Over the course of the last few years, and with the emergence (AND convergence) of social networking tools for business, cloud computing, big data and social analytics (amongst several other buzzwords and hyped concepts), we are starting to see that growing trend of shaping up one other key concept from today’s business world: our own economy. It seems to be it’s starting to take control of our collective mindset, of our conversations, of our interests and attention, to the point where we are beginning to have no more time than to talk about just that: economy. And that’s understandable, seeing the current financial econoclypse we are going through, and still with plenty more to come! But what if there would be something else? What would happen if all of a sudden we would be able to switch from our traditional concept of economy into something much more meaningful, purposeful, refreshing and rather inspiring altogether? How about if we would start focusing quite a lot more on the Connection Economy instead, to eventually have a bigger impact beyond just focusing on the money, the power and the greed?
In the recent past, we have seen plenty of various different people, including myself, blogging about the Circular Economy, the Semantic Economy, the Simulation Economy, the Hacker Economy, the Locust Economy, the Passion Economy, the Freelance Economy, the Attention Economy, the New Patronage Economy, the Post-Job Economy, the Content Economy, the Digital Economy, the Collaboration Economy, the Knowledge Economy, the Knowledge Networked Economy, the Creative Economy, the Sharing Economy, the Sustainable Economy, the Experimental Economy, the Gift Economy. Goodness gracious me! It looks like there is no end to the huge amount of economies we have got out there! Stop it! Seriously, once more, stop it!
Never mind the main two economies that keep coming up over and over and over again. Such as the Sharing Economy and the Collaborative Economy, which a whole bunch of smart folks have been talking about extensively over the course of a good number of months through insightful blog posts, news articles, dissertations, and what not. At this point in time, we may as well just go ahead and kill the economy for all that matters. Something tells me that we may be much much better off altogether!
But then again, serendipity does it magic, just like that, and it helps me bump into this particular video clip over the course of the weekend, from the one and only, Seth Godin, raising the bar big and helping introduce what I, too, think is at the heart of the matter in terms of helping our own global economy flourish, once again, but this time around through sustainable growth and focusing on what it is all about: connections and relationships.
Indeed, welcome to The Connections Economy!
In a superb short video clip of nearly 4 minutes long, Seth gets to talk about what, to him, the Connection Revolution is all about as the Industrial Economy is fading away. And he gets to describe, in a very powerful manner, what are the main fundamental pillars of such economy. To name:
- Exchange of Ideas”
From there onwards, he gets to build though on two additional underpinnings, two traits that make it all worth while, and that, for what matters, are essential to us all human beings, specially, in terms of what we can deliver. Generosity and Art. Yes, once again, it’s all about the givers and a rather inspiring and very refreshing notion of what art is all about. To quote him briefly: “Art is the human act of choosing to connect; the human ability to do something for the first time. Something that might not work“. Whoahhh! Powerful words, indeed! Stunning!
I couldn’t have agreed more with him when, towards the end of the clip, he quotes as well how “we crave connection“. It’s in our genes. Its part of our DNA. It’s about our ability to find that hidden connection through sharing our passion for a particular topic and for wanting to learn plenty more about it, based on those interactions and all of a sudden expose it all in full force out there in those open networks for others to benefit mutually from such connectedness.
On another short clip, from the same SAPPHIRE NOW event, he gets to talk on what I feel Open Business is all about, while relying on social networks, as key components from that Connection Economy, as the glue that ties in everything altogether: caring. He then develops the thought that in that same Connection Economy adjusting while failing along, fast, is going to be critical altogether, more than anything else because we are already transitioning from an age of scarcity into an age of abundance, abundance to connect, to make a difference, to follow, and what not, by how it scales to … tribes. Another piece of brilliance!
And to top it off there is a third short video clip where he gets to expand on how we can all enable others for success which is also priceless watching it through in its entirety, because he concludes with a killer sentence that I think needs to become our new mantra in terms of how we do business in that new economy: it’s not really about whether you would be able to succeed or not, since there is a great chance that you would, but whether you care enough to matter, after all.
Goodness! I doubt it would get any better than that, as to what our focus and purpose should be like on how we need to keep pushing for that transformation that Open Business will unleash as we move forward. The interesting thing is that, for the first time ever, and thanks to social networks, it’s all going to be based on something we never had before, that is, the intangibles, those connections; in short, those personal business relationships that will confirm how The Connection Economy will eventually rule them all.
And that’s a good thing. Actually, it’s a wonderful thing altogether!
I just can’t wait for it to unleash its full potential, and you?
[Oh, and if neither of those three wonderfully refreshing and rather thought-provoking video clips got you going off to a rather inspiring start of another working week, here's a bonus video clip, highly recommended as well, from Seth Godin himself, once again, from a recent event that he participated in at CreativeMornings where talked about "Backwards" and for which I am not going to share much more about it, but will just let it surprise you big time. It's probably one of the best 20 minutes you would be spending on this whole year, I can guarantee you that!
From now onwards, you would eventually be thinking completely different around the whole concept of clients, including your own … bosses!]
You know that moment when you realise that everything you have done in the last 5 and a half years has not been really worth while at all and forces you to go through a massive hard reset, challenging your main core beliefs, in terms of what has motivated you quite a lot in this whole Social / Open [r]evolution space over the course of all of that time? Well, that is the “moment” I have just been experiencing in the last 20 weeks of Year 6 of “Life Without eMail” culminating this week with something I thought I would never be able to see, say or talk about again. And while I can imagine there would be plenty of you folks out there who may be wondering whether I am on the brink of giving up on giving up corporate email, I am afraid nothing further than the truth, despite the fact it may look as if I have lost the war (on email) altogether. I am still as strong as ever in wanting to think outside the Inbox, but acknowledging a fact that I never thought I would be pondering about much, after all of this time being heavily involved with social networking for business: going back to basics!
Indeed, I am not too sure what may have happened, but over the course of those 20 weeks (Yes, I know, that’s 5 months right there!) I have noticed a steady increase on the overall amount of incoming emails I have been receiving at work and it’s been rather interesting to see this phenomenon developing further along with intrigue and awe at the same time. It started already on my previous job role, and continuing along in the new one, where it looks like despite the huge shift towards embracing social technologies at work, the volume of incoming email has skyrocketed to levels that have brought me back to the beginning, in 2008. Yes, that drastic.
All along, I have been reflecting on the potential reasons as to why my fellow IBM colleagues keep insisting on relying for vast majority of interactions on email vs. social tools and while I may not have all of the conclusions sorted out and in place, just yet, I can tell you I’m starting to believe it’s more than anything else because people, in general, don’t feel comfortable enough, just yet, it seems, about narrating their work, working out loud, for the benefit of others, including total strangers, and therefore they still prefer email as that is a medium they control in terms of reach, access and knowledge shared.
How illusory, I know! I have been mentioning in both Twitter and Google Plus how surprising this sudden change has been for yours truly and a couple of folks have suggested whether in part this is all due to the recent change of jobs I have gone through, and the fact that I am now exposed to a larger target audience, where vast majority of that IBM population do not know me much, (nor of my work habits): the email-less man who IBM gave birth to in February 2008. It could well be, but then again it was already happening from the beginning of the year when I was still doing my former job, which makes it even more intriguing altogether.
I am certain that, at this point in time, you may be wondering what this is all about and what do I mean when referring to the fact I am now back to basics, once again, having gone through a massive reboot of everything I have been doing in the last few years on walking the talk, leading by example, with my extensive use of social networking tools in a business context. Well, it looks like I am now going to resume a more regular blogging frequency on the topic of “Life Without eMail“, because apparently many folks out there, within my own working environment, have never heard of it and still keep bombarding me with email after email, resulting in a rather alarming increase of email volume to handle, implying as well for that matter, and I am myself spending a whole lot less time in social networks while processing it along accordingly.
