TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

"Embrace chaos; deliver results." Really? Unleash social networks, employee-generated video, and wikis loose in my company? That sounds hard for any normal company. Yet that's the theme of our event here in Orlando.

At the end of day one, after listening to a varied and experienced line-up of presenters, I came away with the feeling that not only is it possible to embrace chaos and deliver results, it's also an imperative.

Here are some loosely worded and paraphrased quotes from speakers that anchor my feeling:

When Ken Washington, chief privacy officer of Lockheed Martin, was asked how he convinced the CEO to allow blogs and social networks at Lockheed Martin, he said that in the war for talent these tools will help us "attract and retain talent."

It makes a ton of sense if you think about it. We know from our Technographics studies that the Internet-native Gen Y generation behaves completely differently than their Gen X siblings. They use IM, social networks, and blogs to communicate and get their work done. And the Millenials that follow them are even more estranged from old-school tools like email. These new employees expect the power that a Facebook brings.

How does Ken get these tools rolled out sensibly and safely? By assembling a working group that meets weekly (or bi-weekly, I forget) to plan and implement. The working group includes a person from each business unit that has the trust and ear of its vice president and HR head. He also has the corporate council and HR leader on the team. You'd expect that from a chief privacy officer. (Ken says that 43% of large companies have a chief privacy officer.)

Another thought from Ken brought a smile to my face. One of Ken's inevitable forces was "hyper-connectivity." We feel the same way, that the Internet connects every person to every other person (duh) and also every thing to every other thing. We called it the X Internet in 2001, and it's now really coming true for Lockheed Martin.

One final thought from Ken: Lockheed Martin allows employees to upload employee-generated video to a shared workspace. I'm very excited to hear that. I believe that YouTube is revolutionary in changing how consumers present ideas to each other, and now businesses can do the same in the safety of their own firewalls.

From Karla Gill of Marriott Corporation, we learned about OnePlace, Marriott's information workplace. (We're staying in the very nice JW Marriott hotel.) Back on message here: Karla has engineered chaos right out of a massive overhaul and upgrade of their messaging and collaboration tools. When you have 19 hotel brands and operations around the world, collaboration is a killer application.

One example of the benefits? Instead of every hotel submitting their operational results in gigantic spreadsheets by email; they are uploaded to a shared workspace and automatically tabulated. The benefit? Massive savings in email storage costs.

For Karla, the chaos is in orchestrating the resources of the firm so that the information workspace delivers the benefits immediately and that Marriott "associates" (employees) make the transition with grace and ease. (Change management is an important focus for Karla in making sure that the chaos turns into results. Hmmm, sounds like a key takeaway. Making sure information workers love the new tools.)

But Karla also reinforced the main thought that younger employees expect great collaboration tools. As a guiding spirit, Marriott CEO, Bill Marriott, now blogs. With an information workplace and a culture of collaboration, Marriott's also pushing the "attract and retain" agenda.

From Sandy Carter, IBM Vice President of SOA & WebSphere Strategy and Channels and Marketing and writer of a new book on SOA, described IBM's role in flattening the world to make firms more agile, we heard about 190 billion email messages and how to use serious gaming techniques to train people on enterprise architecture. The feedback from younger employees that grew up playing video games is very positive, and IBM is ramping up its investment in that tool.

Retention, once again.

IBM turns out to also be a big partner helping Implenia, the Swiss construction giant, build virtual worlds in a concept project called EOLUS ONE. Oliver Goh, business development executive at Implenia and his partner-in-crime, Tish, talked us through a very interesting application of virtual worlds: to serve as a control room that provides real-time access to the systems found in every commercial building: heating, cooling, security, fire alarm, lighting, and the like. The problem to be solved? Giving factilities management — and the sub-contractors that support each system — real-time visibility into the state of the building and real-time links to set the temperature, turn out lights, reset a false security alarm, or launch a trouble ticket.

The benefit? Let's start with a 34% decrease in energy costs at one pilot. To learn more, check out this report on the future of Web3D. Who's providing the energy to help Oliver get this done? It's customers, the owners of large commercial buildings. They get the benefits.

There's clearly a lot of work to do here to link virtual worlds to the real world. But here's one scenario where it makes sense. What's next? Keeping control over our leaky energy grid, perhaps? And there are sure to be payoffs for employees that have virtual world experience — they bring those skills with them.

All in all, it was a great day in Orlando, and if our guests learned how Web 2.0 and technology chaos can help them attract and retain the next generation of leaders, then a powerful business result indeed.