Google · housing · innovation

Innovative thinking in #ukhousing


I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography over the past few months. It’s a fascinating read and although Steve Jobs character is hard to like a lot of the time, I really like his approach to business, constant innovation and striving for the best. There are a lot of Jobs quotes I like, but this one in particular jumps out:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

It has got me thinking. Where is the truly innovative thinking in #ukhousing ? I’m talking about truly innovative thinking, that stretches the currently accepted norms and could truly move the sector forwards?

What strikes me most is the backdrop for Steve Jobs’ success; it’s not just about his drive and innovation, but the team of really talented people he brought together and worked with. So, following this thought through, it stands to reason that one of the keys for innovative success is to build an ‘A Class’ team (to use another Job’s quote).

How many ‘#ukhousing organisation’s truly create an ‘A Class’ team around innovative thinking? One where they sweat the detail, but under a truly challenging vision of the future? To borrow an idea from another favorite innovation organisation of mine – Google – their ‘big ideas: 10x thinking’ approach to work is also a great way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Its by thinking big that you get big innovations.

So much of this goes back to getting the right building blocks in place in an organistion – the right culture, the right leadership and building an ‘A Class’ team.

So, going back to the Steve Jobs quote, would you consider yourself an innovative leader or a follower? Are you truly pushing the boundaries wherever possible?


Digital · Google · Google+ · housing

A Taste of the Google Culture


I was lucky enough recently to visit the Google offices in London, through a Housemark Digital Futures event.

So, what can I say about my visit to Google? If I could sum it up in just one word, it would be amazing.

The visit itself was everything I hoped it would be. I got to hear from Lyndon Fraser from Google for Work, along with Duncan Farley and Dan Sullivan from Ancoris (who are a Google for Work partner organisation) who held a quick interactive session in Google’s ‘Tech Talk’ Transformation Lab. I also got to meet up and network with other housing staff with digital responsibility, including Paul Taylor and Tom Hartland from Bromford Labs who gave a presentation in the afternoon on ‘how to build an innovation lab’.

As we were not able to look around the offices (as if was felt it would be too disruptive), we got to look around the 9th floor of their offices, complete with a ‘Green Room’, their on-site Gym, ‘La La Library’ (which was genuinely quiet enough to hear a pin drop, despite several staff working in there at the time), outdoor space which wrapped around two sides of the building, a big staff cafe called ‘Cafe Royal’ which was absolutely packed with staff and a massive room called ‘Google Town Hall’ where they hold staff meetings of 100 staff or more.

Other things I noticed include:

  • The offices were bright, light and colourful;
  • They clearly do things differently to most organisations;
  • They have a very clear ‘Google’ brand to everything they do;
  • They all dress in casual clothes at work, but no-one was scruffily dressed;
  • Staff who work at Google are actually referred to as ‘Googlers’ (and refer to themselves as Googlers);
  • The food for Googlers is ‘free’ and covers breakfast and lunch;
  • There were various staff snack points throughout the offices with all healthy free snacks;
  • The main cafe even had two staff serving ice cream for Googlers;
  • Googlers have the freedom to go wherever they want in the building and use any of the collaborative rooms (as long as they have their pass);
  • We even saw a Googler using one of the Sleeping Pods, presumably catching a quick power nap!

It’s always hard to describe the culture of an organisation, but the Google culture was pretty much as I expected, albeit from one day’s visit.

It felt like an open, exciting and inspiring place to work, with a core focus on working collaboratively, not only on digital and technological solutions and advancement, but on keeping the solutions as simple and user friendly as possible.

For a digital techie person like me, it really was hard to leave at the end of the day!

housing · Social Media

Social Media 2015


In early 2013 I wrote a blog post titled ‘Has Twitter Seen its Best Days’. OK, so the title wasn’t the best I’ve ever come up with, but funnily enough I have been asking myself the same question again – is Twitter on the decline?

Now I warn anyone reading this post that I haven’t got any real statistical basis for raising this question, but I have got some evidence of sorts:

  • Over the course of this year I’ve found less and less engagement on Twitter;
  • With the introduction of Twitter adverts in anyone’s timeline, regardless of whether you want them, it’s watered down the essence of Twitter;
  • Competition from the other plethora of social media platforms out there – too many choices?
  • I often feel like I am posting to the virtual world on the hope that someone (anyone?) will comment on my tweet;
  • Often the best tweets go unanswered and, seemingly at random, some of the worst get the most traffic.