Yes, during Year 6 – Weeks 1 to 20, I have gone from the good average of 15 emails received per week throughout the year for 2012 to, currently, 31.25 emails received per week, which is just huge compared to the range of emails received in the last 2 to 3 years. Take a look into the weekly progress report from those first 20 weeks, and please do pay attention at the data from Week 20. It will be rather telling altogether, so you can see what I mean:
You could say that the vast majority of that incoming email volume has been provoked by my new team members and, to be frank, that hasn’t been the case, at all. Most of our collaboration and knowledge sharing happens in open, social spaces, for folks to participate in as they may see fit, along with some other protected, private ones. What I have noticed though, is a sudden increase of incoming email volume from people outside my immediate teams and for a good number of reasons that I have spotted so far. Because I am now working in a completely different area (Have gone from IBM Software Marketing, into IBM’s CIO Organisation) I have seen plenty of email traffic that would be flagged as political, bullying, unnecessary reporting, delegated tasks on to you, and a whole bunch of other aspects that have clearly reminded me why I got started with ditching corporate email back in the day. And while I have tried to be rather condescending and understanding that not everyone wants to buy into living social AND open, I think I am just about to harden up substantially and become bolder when challenging people’s behaviours on how they keep abusing, and killing, each other’s productivity.
I guess after 20 weeks waiting for those folks to re-adjust some of their behaviours and become more socially savvy, and not seeing much progress along the way to adapt to that new kind of mindset, it’s now probably a good time to awaken that outrageous optimist heretic, free radical, corporate rebel, hippie 2.0 side of me and fight back! I guess it’s time for me to start challenging, just like I did at the beginning, how people work and entice them into open up their eyes AND minds into new, more effective ways of getting work done through social / open streams.
You may be wondering why do I bother about all of this, after all, right? I mean, I proved the point for a good number of years that it is possible to live a life without email, so why keep things running as we move further along? Well, probably because I am stubborn enough to believe all of these digital tools will eventually help us transform how we collaborate and share our knowledge, making it much more purposeful and meaningful altogether. Probably also because over the course of the years I have learned to become more patient, and be resilient enough, to persevere and continue to walk the talk accordingly to show and demonstrate how it’s possible to have such a life without relying so badly on email to get work done or, even, to justify it. Probably, because, deep inside, I still feel rather strong about challenging folks, through constructive dialogue, and practical hints and tips and other pragmatic advice, about thinking different, about fighting that inertia that has trapped them for years in thinking “eMail as the default knowledge sharing, communication and collaboration tool, so why would I change? Not worth it“. Well, it is worth it. It always has been worth it and will always be…
I suppose I am an outlier, a rebel with a cause, after all. And after this week, in particular, even more so, once I am done with it and I finally received the total amount of 99 emails (As you can see from the report shared across above) in a single work week! Goodness gracious me! 99 emails!! That’s the highest number of incoming emails I have received for a single week in almost 6 years!! [Previous one was 60 in 2008]
And talking about rebels with a cause. This working week, which is now a thing of the past, reminded of an interview I got done with one of the smartest people I have had the pleasure of spending some time with to learn what Social / Open Business is all about, along with a whole new concept that I am sure you would all be hearing about plenty more, over the course of time, around smarter workforce. Yes, I am referring to the absolutely delightful interview I had the pleasure to be invited to by Rudy Karsan, CEO of Kenexa, an IBM company, and which he then wrote about on this rather insightful blog post under the heading “Introducing The Smarter Workforce Profile: Luis Suarez“.
Why does it remind me of where I am, right at this moment, when I am stating “I am just going back to basics“, you may be wondering, right? Well, initially, because, to date, it’s probably the most accurate, insightful and relevant interview I have given, out there, on the topic of Social / Open Business and “Life Without eMail“. It basically explains why did I start it in the first place, how I have been moving along with it, and what’s meant so far, and, most importantly, what drove me to kick it off as far as benefits are concerned and on the working week where I have received 99 emails for the whole week, it’s a tremendous refresher, and a huge energy boost, to identify, refine and remind myself why, despite the hard reset, there is no turning point for yours truly, other than keep pushing, and perhaps not as gently anymore as I have in the last few months. Here is one of my favourite quotes that pretty much describes what I do and why I am so passionate on this topic:
“[…] This convinced me more than anything else that social is the way of the future, and I found his courage inspiring. What came out of my conversation with him was that there were three things that drove him to do this.
The 1st was to bring about efficiencies. The 2nd was that outcomes are better when people collaborate rather than compete. I was fascinated by his notion that email is more of a competitive than a collaborative norm, as it is more about ‘I’ than ‘Us’. The 3rd was that social is the ideal venue, according to him, of teaching–and all humans have this yearning to teach and share knowledge–because somewhere, somebody will find our words meaningful and respond accordingly. What struck me in particular was that there are very few people I know who have no almost no sense of fear in their decision-making, and Luis is one of those. He is driven more by purpose which enabled him to overcome fear. Now, lots of books have been written about how to be an entrepreneur and how to do things very differently, and I think that is fascinating to watch somebody in a massive organisation like IBM be able to execute on their vision of the world because their sense of purpose is stronger than fear of consequences.” [Emphasis mine]
Yes, I know, I would be drooling, too! In fact, I still am. Feel free to read further on through the interview itself, if you would be interested, while I would ask you to bear with me for a few, while I try to clean up the mess on my keyboard. But that’s it. Those are big, big words that, over the course of last few months, i seem to have forgotten, ignored or neglected altogether, and somehow I need to get them back: Efficiency, Outcomes, Collaboration, Teaching, Meaning, No Sense of Fear and, my favourite, Purpose. Not bad to put them all together as an opportunity for me to re-focus on what I need to keep focusing on, specially, after nearly 6 years gone by: Life Without eMail not just for me, but for everyone else around me, too!
Indeed, it’s a larger group, a much larger one, but then again I’m fully committed. Remember, I’m pretty stubborn, rather resilient, flexible enough to understand the dynamics and act accordingly and, above all, incredibly patient to keep pushing for that business transformation of how we share our knowledge and collaborate further through Open Business. You could say I have just re-gained my status of a Rebel with a Cause, because, to me, it just feels like it.
This whole new experience for myself of what has just happened this working week with such a high number of incoming emails may have just signalled how I may have now reached the bottom of it all, a new beginning, a completely new beginning, and from here onwards I suppose there is only one way left: upwards and onwards!
Thus here we go. Upwards and Onwards with “Life Without eMail” through the point of no return and using our usual Google Plus Community to continue to help educate, teach and facilitate further into that Open Business Transformation, while we keep going for repurposing email in a work context and put it back where it belongs, at long last!
Hope you will join us!
Last week at work was, perhaps, one of the most excruciating, rather annoying and frustrating weeks that I can remember in my 16 years of work with my current employer and it was not because of the sheer madness, rather hectic and busy work schedules, you know, those are business as usual and quite good fun still (Already having crossed through the second month on the new job!), but more because for the first time in a long while I got to experience what I think is the Achilles Heel for Knowledge (Web) workers in this digital age. Specially, for those of us who are working remotely, away from the traditional office. Yes, indeed, last week I experienced, in full force, what it would be like having an intermittent connection to internal networks, through VPN, as well as the Internet in general, through my ISP. And I tell you, it wasn’t pretty. At all.
Indeed, like I mentioned above, it was one of those dreadful experiences that clearly reminds us all how fragile remote knowledge (Web) workers are in terms of the dependencies on the availability of a good, reliable and accessible VPN and Internet connections. Most folks out there know by now how, thanks to the “Life Without eMail” movement I started over 5 years ago, I have now been successful in having moved over 98% of my daily work to the Web, whether on the Intranet or the Internet. Yet, last week was perhaps one of the quietest times I have gone through that I can remember. Why? Because I was offline for the vast majority of it. Both my VPN connection as well as my local ISP were having continuous issues helping me remain connected and eventually ended up in me putting a bunch of extra hours at work just trying to catch up with things when they would become more stable. And some times they did, and some others, they didn’t.
