Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Rachel Happe (17 of 45)

Rachel Happe, Social Media/Product Guru and former IDC Analyst focused on social technologies, is not only a former colleague, she's also a great friend. I've known Rachel for a year and a half and am more and more impressed with her every time I spend time with her. Not only is she funny but she's also an "outside the box" thinker. At the same time, she's not full of herself and always willing to share (if you happen to be looking for a rock star product leader with hard core social experience, she's your gal).

Let's see how she answer the five questions from the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series...

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I solve application and organizational problems well because I am adept at synthesizing a lot of disparate information together with human intent which leads to the uncovering of an issue's structural root.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started working with social media and online communities while at a startup in Silicon Valley in 2003. There we used blogs internally and externally for content management. I helped to build a social networking site for independent music (before we called them social networks) where we tried solving the content surfacing and recommendation issue in a variety of ways. It was a great way to cut my teeth on the problem of content abundance and filtering through social connections and recommendations (virtual mixed tape anyone?!?).

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
SAP because it understands the fundamental shift happening in markets and are moving aggressively toward a networked model of doing business. While they have not incorporated much in the way of 'social' tools into their own products I believe they are making SAP as a company much stronger because of their ecosystem approach to their markets.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
John Chambers because he understands that 'social' is more than a new way to communicate but also a fundamental shift in the way we do business. Under his leadership, he is dramatically reorganizing Cisco to make it a stronger, network-drive business that is not so dependent on its senior management team. He has the courage to not only believe it is not about him but also to, in effect, make his role less important to the long term success of Cisco which is a dramatic new approach to CEO succession planning.

Not likely unless some toothpaste manufacturer decided to give away toothpaste to foodbanks and shelters in exchange for discussing organizational and system dynamics in its web community...which is really very unlikely so I guess that means No :)

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I am passionate about social media and community because the most fulfilling thing to me is enabling people to reach their full potential - both in terms of productivity and happiness. I think rigidity and control keep people from exploring their passions because rigid structures disincentives that behavior. In those environments people turn off their passion and curiosity. I think as organizations we can do better. The transparency brought on by social media is shining a light on the gap between motivations and execution and driving toward an environment where those two things are better aligned. I believe that alignment will enable people to find their 'tribe' (to use one of Laura Fitton's terms) and the increase in productivity and personal fulfillment that will result will be good for individuals *and* for businesses.

I want to help change the world because I see a better way to work - its both achingly simple and extraordinarily complex.

NEW FEATURE: I'm going to start adding in Twitter handles for any of the folks I interview. Rachel's is @rhappe


  1. Rachel is a rock star in every sense and I'm constantly impressed with her knowledge and inisghts.

    Aaron, I haven't even had the chance to tell you how great I think this series is.

    I'm incredibly lucky to have worked with both you and Rachel... even luckier to be able to call you both friends.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Aaron - Thanks so much for including me here - a little humbled to be part of the mix you have put together but I am loving your series and in a way, it displays in spades what you excel at - listening to others and highlighting what you find interesting...and in the process making yourself an invaluable hub (and a great friend!).

    And Alexa - back atcha - you are going to change the don't let anyone get in your way!

  3. Thanks Alexa. You are too kind. Missing you much (as well as good friends like Rachel, Jim, Shannon, Isaac, Eve et al.)

  4. Rachel - You have a very nice way of expressing yourself. Thanks for sharing.

    Completely agree on the SAP point. IMO, they've set the bar in many aspects of adopting social.

    Aaron - Loving the series. Thanks so much for helping the community get to know one another.

  5. I love this series Aaron. Thanks for coming up with it and letting us have some insight into the industry leaders.

  6. Aaron, great series and excellent choices! Rachel is one of the unsung experts in social media. I am always blown away by her insights and frameworks. She is a REAL social media and community expert!