum number of inspections during my shift. I was expected to be the human that carried out the work. (Hopefully that plant now has robots to do the work I and my other 20 benchmates did since we didn’t add any intellectual value to the process.)

Much of the work I’ve been doing lately into the new skills required of a socially centered leader (clients can read the Gartner research) points to the importance of valuing each person on our team as an individual. Perceptive leaders already know this, their experience taught them this lesson. What’s fascinating is that new scientific research now proffers hard evidence to support why we need to pay attention not to people as a group – “my team” – but to the individuals that make up the team.

Clearly, I’ve been influenced by some stellar researchers, authors and leaders who talk about the value of putting employees first (Vineet Nayar), paying attention to status (David Rock) and creating a greater sense of purpose (Dan Pink). A new concept I came across this week is Tony Schwartz’s assertion that we should focus on employee energy. If you have time, this presentation is well worth listening to, as is Dan Ariely’s talk about what makes us feel good about our work.

What I’ve learned is that today’s problems are better solved by people who continually bring their “A game” to work. There is still routine work to be done, but more and more often working through tough issues requires insight from energized employees willing to put themselves into their work. It’s hard to believe that calling people human capital and treating them as such will result in the level of employee engagement required for sustained business performance in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. In an information economy, a company benefits more from the contribution of insightful people than from nameless, faceless human capital.


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