But right there I realised how when you are working from the traditional office space things are relatively good in terms of connectivity. You know, everyone working along through the same pipes, so to speak, and if the Internet or the Intranet goes down, that’s just fine, it’s down for everyone, so you are in equal terms for that matter and might as well enjoying a coffee or two while the system goes up to support back again several hundreds of office knowledge workers. However, when you are a remote knowledge worker, who depends on the Web for the majority of your work, things are much different.
As a starting point, you are alone. You are, typically, in the middle of nowhere (my closest IBM office is about 1,200 KM away from where I live / work), trying to get connected to the rest of the world that flies passed by you at a lightning speed, and that you hope to jump into the bandwagon which is the Internet, so that you can catch up. Well, last week, my train never showed up, helping me understand the challenges of what it would be like if, all of a sudden, remote knowledge (Web) workers, get to suffer from intermittent (Or permanent, for that matter!) connectivity issues in order to carry out their digital work.
It just won’t happen. And, you know, work won’t stop. It never does. It will just keep carrying on and piling up, which means that, as a remote employee or knowledge worker, your dependency on a good VPN and ISP connectivity are going to be critical. Otherwise, it’s just like one of those dead tentacles you can just chop off and no-one will notice. And while I can see how that may well not be too worrying for companies and businesses, since it’s just an isolated case or two, perhaps a few hundred (tops), the reality is that for you it’s like the whole world just collapsed and decided to stop spinning around.
Yes, I know, I realise I am putting a little bit of extra drama on the huge impact of network connectivity for remote employees, but is it really that much of an exaggeration? Because, somehow I feel it’s not, specially, if you consider how, unless you live in a rather large urban place, you, as a remote worker depending on the Web to get your work done, are doomed and big time. And, most probably, no-one would even notice.
And, let’s face it. We are entering the stage where broadband penetration, at least, in (Western) Europe, is pretty much a good myth, specially, if you don’t live in big cities. If you live in relatively small towns, or rural / remote areas, that pervasive connectivity is non-existent, which comes to fight the argument that the Web keeps us all hyperconnected and networked no matter what. Well, it matters, connectivity, at least, in Europe, is not as pervasive as what most folks feel, and if you have been reading my recent business trips across several European countries, it’s more of a wider issue than anything else, not necessarily related to a specific country or local region.
It bugs me. I tell you, it bugs me quite a lot, actually, because, last week, I realised how I was no longer capable of accessing the most precious thing that makes the Internet a wonderful thing: free information. And I don’t mean free as in you don’t have to pay for it. I mean it from the perspective of no longer being capable of accessing free flows of information to allow me to get my work done in an effective and efficient manner. Never mind the good amount of conversations I could no longer have in terms of nurturing and continuing to build my personal business relationships, including blogging away over here, which I couldn’t, as some of you have well observed through offline interactions.
Ugly. Very ugly state of things, if we have to keep depending on that reliability of connectivity for that major shift of the knowledge workforce that’s already well underway, where more and more people are becoming remote employees, or even no longer attached to companies but doing freelance work, and still needing to have that connection to the Web. That shift is not going to change, nor disappear, but to accelerate greatly over the next couple of years and seeing how urban places are starting to become more jammed and overpopulated, it’s going to be a huge issue if those remote workers from small, rural places can’t keep connected in a reliable manner. Or if, all of a sudden, ISPs decide to sacrifice their quality service to reduce costs or companies decide that good, robust VPN solutions are not worth the investment anymore, therefore forcing their remote employees to trash off the flexibility they once had and return back to the traditional office, no matter at what costs.
Of course, we have got email to fix that problem. I am sure you all have been thinking about that very same thought all along while reading this article, and, to be frank, no, we don’t. Email will not solve the problem, because, yes, you can work offline through your mailbox and everything, but you still need the connectivity to send those emails across and when exchanging large rich media files, or presentations, proposals, status project reports and what not; you are going to have a need for a rather fast and robust network connection. We are no longer in the mid-90s where a regular analogue line could get you through the daily email in a matter of minutes. Plus, I am not sure I would want to venture to state that email is safe in the current workplace just because we don’t have enough broadband capacity or a rather robust VPN set of solutions. It would be just totally wrong and for a good number of reasons.
We need to step up, we need to level up the game and start embracing the fact that over the course of time, the vast majority of your companies’ work is going to be executed, done and dealt with by people who are not working at the traditional office anymore, and, as such, we would need to ensure they are reliably connected to the Web to get their work done. As more and more of us progress further away from firewalls and internal protected networks into the Open Social Web, I guess we would be saying good-bye to VPNs, but then again, if you have been watching the news over the course of the last few months, and, lately, in the last week or so, you would know how some conversations would still need to take place in a secure, private, protected space, although still open and accessible to everyone concerned (i.e. employees, customers and business partners, for that matter).
So the need for ISPs to understand how freelancers work remotely and how much they rely on that network connection for a whole lot more than just sending an email, also correlates to the need from businesses to understand how critical good, reliable VPN connections are to allow those employees to stay connected in a world that’s become more virtual, distributed and remote than ever. Upping the game will get us all there, eventually. Not doing anything, though, thinking things will be all right, after all, will help us go into a Dark Age I doubt we’d ever be able to recover from accordingly. All of us.
Now, imagine if all ISPs, while they are going to become more under pressure over time, decide to take us through on to those dark ages … for good. Imagine, if, all of a sudden, after seeing last few weeks’ global events all over the place (Take your pick as there are a lot of those to choose from!) things just collapse. Just like that. Well, don’t imagine it. Let’s just work really hard on not making it happen any time soon, because somehow the trend keeps showing how we are heading towards that collapse, without remedy. I know, I know, I don’t plan to finish off this article with a negative thought of what might happen. Instead, I would want to finish it off with a rather outrageous, optimistic and heretic trend of thought on what’s at stake at this point in time, so please do allow me to leave you with this absolutely stunning, rather inspiring and incredibly thought-provoking presentation from one of my favourite thinkers of the 21st century that I just can’t have enough of in terms of showing the way of where we are heading, not only in the business world, but in our society. Check out Manuel Castells‘ recent RSA speech on “Networks of Outrage and Hope“, which will also confirm, for that matter, why social networking is here to stay and for a good few years, not only as matter of expressing yourself, but perhaps altogether as a matter of finding a new purpose, a new focus and a new meaning altogether: a better world for all of us.
Social Analytics. Don’t you just love it? Oh, metrics, what would we do without you in the business world, right? They are the main reason, apparently, of our mere existence in a corporate environment. And, lately, attempting to measure the Return On Investment of Social / Open Business has been grabbing most of attention in the last 3 to 5 years, but perhaps for all of the wrong reasons altogether, since time and time again we just seem to keep focusing on “measuring what’s easy as opposed to what’s important“.
Just like with technology, we seem to have developed, over the course of the last few decades, a fetish for trying to measure everything, and I mean everything, that happens around us, specially, in a business context, because, apparently, that’s the main only criteria we are using in order to improve the thing we are measuring in the first place. And it’s been rather interesting to see how over the course of that time, and more vehemently as of late, we seem to have dropped the whole topic altogether on measuring the ROI of social technologies, which is quite intriguing on its own, since it seems to confirm it’s been pretty much useless all along, since it is no longer possible to revert back on our Adaptation to Open Business practices. They are here to stay and it’s just a matter of when, not anymore about how, what or why.
Yes, I know, change is inevitable, after all, and the only thing we can do, eventually, is delay it. That’s probably the main reason as to why very few people are continuing to question the value of social networking for business. It seems like everyone has finally come to terms with the fact that, whether we like it or not, Social / Open is here to stay. But things weren’t always like that in the past. In fact, there have been numerous different articles, insightful blog posts, inspiring dissertations and what not, that have attempted to come up with a good, smart way of hinting how we may eventually measure the effective use of Social / Open Business. Pretty much like we did with Knowledge Management over 18 years ago and that we still haven’t managed to get it right, after all of that time. Somehow, I keep making the connection that perhaps we have attempted to measure what we shouldn’t have in the first place and instead we should have put our efforts in helping out, plenty more, with that adaptation to Open Business.
