When sitting down to write this blog I was bereft of ideas, I kept asking myself ‘what do the people want to read about…? To get the creative juices flowing I started playing with a relatively new tool from Google that opens up quite a few possibilities: Google Trends.  Google Trends (amongst other things) allows an individual to search for any word, term, or phrase to see how it measures up in terms of search volume on the web. It also allows you to review the most searched for words of phrases within any given period (admittedly not much help today unless I wrote a blog including reference to Miley Cyrus, Davos or the Victoria Line!). It was, however, quite addictive, entering random terms, previous blog titles or colleagues’ names and then comparing them. Then I noticed a small flashing box entitled ‘Hot Trends’, my interest piqued, I clicked to find a full screen window displaying a colourful feed displaying the most searched for words and phrases – real time.  I could see the collective conscious, zeitgeist if you will, of the world’s millions of Googlers – distilled into a single word or phrase. Okay – I’m overselling it, but, perhaps applying this same principle to an organisation’s communication channels could provide real insight?
I’m envisaging a tool similar to Google Trends that helps leaders understand what’s trending within their own organisations. A project was recently undertaken with the FBI to identify keywords/phrases used in the communications of bankers about to engage in fraudulent activity. The software developed was also designed to identify terms which suggested the employee would not want to be overheard such as “call my personal mobile” or “come by my office”. This is a great first step but why stop here? Why not build on this rather Orwellian approach by developing a tool that provides leaders with real time information that enables faster actionable decisions with regards to training needs, moral deficiencies and more.
Imagine a tool that not only scans internal e-mail but also other gathers data from other methods of communication (Social Media, Instant Messengers etc). Now imagine what we would find should we extend the parameters from key phrases targeted at fraudsters to now identifying instances colleagues frequently asking for ‘help’ or to ‘explain’ XYZ. Suddenly you have a real time feed of the trending topics which enables you not only to fulfil a potential training need but also to measure the success thereof. How about using it to measure the moral of your team, individuals, managers?  Measure whether the sentiment of e-mails changes when e-mails are sent externally vs internally. The possibilities expand again when you consider tracking the trending phrases being used by clients communicating with your organisation. The beauty of this system is that it requires no completion of forms, systems or fields by a consumer or end user. Instead the data is extracted from the preferred means of communication and extrapolated into meaningful, real time metrics. However, once you know big brother is watching will an employee’s level of candour remain the same?
We also need to consider the usual  ‘big data’ conundrum – how do we interpret the data, knowing thousands are Googling ‘muskateers [sic]BBC’  on the face of it doesn’t tell me a great deal (other than Brits can’t spell Musketeer!), so it also stands that neither would trending words or phrases in my fictional organisation, no?
I’d disagree. For blog inspiration I wanted to understand what the world is talking about and what better way than taking a peek into the collective psyche of 6,000,000 daily Google hits condensed into 1 word or phrase. We’ll always find that the most common stumbling block is to tell a better story with data. HR can’t just present raw numbers and expect recipients to identify the correct message, the job is with us to understand their audience, create a story, and deliver conclusion. With that in mind, I think this deserves a look – don’t you?