Alright, so they are hardly damning, but I can honestly say that recently has been the first time in over two years I’ve really questioned the use of Twitter in my daily work life. Before that I was a several tweets a day kind-of-guy. I was pretty active on Twitter, being recognised as a digital engager and even featuring in the top 50 Digital Power Players for 2014 (and to answer your question, yes, it has gone on my CV).

As far as forecasting goes, my track record is patchy at best. I forecast that in 2014 Google+ would rise to the top in the world of Housing and although it started out OK, the announcement that Google were going to drop it from their development programme pretty much knocked this on the head. Don’t get me wrong, Google+ still has an awful lot to offer, but I’m not sure I can stretch to saying that 2014 was the year of Google+.

That said, I for one will be watching closely in 2015 to see what happens with Twitter, along with other social media platforms.

So what are everyone else’s Social Media predictions for 2015? Twitter up or down? Facebook up or down? Another social media platform (as yet relatively unknown) to make it big in 2015? Or maybe 2015 is the year that social media slows down as a whole? Leave your thoughts below……..

Digital · housing · Social Media

Google+ – The Forgotten Social Layer?

G+Anyone who has followed my blog for some time will know that I’ve been championing the use of Google+ (or G+ for short). It has some great features that out-do some of the more limited features of other social networks.

One example is the 140 character word limit on Twitter. G+ posts have a limit of 10,000 words (apparently), although that would be a might large post!

One of the best features in G+ is the use of circles. This enables a user to group people together into like-minded people. I have used this to some degree. I’ve put a screen grab of my circles below:


What this means is that I can target my G+ posts to the people that will be interested in seeing that content. This is a completely different feature to Twitter for example, where you just tweet out to ‘the world’ and hope for a response. Granted through Twitter you can target it by adding in some Twitter Handles (@) but you can also do the same through G+ (+).

Another great feature is G+ Comunities, where like-minded people can join with others to comment, post and debate whatever interests them. These work much like the LinkedIn Groups, although my experience has been that you get a lot more interaction and reaction on G+ Communities compared to LinkedIn Groups.

Another great feature (and arguable the best feature for Housing) is the use of G+ Hangouts. They are remarkably easy to use. You just click on the option and invite who you want to join. It is that simple. For me, the real opportunity is using this option as part of customer services, for customers to contact an organisation to query something. Or better still, organisations can hold G+ Hangouts for tenants to join and interact with staff by asking questions.

G+HangoutsOther organisations on G+ have been quick to jump on the G+ Hangout bandwagon. A popular option is to ‘broadcast’ to people through a G+ Hangout, much like a YouTube channel, but instead of this being pre-recorded, it’s a live conversation between 2 or more people. This can also be recorded for anyone to watch at a later date.

I’ve also heard of people using G+ Hangouts for talking to remote staff, for things like supervision. I know that you can use Skype for the same kind of thing, but G+ Hangouts allow you to integrate this into a much wider network of staff and customers.

But one of the best things I have heard about G+ is it being described as a ‘social layer’ rather than a ‘social network’. I hadn’t really appreciated this at first, comparing it to Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks available, but it really doesn’t quite fit into that bracket. You can do so much more with it.

So, I hope I’ve convinced some of you to join G+, have a play with it and find out what it can offer. Go on, you know you want to….

**If you are interested, I also run my own Google+ Community called ‘G+ Housing Community’ where like minded people can post, query and comment about the use of Google+. Just click on the below image.**


housing · Social Media

Where next for Google+??

ImageIf you’ve read the tech news in the last few days you’ll have seen that Google+ is now under threat, with commentators ranging in opinion from ‘it sounds the death knoll for Google+’ to ‘time will tell’.

It’s all down to one man announcing that he is leaving Google – Vic Gundotra – the reported driving force behind Google+.

Vic Gundotra

As the Guardian article puts it, the fate of Google’s ‘Facebook killer’ is now unknown. It goes on to say that ‘despite building 300 million monthly active users by October 2013, Google+ is still dwarfed by Facebook’s userbase of 1.28 billion monthly active users. But the key quote in the article is from Larry Page, Google, Chief Executive – ‘we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans’.

I still think Google+ is a great social media network. I went on to Google+ to see for myself what it was about, but before I knew it I was hooked. It’s just very useable and marries a lot of the good points from Twitter with Facebook and others. The other thing is that it’s obvious there is a large community on Google+. When I’ve posted queries about Google+ on a few of the more established communities, I’ve had replies back within minutes and this is one of the things I want from a social media network – to know that there are conversations to be had with people of interest from around the world. To say I’ve learn’t some new things whilst using Google+ would be an understatement.