As usual, Seth Godin, in perhaps one of the top blog posts from 2013 (Yes, I know, that’s how good it is), pretty much nailed the whole argument around what has been the current state of affairs in terms of measurements within the business world. To quote:
“As an organization grows and industrializes, it’s tempting to simplify things for the troops. Find a goal, make it a number and measure it until it gets better. In most organizations, the thing you measure is the thing that will improve.“
Not much that I can share across after such brilliant reflection, other than perhaps add further up one other key element that seems to describe, pretty well, what may drive that kind of industrialised mentality: inertia. As in why change what has worked in the last few decades, right? Well, wrong. That’s the problem, it hasn’t worked out all right, because more than anything else what’s happened is that we have diverted our attention away from the real thing and just decided to muse on what’s easy, i.e. the low hanging fruit, what we can quantify in an effortless manner iteration after iteration. But Seth states it much more beautifully with this brilliant conclusion that I half referenced above already. To quote again:
“Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.”
So, what can you do then? What’s important? Well, lately, to me, for a good number of months, it’s been down to two things: Results and Relationships. As you may have noticed, none of those really focus on measuring the use of the digital tools at our disposal, which seems to be what most social analytics efforts focus on at the moment. Somehow I suspect we need to perhaps level up the game and start focusing on what kinds of measures, if any, at all, we would need in order to quantify the effectiveness of not just using social tools, i.e. the low hanging fruit, but the bigger challenge: the modelling of new behaviours. That adaptation to new ways of smarter work I have been mentioning for a little while now and which I think would be much more relevant.
That’s exactly what I am focusing on at the moment, at work. Not necessarily on measuring the easy bits, in terms of adaptation and enablement, but more on trying to identify how the power of storytelling could help us provide a much more meaningful and empowering method to quantify and measure those results and relationships. How? Through sharing of stories, of insightful anecdotal evidence of how knowledge workers have been capable of transforming the way they work by addressing business problems and fixing them adapting to new social / open gestures while getting their day to day work done in an effective, productive manner.
The fascinating thing about this shift is that over the course of the last few months I have started to notice how business storytelling is starting to make (big) waves into the corporate world in terms of how it’s helping organisations understand what an effective method it is not only to facilitate knowledge transfer or innovation, or to give meaning, or to improve employee engagement, or to progress further, but also to capture such knowledge in a much more noteworthy manner that could help out everyone make sense of it all in much more profound ways through a key element that I am incredibly excited about seeing it emerge time and time again lately: Narrative.
Every single business out there needs one. And perhaps if there is anything good that Open Business is facilitating at this stage it’s that huge opportunity to help inspire the creation of that narrative that employees cannot only identify with, but breathe it, as part of their new fabric, their DNA on how they work, eventually, something that I am 100% sure doesn’t just happen with the low hanging fruit metrics. Why? Because we can’t relate to numbers and figures out of context. We can relate though to people sharing their stories, connecting, collaborating, sharing their knowledge openly with one another, to eventually produce better business outcomes by working together smarter, not necessarily harder.
Networked and hyperconnected.
Oh, and if you are interested in the whole topic around Narrative, please do allow me to point you to one of the First Thinkers on the topic who, just recently, put together, a series of 3 blog posts that I can certainly recommend everyone to go and spend some time reading, and reflecting further along, on the huge potential impact of narrative in the business world. Neither of those three posts would leave you indifferent, I can tell you that. Here you have them Aspects of Narrative Work: Part I, Part II and Part III by the one and only: Dave Snowden.
[Thanks ever so much, Dave, for generously sharing them along with us!]
It looks like this is the year of Transformation, of Change, of Thinking Forward -out of the box- in terms of what may well be awaiting us in the next 5 to 10 years, within the corporate world, trying to figure out what next. Or, better said, where to next. You would remember how at the beginning of the year I decided, for myself, to start making the move away from Social Business into Open Business, and how, just recently, I also decided to move further along from driving adoption of Social Business into facilitating the adaptation to Open Business. Exciting journeys so far, for sure, more specifically, from the perspective of how both concepts (Although not necessarily rather new) are already starting to catch people’s attention in terms of how organisations could as well be provoking their own business transformation just like it is happening in our very own societies, all around a single key concept: The Era of Open.
Indeed, it is undeniable how the whole mantra of being open, specially, in a business context, is starting to catch up plenty of steam and a whole lot of attention , more than anything else, perhaps, as a reflection of what’s happening out there with a good number of global (or local, for that matter!) events, where more and more knowledge workers (AND citizens) are demanding a whole lot more openness and transparency in terms of how organisations across sectors and industries actually function around their day to day business operations. It’s been fascinating to witness how the current financial econoclypse, the social unrest, the massive workforce shift and those very same global events I referenced above are leaving a profound mark in terms of how it may well be about a good time now for the corporate world at large to re-gain back that social responsibility towards society through becoming more open and transparent in how they operate as well as how they communicate.
Open vs. Closed. That’s it, really. That’s what it is all about. “Connected, messy, loose and open“, as my good friend, Harold Jarche, wrote about brilliantly a couple of months back. It’s essentially what the Open Social Web is helping provoke on a scale that’s going to be rather tough to stop, but also to ignore, or neglect, specially, seeing the huge impact those open collaboration platforms will have over the next couple of years, if not already. And I am sure that, at this point in time, you may be pondering about going a couple of steps even further and start thinking about Radical Transparency. Or Radical Openness for that matter.
I can imagine how a good number of people out there may have just gone, a little bit, into panic mode when reading above about radical transparency. The thing is that we don’t know (yet) whether it might help out the business world to come back in good shape aiming as sustainable growth, or to help re-define a whole bunch of the business operating models (and processes) carried on from the 20th century that would help us address a good bunch of the business problems we still face today. Take, for instance, employee engagement: still the number #1 business problem in today’s corporate world.
The thing is that Radical Transparency can be really good for employee engagement, as David Zinger wrote nicely about earlier on this year, picking up from a piece from HBR under the rather enticing and suggestive heading of “Why Radical Transparency Is Good Business“. The challenge, as I have written about a couple of times already, and I am sure most folks out there would be thinking along these terms, too, by now, is How Open Is Too Open?
Ahhh, the limits and the limitations. They always have to be with us, don’t they? The constraints that little by little keep regulating and overruling our lives, whether at work or on a personal level. Those constraints that once they start being part of our own comfort zone(s) it’s almost impossible to get rid of them in order to keep evolving along. That’s what’s stopping us at the moment from progressing further into exploring that whole new Era of Open. Jacob Morgan pretty much nailed it when he recently blogged about it and what it would mean. To quote:
“We talk about openness, transparency, and sharing, but how far would we be willing to go with it? Would you feel comfortable working in an all glass building where people can see everything you do and every move you make? I do believe that organizations need to be much more open and transparent but there’s a balance that needs to be struck here“
Yes, indeed, there may well be a need for a balance at some point, in terms of how open and transparent you would want to become over the course of time. The thing though is that I have always believed that people should not be transparent. It’s organisations the ones that need to be transparent. And the more radical they are in that approach, the more each and everyone of us would benefit from it. This is essentially all about how much you would want to protect and hoard your own knowledge as an organisation understanding that what may have worked relatively well in the 20th century does not guarantee it will work the same in the 21st century. In fact, it won’t. That’s why we need to provoke that mindset shift from sharing knowledge on a “need to know” basis into “default to open” or, basically, sharing publicly everything by default unless you have been told otherwise.
That being told otherwise pretty much refers to what I think is the only one use case scenario for which organisations may still want to hoard and protect their knowledge. That is, when that piece of content truly is confidential and of a rather sensitive nature. Mind you, you should still challenge it a great deal, if you feel that what may have been flagged as confidential in the past, may not necessarily mean it needs to be in the present or near future. Remember, the more that you may be able to share out in the open, the more visibility, the more re-findability, the more reuse your content will go through. And that’s a good thing.
