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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Not acting anymore

Brass AARP Sign

On Monday March 14th, I accepted the permanent position in which I had been acting as Director of Client Services in the AARP Services Web Strategy and Operations (WSO) group. Client Services is now, after several months of transition and new hiring, a team of 16 people responsible for web content consulting, message boards, e-mail newsletters and web metrics. Since our re-organization began last August, WSO itself has grown from 30 to 46 people (including contractors), and now our division, AARP Services, which handles all of the for-profit activities of the association, is in the middle of re-organizing to grow from 110 to 175 people by summer. While we might have said last fall that change is in the wind, the winds have now hit gale force.

My team is still going through a transition period where the project load is being leveled across our three sub-teams. This has been happening while we are hiring new people, re-launching the web site and expanding our process to accomodate new roles and responsibilities. While all of this (and much more) plays out, we also have to keep scores of web site stakeholders and partners informed of changes and progress. Fortunately, our senior leadership has been 110% supportive of us as the changes continue.

Progressive re-organizations of companies, where people and resources are being added, result in expanded capacity and capability to meet corporate objectives. One of the stated objectives of this expansion is for us to enhance our culture to become more innovative. So the other part of my job is to engage in creative activities and outreach that will inspire out-of-the-box thinking.

One approach to inspiring innovation is to see how others are doing it. To that notion, we're continuing our longstanding sponsorship of the MIT Media Lab's Simplicity Research Consortium (formerly called information:organized), where I am the the active liaison. The co-chairs of Simplicity, John Maeda and Dan Ariely have both visited AARP Headquarters to engage with staff, and through frequent trips to the lab, we have taken all of WSO's directors and managers and some staff on tours and to workshops.

For a different perspective, we've also just become an affiliate of Stanford University's Media X program. Unlike the MIT Media Lab, which is mostly housed in one building, Media X is more like a portal to the entire Stanford campus. The Media X team facilitates access to researchers and their projects that would be of interest to a particular affiliate. One of our first activities with the program is a new relationship with Dr. BJ Fogg of the Persuasive Computing Laboratory. BJ will be coming to AARP later next month to speak on computer-mediated behavior change.

And finally, to wrap a long view around all this activity, I've conspired with my co-worker Beth Mazur to engage the Global Business Network in a scenario planning project we're calling Web 2011. Scenario planning is a method of facilitating a small group of people with diverse perspectives to think about the multiple possible futures. The outcome for us will be four narrative scenarios about how older Americans will be using the Web in the year 2011 and beyond. We are conducting internal workshops in June with internal and external thought leaders, and the resulting scenarios will be released at a two-day conference at our National Event this fall. This effort will yield new insights which will help WSO's strategic planning, and the scenario stories should stimulate interesting conversation amongst the association's leadership.

Because I'll continue to be immersed in what is the best job I've ever had, as well as being a daddy at home, I can't guarantee that I'll post here any sooner than another month from now, but do keep an eye on my moblog where I'm able to post frequently during commuting time and lunch breaks.

I'll also add mention here of a very good Washington Post article on the current state of AARP.

11:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)