I guess time will tell with what happens to Google+ in the future. As Google have already embedded Google+ and Gmail into so much of what they offer, I’d be very surprised if they just pulled the plug. It might well be that they just stop developing Google+ further. Recently there have been some minor (but important) tweeks to Google+ in the Communities sections, reflecting a lot of user queries and requests. I was hearted to see some of these introduced.

I for one hope that Google+ continues, not least because I’ve invested some time and energy into creating a ‘G+ Housing Community’ for fellow #ukhousing professionals to converse and exchange ideas on using Google+ in the world of Housing. Although it’s been a slow burner, it has been starting to gain some momentum. For the time being at least I’m going to continue investing in using Google+.

G+ Housing Community

My final thought is that I’ll be watching Google+ closely over the coming months to see whether the platform continues to invest and develop further, or whether indeed the plug will be pulled on Google+. If it was pulled, what a mighty big (and arguably success) experiment Google will be closing.

housing · Social Media

If You Build It, They Will Come

Listening-Island-Cartoon I’ve been pondering for some time whether it’s better to engage the few or the many in terms of customer/tenant engagement. Is it more important to engage with the few customers who want to be involved, or look to engage with a much wider, potentially more difficult group of customers?

My initial view is that it’s better to engage with the customers who want to be engaged. It’s a hard enough task getting meaningful engagement and feedback from customers, even from the ones who want to be involved. Mind you, it’s often the case that the majority of customers who have the time and inclination to be involved are of the older generation. You can almost always guarantee some older people will get involved.

It could be argued that the views you really need are from the customers who wouldn’t ordinarily feed anything back to you. We all know of customers who write in or telephone with complaints at any given opportunity, so you will always be guaranteed to get this feedback, but what about the vast majority of customers who we hear very little back from?

Maybe a scatter gun approach is the way to go, to give every customer the chance to get involved at any level they like. One downside to this is the amount of staff time this would take to get off the ground and potentially the lack of involvement you get from this.

And so to the title of this blog. If you build it, they will come. How many of you know where the blog post title comes from? It’s from the 1989 film starring Kevin Costner called ‘Field of Dreams’ (yes, it was on TV recently, hence why I remember it) and it’s about Baseball.

I’d argue that if you can create the right environment and use the right methods, you will get customers engaging with you as a landlord – they will come. For me this goes back to the question I posed near the start – is it better to engage the few or the many?

If you engage the few and tailor a service for them, you are much more likely to get their involvement. An example that springs to mind is that I’ve been pushing the use of Google+ in #ukhousing for some time now, but one thing I often get in reply is that there aren’t many tenants using Google+ and ultimately, would they want to converse with their landlord? I think the right way to think about this is that it’s a matter of getting the right subjects and the right people involved. There are tenants and customers on nearly every social media platform – you just need to engage and involve them on the right level. If I can get valuable feedback and engagement from one customer who hadn’t engaged previously, I’d view that as a success.

My final thought really is that it all depends on what you as a landlord or staff member want to get out of the exercise. If it’s qualitative data, then you need to spend a lot of time preparing the engagement method and ensuring it has the best possible chance of success. If it’s more a matter of ticking the box (quantitative) that you are doing some form of customer engagement, then it probably doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it. A word of caution though – I’m certain you’d be missing the valuable opportunity to gain customer insight and views which could only improve the service you offer to customers.

I’ll leave you with a well-known phrase that often springs to mind when talking about customer engagement:


In terms of customer engagement, my view is that the journey is as important (if not more important) than the destination.



Banging the Google+ Drum


I feel a bit like a man obsessed. Of late I’ve been asking all and sundry in #ukhousing about Google+. I’ve been looking for any information, case studies, links etc. that even vaguely mention Google+.

The thing is, despite this taking up a fair bit of my spare time, I’m more convinced than ever that Google+ is the future. It has excellent usability, is increasing in popularity and has some really useful features that other platforms just don’t have. I’ve blogged some of the features here if you are interested.

What I really wanted to talk about though is my new venture (or is more of a quest?) in developing the ‘Google+ Housing Community’. I’ve had the idea in my head for a while now and I’ve decided now’s the time to get it off the ground.

Here’s the community bio I’ve got so far:


The thing is, I’ve also come to realise that if I’m not careful it could just be me, rambling on Google+ to a small audience of followers. But I really do think this could be something big. So please, if you haven’t already, join the Google+ Housing Community and join in the conversation. I’ve got lots more content to add in the coming months.

As Henry Ford once said:

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

So come on #ukhousing, it seems like we’re at the coming together stage!