That’s essentially why I am such a huge fan of both mantras “narrate your work” and “working out loud“, without forgetting for that matter “Observable Work“. In my new job role, the rate of confidential, rather sensitive information I am exposed to on a daily basis has increased quite a bit from my former role, yet, time and time again, I keep challenging my own assumptions and those of others in terms of opening up and what it would mean for our overall efforts if we do. Vast majority of times I have discovered how the reason why people may not want to share their knowledge and information is not necessarily because they may not want to, but more because of inertia taking over with mutual agreements along the lines of “Yes, that’s how we have been doing business over here for a while and we never thought about questioning or challenging its status quo, because we thought it was all right. It was working“. Well, obviously, it’s not. Because if it were, I could guarantee you that we would not be having the good number of the business problems, challenges and what not we keep facing day in day out.
Jacob, later on in the article, quoted: “Being open and transparent is a scary yet interesting thing but as with everything else there needs to be a balance” and I keep thinking that perhaps that balance needs to be a bit unbalanced after all. Yes, of course, it’s going to be scary. After all, it’s new ground, within the business world, that we are trying to cover over here, right? I mean, when was the last time you heard of an organisation, the larger, the better, whose main mantras were to become more porous enough to permeate throughout on both openness and transparency? I haven’t heard of many so far, when trying to strike that balance. Yet the potential for that unbalance is massive, and here I am thinking that perhaps one of the things we could do is to get started with it and aim for radical openness instead. The one Jason Silva shares across in this absolutely exhilarating, inspiring, refreshing and thrilling short video clip:
What do you think? Ready for some yet?
About a year ago, I put together an article where I was reflecting on the fact of how plenty of the early thinkers of Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business, the social evangelists, were starting to become rather scarce and very rare to be seen out there on the Social Web. So I wondered where were they? Well, a year later, I think I may well know now where some of them are. Doing perhaps the very same thing that most of us would not have expected and find somewhat rather strange: getting their work done protecting their turf.
Almost a year later, my good friend Euan Semple pretty much nailed it when a couple of months back he put together this rather insightful and very thought-provoking piece under the suggestive title “Defend your mess“, where he stated what happens when people begin to notice your efforts, as a social business evangelist, facilitating the adaptation to social networking behaviours in your business. To quote:
“But it was beginning to be noticed by other people; people who were less experienced on the web; people who liked things tidy and organised. We came under pressure to make the forum more structured. They wanted a structure that reflected the organisational structure at the time. They thought that people would find it difficult to navigate if it didn’t follow the familiar patterns“
I guess nowadays it’s what most people would be calling Collaboration, but this time around happening through social software tools. In fact, for vast majority of practitioners social / open business is all about, and just about, collaborating with your peers, although perhaps nowadays with a fancier set of collaborative and knowledge sharing tools. So if you look into it, it seems that we are still putting lots of lipstick on the pig, because apparently we don’t seem to have progressed much from that obsession of living social into what I feel is much more interesting and exciting altogether: Transformation.
In another superb, and worth while reading article, Matt Ridings, pretty much detailed what the challenges are in terms of how enticed we may have become with diving into social business, but perhaps not pushing far enough in terms of provoking that social business transformation I just mentioned above. To quote:
“My frustration lies not in their understanding of ‘what’ a social business looks like, but rather their lack of understanding in ‘how’ an organization can make that transition. The prevailing view seems to be that if we simply show companies what all the benefits and traits are that they will simply ‘become’ those things. ”The organizational culture must change!”, “The technologies must be put into place!”, “The hierarchy and silos must fall!”.
While all true to one degree or another, these are still statements of ‘what’ must happen and not ‘how’. The most important factor missing here is a ‘why’. Why have organizations evolved in the way they have? It is only through understanding that evolution that one can design and justify a means of effectively changing it.“
I suppose I know now where a good number of those social business evangelists are hanging out nowadays. They are not necessarily hiding out behind the firewall, as it may well have been perceived for a while, nor are they bored with the whole thing and decided to move on, but, on the contrary, they are fighting the good fight, “defending their mess”, as Euan mentioned on that article, by helping those new to this whole brave new world of social / open business to get it right. To think different. To live different. To adapt to a completely new world where business interactions are totally opposite to whatever has happened in the past. And this is where the challenge comes up, because those new to social / open business are those very same laggards who have been waiting long enough to see how they could structure, control and manage the whole experience through rather tight, strict and cumbersome business process that certainly don’t allow those chaotic, unstructured, networked, hyperconnected behaviours, that social networking tools inspire, to flourish and disrupt the entire organisation around the edges into a new way of thinking. That one of Openness and Transparency.
And that’s why organisational, or team, silos keep flourishing more often than not, even today, despite plenty of efforts that have been tried for a long while to be done with them once and for all. Yet, that doesn’t seem to have happened as we keep seeing how more and more practitioners keep claiming that for as long as they are collaborating they are doing social business. Well, not really, because, eventually, we are not changing much of our own behaviours in terms of how we have traditionally collaborated and shared our knowledge, even though the tools suite is different, much different.
This is where I feel we are going to have one of the biggest challenges yet to be seen within the corporate world, because on the one hand the social / open business evangelists are excited all of their efforts, hard work and energy are, finally, at long last, becoming mainstream within their own organisations, so they are all rather excited about it. And, in a way, they have started to let it go, thinking things would be all right as they just start to look after themselves. And then on the other hand, we are starting to see how that mainstream is just absorbing all of that effort structuring it, formalising it, and establishing a rather tight and strict series of business processes around social that, if anything, are starting to strangle all of that emergent flavour that social networking for business has been having all along and bringing it down to its knees and, once again, straight back into the organisational silos, what we have been traditionally calling collaboration.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I am pretty much in favour of collaboration and knowledge sharing. I have always believed it’s what dictates the mere survival of every single organisation in today’s more complex than ever world. However, what I have been seeing for a good couple of years now is how by having social business become more mainstream within the corporate world the kind of collaboration that’s encouraged is that one that we know just far too well: the one happening in small, private, secretive, opaque teams that pretty much don’t care about anything else that’s happening around them. And that’s just wrong, because it’s proving we may not have learned much over the course of the years in terms of what we should be aiming at: Open Collaboration, across silos, organisational units, geographies, countries and what not. Porous organisations swarming around, anyone?
Yes, silos are good, they are there for a reason. They have a purpose. We should treasure and nurture them, but, at the same time, we should also challenge their own existence, thinking that, unless you have a pretty good reason to have that silo, where you would want to protect specific knowledge flows because of the confidentiality or sensitivity of the information, then there isn’t a reason to have one and this is what I feel us, social / open business evangelists, should be fighting for in terms of “defending our mess”, i.e. fighting our turf. Or as Euan himself stated brilliantly:
“Don’t let people try to tidy up your internal use of social too soon. At least let it find its feet before you start worrying about mess. Mess is in the eye of the beholder.
Part of your job as the instigator of social in your organisation is to defend it. You are there to keep reactive forces at bay until the tool achieves a robust enough culture to look after itself. This will probably take years.“
And that is exactly one of the main reasons why you may not have seen much of me, and a whole bunch of other social evangelists, out there on the Social Web in the last little while. I, too, have embarked on keeping up that fight, more than anything else, because I am just not ready yet to let go all of that hard work, energy and strong effort put together over the last decade around Social / Open for then seeing some bean counters, lawyers and social wanna be pundits destroy all of that work of emerging digital tools helping transform the way we do business, just because they want to get their way, ignoring everything / everyone else. Yes, somehow I suppose that ignorance has always been very brave, if you know what I mean.
No, it doesn’t mean all of a sudden I have become anti-social either, not at all. Perhaps I am now even stronger and more committed to the cause than ever before. My good friend Greg Lowe described it pretty well in a recent tweet he shared across:
Please don’t confuse busy with anti-social. Unsuccessfully trying to find that balance.
— Greg Lowe (@Greg2dot0) May 23, 2013
Yes, indeed, I am not too sure whether I am, myself, succeeding as well in terms of finding that balance now that my interactions behind the firewall seem to have taken a life of its own in terms of me needing to focus on internal work rather than spending time on the Social Web out there. In fact, I am starting to think that, given how things are moving along, I may just need to resort my external exposure to those idle moments in between work and personal life where I can dip in my toes, see what’s going on out there, get a breather or two, raise my social periscope up, see what my extended networks have been up to, and if I don’t see them, by any chance, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that they are probably just defending their mess, just like I am doing myself, or as Matt himself concluded:
“These leaders need help. They face a difficult task balancing the competing interests at play. While I suppose you could measure their effectiveness based upon whether they are tweeting or not, might I suggest they have plenty of other things on their plate that are more important“
That’s it. That’s what it is all about! Don’t worry, we are not gone, we may have gone silent for a bit, at times, it may look as if we have just disappeared, but we will always be there. It’s just that we are ensuring that social / open business transformation doesn’t get bastardised, once again, just like Knowledge Management did 18 years ago, when vendors and consultants decided, on behalf of all of us, that KM was all about team work and siloed collaboration. This time around it’s vendors (Once again), along with marketers, bean counters, lawyers and command and control, process driven zealots, the ones who keep insisting on designing and shaping up the workplace of the future thinking they know better than everyone else, no matter if you have been there for a long while.
Well, we are not going to let go that easily this time around, are we? Some of us have learned from that KM past and, somehow, I suspect we are not very willing to go and commit the very same mistakes, once again. There is just plenty at stake at this point time. Essentially, the workplace of the future:
If I were to highlight one of my favourite and preferred traits from the world of Social / Open Business and the single one that perhaps makes it all worth while the effort and energy spent on already, it would be that one from a concept that’s been out there for a while, since 1970, to be more precise, and which has been truly inspirational to me in terms of how I have lived Social Networking all along, ever since I first bumped into it a few years back. I have blogged about it several times as well and I guess today’s blog post is not going to be the last one either, I am sure. Of course, I am talking about Servant Leadership and its inherent nature of having a purpose to serve.
Robert K Greenleaf first coined “Servant Leadership” in a 1970 essay and defined it as follows:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“
Now, if you look into it and start digging deeper, way beyond the social media marketing / vendor funnels and what not, you would notice how the Social Web aims pretty much at the very same goal: “that natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first“, to help out others in need, essentially. Yes, once again, it’s all about the givers. It’s always been about the givers.
The truly fascinating thing is that more and more we keep coming up with wonderfully inspiring examples of what servant leaders are all about in this Digital Age and we get to find out, and experience!, their true leadership. They are very conscious of their purpose to serve others. They are naturally open to share their knowledge, to collaborate, to help others learn about their own environment, their own contexts, their own selves. Essentially, through the use of these digital tools they lead by example in demonstrating actively the huge potential and impact of the Social Web in each and everyone of us in our society. Never mind in a work environment.
Take a look into Commander Chris Hadfield, for instance, as one of my favourite examples as of late of what servant leaders are all about. It probably doesn’t get any better than this, that is, him performing a Space Oddity cover (Click here to listen to David Bowie’s original track in Spotify, if you would be interested) where he gets to share with us a glimpse of the world from high above, a glimpse of what it is like being part of our collective human history:
I know, and fully realise, how plenty of people out there would be saying that this is just another cool video / cover of a brilliant track. Not much of a merit on that one. Well, yes, it may well be just another video clip, but how many video clips do you get to watch during the course of your lifetime where an astronaut is playing music and singing beautifully from out of space sharing that strong purpose to serve across the world reminding us why we are here on Earth in the first place? Well, to make a difference. And he certainly has!
But it gets better, because of the course of the weekend, and while doing some casual catchup reading, I bumped into this interview he gave after he returned back to Earth. And it’s probably one of the most inspiring, thought-provoking and delightful interviews you may be watching this year:
The interview lasts for a bit over 11 minutes and it’s worth every second in terms of what it is like being an astronaut in today’s Digital Age and the kind of impact personal experiences can have when you make use of those digital tools to reach out to people, engage with them, share and show them how there are plenty of powerful ways of how you can impact people’s lives, if you set your purpose to it. His description of how he uses social media tools (From minute 5:15 onwards) is just brilliant in terms of one single key message that I took out of it: sharing the experience.
Yes, indeed, that’s what all of these digital tools are all about, i.e. connect with others who share our very same passions and share the experiences, and, as a result of it, create some more magic. Yes, when I grow up, I, too, want to become an astronaut.
Actually, a servant leader, digital astronaut.
As I have mentioned in a recent blog post, you would remember how I have now moved into a new job role within IBM, as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections (both internal and external), where I am much more heavily involved with IBM’s knowledge workers’ own adoption efforts of social business and social technologies. So far, the journey has been incredibly fascinating, if anything, because we are just about to enter the last stage of Social Business Adoption and Enablement: Adaptation. And this is the best part, frankly, I am not really too sure we are ready for it just yet.
If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you would know how I have been involved with social networking tools since early 2000 to 2001 when I was first exposed to instances of wikis and people aggregators. And throughout all of that time I have seen a good number of different tipping points and different phases of adoption that have marked a rather interesting evolution into helping social networking for business become the new fabric, the new DNA, of the company in terms of how we collaborate and share our knowledge. There have been plenty of interesting and relevant challenges, and yet, the toughest is still awaiting us.
Having been involved with social networks inside the company from right at the beginning has given me the opportunity to witness how different waves of adopters have been able to embrace social technologies, at their own pace, in order to help themselves become more collaborative and effective by ways of opening up their knowledge sharing processes. At the same time, it has allowed me to witness how over the course of time those waves of adopters are getting narrower and narrower. Early adopters, first, second, third waves of adopters have all gone through that transformation of how they work and everything. And while there have been some good challenges, I feel the most pressing ones are yet to come. And for two different reasons:
The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics
The first one is that the one or two waves of adopters who still have got to make it across are probably the most intriguing, because they are the ones whom in another blog post I have called The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics. Yes, these are those knowledge workers who have already tried and played with social networking tools in some form or shape, and who have definitely heard and have been exposed to social networking and they weren’t very convinced. In fact, quite the opposite. It just didn’t click for them. They saw it, they dived in, it didn’t meet their needs and wants and they moved on back to where they were.
Slowly, but steadily, they turned themselves into skeptics with the earned right to voice out their concerns, issues and what not, in order to make the point across that they are not going to make the change over, no matter what. At least, for now, or till the point where things have changed and shifted so radically they won’t have a choice anymore.
And while I think you folks may highlight that as a potential issue in terms of the overall social business adoption strategy, it’s perhaps the one group left we should not try to keep convincing of what lies ahead, but let them re-discover it at their own pace and everything, over and over again till it hits, if needed be, at their own time, at their own pace. Indeed, there will always be different waves of adopters and each and everyone of us, social software evangelists, should be ok with that. The sooner we are, the much better of we will all be eventually. If not, we are the ones who have got an issue, because we are just not working hard enough to understand their context and different working styles and adjust accordingly.
Social Business Mandates
The second reason, which is the one that has got me extremely worried at the moment, is that one where we have failed in inspiring to transform our very own knowledge workforce and switched gears thinking that Social Business Transformation can be accelerated by mandating its adoption, whether you, the knowledge worker, like it or not. Yes, I know we are all excited and rather committed to provoke the change, no matter what, even if we decide to go ahead and mandate such shift. But it is just so flawed, it’s scary. Very scary altogether, because it just shows how we haven’t learned much in the last decade.
Social Business transformation is not a project team, it’s not something that you start by date X and you finish it off in a year or two. And then you are done and time for you to move elsewhere. It’s not something that you put together with a group of folks picked up by you to force it down to the rest of the employee workforce, just because you are in one part of the organisation that feels it’s entitled to push down those corporate mandates. Specially, onto those who still haven’t made the switch-over.
It just doesn’t work like that, I am afraid. Even more so when those corporate mandates are pushed down into people’s throats by that executive hierarchical structure understanding they are entitled to do so, just because of who they are and the position they hold. No, I am really sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that. Today’s corporate environment is a whole lot different than what it was 10 to 15 years ago.
In the world of social networking for business it’s never been about mandating and forcing certain behaviours or a specific mindset (That one of Openness, for instance). It has always been a personal, individual choice of the knowledge worker him/herself to have a play, to try things out, to find new ways of working where openness, transparency, trust, etc. become the norm in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate effectively together. And it will always be that: *a* personal choice.
So I cringe, and I die a little bit inside as well for that matter, whenever I bump into a group of fellow colleagues who have been mandated by their corporate executive(s) to use social software tools, or, else! Or, even worse, when knowledge workers are expecting to be told / mandated by their management teams that they must do it, or else. Yes, I admit it, it drives me a little bit crazy as well, because it sounds as if they have failed to inspire to transform and, instead, use their position, power and entitlement to enforce it, so that they could put a little checkmark, right next to their yearly performance evaluation, that they have been social and time to move on.
And if there is anything wrong with that is that they have enforced the very same kind of mentality and behaviours that social business has been trying to fight all along: corporate politics, bullying, power struggles and hierarchical clashes. And it gets even worse when they have mandating their team(s) to become social and yet they haven’t even explored it themselves, can’t be bothered arguing all of this social networking stuff was not meant for them or whatever other lame excuse. Whoahhh? Really? Is that what *you* really think?
See? To me, that’s the main key difference between a manager, ruling by command and control using their position of power and entitlement, and a true leader, inspiring a new behaviour, a new mindset, walking the talk, taking the lead, while learning by doing, on what all of these social networking behaviours are all about and which this snapshot shared below (Courtesy of 9GAG) captures it very nicely:
The biggest challenge with all of that is not that senior leadership, no longer believing in the power to transform through being a living example of the shift, but it is actually the folks, right underneath those executives, who execute those orders, because they want to please the command from the ranks above. Never mind thinking about questioning the validity of such assertions, or challenging the status quo of something they know it’s wrong, or even rebelling against it since they know very well it just won’t work. It’s just as if they have drunk so much kook-aid from the whole thing that they are still drunk with it and can’t see anything around them anymore.
And this is where the corporate rebel side of me, the hippie 2.0, the heretic, the outrageous and optimist free radical me is coming back and in full force to fight it back as much as I possibly can, because I feel that if I don’t do it, no-one will question it, and everyone will just basically conform with it. No, we shouldn’t.
We should keep up the fight and help out our leadership, regardless of the company (As I am sure there are plenty of businesses out there going through the very same thing as I get to write these few thoughts), understand their new leadership role, that one of being servant leaders, that one of provoking that social business transformation by themselves and for themselves first, as a personal experience, so that they can comprehend better the new dynamics of engagement, those where “knowledge is power” transforms itself into “knowledge SHARED is power”, where traditional command and control management progresses through into doing is believing leadership.
And this is exactly what excites me about my job, that, 12 years later, I still feel like I am just getting started with my social networking evangelism efforts, that there is just so much more to explore, discover, play with, learn and experience that we are just starting to scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg. The difference between today and those many years back though, is that I have now got all of those years of additional experience, skills, knowhow, pragmatic way of 2.0 thinking and so forth that I can apply further along that I have finally decided to make the switch from Adoption and move on…
Earlier on this year, you would remember that blog post I put together on me making the move away from Social Business into Open Business, well, a mere 5 months later, I am making the move from Adoption into Adaptation, which I think is much more appropriate for what all of the business world is trying to do with Social Business. We are not doing Adoption per se anymore, specially, driving adoption. Instead, we open up the door to adaptation, where we help knowledge workers adapt to a new way of working, where we become more open by nature, more transparent, more trustworthy, hyperconnected, networked, engaged, participative and so on by doing something we, human beings, have always been very good at: sharing our knowledge.
The Industrial Age neglected our ability to adapt. Instead we became machines; robots and drones capable of putting together a massive amount of silly hours working really hard, without applying too much (critical) thinking, or even questioning the status quo, so that we could just get a pay check at the end of the month, hoping that one of those years we might potentially become part of the executive chain that everyone aspires to because we feel things would be much better. No, they were’t.
Indeed, things never got better for the vast majority, only for the very very few. In fact, they got worse, because with the current work pressures people are behaving even more like corporate drones understanding that if they don’t put enough hours during the work week (7 days a week!) they may get fired altogether together for not being productive enough. How flawed is that? I mean, how can we keep ignoring over 150 years of research on what’s obvious?
Perhaps we should get fired. Maybe we need to go through that massively rude awakening to understand how we need to go back to basics: our very own human nature. They say that we are one of the very few species in this world that can adapt adequately to any given environment, no matter how harsh it may well be. Well, perhaps we may not have adapted well enough to a corporate environment where we have been eaten up alive by the status quo, because we just haven’t challenged it well enough like we have done with other environments.
The difference between last 50 years and now is that for the first time ever, we have got the tools, the social technologies, to help us provoke that transformation of how we do business and how we should behave in the new business world that aims at sustainable growth, equity, parity, earned merit, digital reputation, etc. and how the sooner we may be switch from adoption to adaptation, from corporate mandates to servant leadership, from corporate drones into human beings with an ability to think and make beautiful things, the much better our societies would become as a result of it. Not just for each and everyone of us, but for many future generations to come.
It’s the least we can all do. Adapt for our mere survival as a species. The race has already started a while ago. The clock is ticking and faster than ever… Think, inspire and execute. Don’t waste any more time trying to conform with a status quo that was never meant to be. Challenge it by helping people understand and fully embrace how they can adapt to a new reality. Their own reality.
Remember that life is just too short to have to conform with a status quo you never believed in, nor adapted to, in the first place. It’s now a good time to level up the game and demonstrate what we are all capable of in terms of adapting social business gestures to how we work.
Indeed, doing is believing!
Adaptation: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”
We live in rather interesting, intriguing, complex, uncertain and wonderful times. We surely do. We live in times of extreme negatives juxtaposing themselves with extreme positives. We live in times where the Social Web has become that amplifier of (global / local) events, of our passions, of our emotions, of an unnerving polarisation of opinions and beliefs, where tolerance, compassion, empathy and caring, some times, all shine for their absence. Just like in the real world. Where did we leave all of those characteristics behind in our human nature? Have we forgotten what makes us all, human beings, unique in this world, where we have been given an exclusive, uncompromising, cherished opportunity to enjoy and celebrate it accordingly? Where have we left behind our innate social nature? Is there any hope left? Please do tell me there is. Please. Do.
In times where the world seems to keep rejoicing on narrating rather painful and excruciatingly demoralising extreme negatives, I just can’t help but for the rebellious and hippie 2.0 side of me to come out and fight back in search of extreme positives. I guess there is a reality out there that we may not be able to escape, tame nor mitigate, even, in terms of the amount of pain and suffering one might get exposed to, or suffer themselves, but the thing is that I am starting to feel it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight back. There is hope. There needs to be hope. Otherwise, what’s the alternative?
I do apologise to those folks who may be reading this blog post today, as I am fully aware it may well not be the article they were expecting. I know this is the kind of philosophical reflection that’s very rare to see in this blog, but I just couldn’t help fighting back. Please bear with me. I need to get it out of my system. Then things will be back to normal, the new post-normal. Like I said, having seen the unnerving (That word again!) increase of extreme negatives we all keep getting exposed to in our daily lives, I want to strongly believe there is a different way. A much different way. A better way. For all of us.
And there is, apparently. Phew! I am really glad there is. I surely needed this extreme positive to compensate. I guess serendipity just decided to do its own magic once again, right when one needs it the most. Earlier on this week, and coming through my Google Plus stream, I bumped into this absolutely delightful, energising, refreshing, inspiring, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking YouTube video clip, that I am sure that once you all watch it through in its entirety it will restore your own faith in humanity. It surely did for me. If anything, because of that strong sense of hope permeating throughout the entire clip of the true potential we can achieve with that amplifier effect that is the Social Web.
In an age of polarisation, balance is key. It will always be. And although I certainly realise that video contains lots of kool-aid about us, human beings, it’s also undeniable that we are more than capable. Yes, indeed, we are capable of the most horrifying things, BUT, at the same time, we are more than capable of the most wonderful things. And that’s the reason I wanted to share this blog entry across to perhaps use it as a gentle reminder for us all about what we are here for. Remember? We live in rather interesting times. For real. We should just seek each and every single opportunity we may have to make a difference, to have an impact, to share, not through those negative experiences, since they are always the easy way out, but focus more on the positive ones. The ones that allow us to understand the negative being turned into a positive.
Those experiences that the Social Web has helped us treasure over the course of time with that amplifier effect of what we could all achieve if we just put our mind and intent into it. That’s just what the Digital / Social (R)evolution is all about. And, if not, judge for yourselves. Hit Play, sit back, pump up the volume, watch AND enjoy what we are capable of. Today:
See? There is hope. We, too, can do better. Much better. All of us. No exceptions. I guess we just need to be reminded every now and then that right when an extreme negative happens there is another extreme positive in the making just right around the corner. And perhaps that is the intent of this reflection in this post, that, whether we like it or not those negatives may always be with us all, as part of our daily lives, but I guess it’s also going to be up to us to decide how we are going to amplify them, or not, by making a much smarter, sharable, responsible and thoughtful use of the digital tools at our disposal.
Welcome to the Social (R)evolution!
Happy birthday, mum! [I love you very much!]
Fascinating topic, don’t you think? And here we are, still in 2013, and already thinking about what the workplace of the future would be like by 2020. Well, one thing for sure is that it won’t be anything like we have today or what we may have had over the course of the last 50 years. Even more, I am suspecting that over the course of time, if not happening already today, we are going to make a very healthy split between work and jobs. Because, you know, they are not the same, no matter what people keep telling you. They have never been the same. And, certainly, with the emergence of digital tools that split is even more natural and in full accordance with a new reality: work is you, you are the work.
So what is the future of You? What is the future of work then? It seems that lately there have been lots and lots of interesting and rather relevant insights shared across, i.e. blog posts, articles, mainstream news, insightful whitepapers and whatever else, shared across by folks who have embarked themselves into redefining how we should be looking at work from here onwards over the course of time and also from the perspective of how we are rethinking the role of jobs, even to the point of perhaps venturing whether it’s worth while quitting yours and move on to the next big adventure (Highly recommended and superb read by Irvin Wladawsky-Berger, by the way). Uncertainty will be there. Uncertainty is always there. But that’s perhaps a good thing, because it’s essentially what helps us progress further into the unknown while we keep rethinking what we will all want to be doing as work.
Long gone are the times where we were aiming for long term careers and their big aspirations, for loyalty to a specific business or company, for a long-term opportunity to have an impact over the course of decades. Long gone are the times where knowledge workers were aiming at fitting in within a working environment for which they were perhaps not ready for it, while carrying on their work, with very little motivation, waiting for the payslip at the end of the month. Hummm, well, maybe this one is not gone just yet. But perhaps it is a clear indication already as to why certain jobs need to be questioned and redefined in the context of whether they are still purposeful or meaningful altogether. After all, and this is what I keep telling people all around, we only have got one single life, so it is probably a fair game we all try to make the most out of it, don’t you think?
Lou Adler has also got a rather thought-provoking article on a similar topic under the suggesting heading of “There Are Only Four Jobs in the Whole World – Are You in the Right One?” where he proposes how those four jobs are the following ones: Producers, Improvers, Builders and Thinkers. Go ahead and read it through, as it will certainly be rather helpful in understanding what your current job may well be about and it will confirm whether you might be on the right one, or not. Interestingly enough, while I read it myself, I just couldn’t help thinking how in today’s more complex than ever working environment each and everyone of us may eventually be doing the four jobs at the same time depending on the context of the task at hand, which is essentially what keeps driving us all into achieving our goals: that purpose and meaning I mentioned above, along with the right context in such a hyperconnected, networked (business) world.
And to that effect, while I keep reflecting myself on the future of work, I thought I would point you to a recent article that my good friend Jemima Gibbons worked on over at “What will “work” look like in 2020?” where she gathered a good bunch of folks sharing their insights on how they see themselves the workplace of the future. Some pretty interesting insights with key concepts like Intrapreneurship and its impact behind the corporate firewall (By William Higham); or the redefinition of work from a physical space / office into a state of mind where work life integration play a rather key, paramount role (By Karen Mattison) towards sustainable growth; or how the convergence of cloud, mobile and social (Along with the “Internet of Things”) will inspire more contractual / freelance work helping organisations become more liquid, hybrid while knowledge workers become freer and more autonomous around their work, owning it and co-sharing that responsibility (By David Terrar); or how knowledge workers will no longer be talking about adoption of new technologies, but more a key concept that I have become rather fond of myself over time and which I find also rather descriptive in terms of where I feel the key is of how we redefine work, that is, how do we adapt to this new digital work environment to make the best out of it, as in how well do we adapt to change (By Helen Keegan).
Like I said, lots of great, relevant insights and plenty of key pointers that surely highlight where we may be heading to over the course of time. Jemima asked me as well whether I would be able to contribute with my ¢2 and, of course, I couldn’t reject such generous offer so I added a short paragraph that explains what’s been in my mind for a while in terms of what I sense the future of work would be like in the not so distant future … So I thought I would go ahead and finish off this article by taking the liberty of quoting it across:
“In the future, work will be more distributed and remote – technology means that people will be able to work from wherever they want to. Work processes will be driven by interactions from workers through networks and communities rather than traditional company hierarchies. Large enterprises will no longer need to exist, because of the nature of the hyper-connected and networked workforce. Trust between workers will be more essential than ever – and critical for success. People will find new meaning and purpose through building strong personal business relationships: the key objective for everyone will be sustainable growth.“
So what will “work” look like in 2020 for you? Care to venture and share a comment or two on what it may well be like? Perhaps in a few years we can come back to this blog post and see how accurate our perceptions were after all. Or not. Something tells me the journey is going to be just as fascinating, inspiring and refreshing as the final destination, if not more altogether! Why? Well, because for the first time in decades it will be us, knowledge (Web) workers, the ones who can choose what we would want it it to be.
And that’s a good thing. After all, work is us, we are the work.
I am not too sure whether meetings lower our IQ or whether they make us all more stupid, as my good friend Stowe Boyd reflected on a recent blog post, but I can certainly confirm they do take a toll on your own productivity. Specially, when those meetings are not set up by you, but by everyone else, and therefore making you lose the control, once again, in terms of one of the most precious things all of us, knowledge workers, have that we don’t seem to treasure well enough: Time. Attention management, indeed, is the new currency and it looks like meetings want to keep having that special place in our day to day workload in terms of grabbing most of it: our attention, that is. But perhaps enough is enough. Just like 5 years ago I started challenging the status quo of corporate email with the “A World Without eMail” movement, I think this week it’s a good time to start its follow-up: Life Without Meetings.
I still haven’t settled up on picking up the hashtag I will be using from here onwards to identify the movement (More than happy to read suggestions in the comments, please!), but I am certainly more than willing to getting started with this new initiative, in terms of wanting to improve my own productivity by what appears to be, right now, my biggest time sink while at work: meetings, specially remote meetings. And here is the funny thing. You may be thinking that one of the disadvantages of having moved into this new job as Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM is that I basically spend far too much time meeting up with my new team. Well, that’s not really accurate.
I do meet up with my team, don’t take me wrong, and I enjoy those meetings since they only happen a couple of times here and there per week. In fact, if I were to count the hours I spend on those team meetings it would be probably about 5 to 7 hours per week, which doesn’t sound too bad if I consider the 40 hours of work. Indeed, the issue is not the meetings I have with my immediate team colleagues, but the meetings provoked by everyone else. Specially, from other teams, in other organisations and business units, in other projects with their own agenda, never minding your own. And in this case that is when I do have an issue, because, amongst several other things, they are inconsiderate enough to not be aware of your own work, your own agenda, time, availability and willingness to participate in their projects.
I never use those meeting invite thingies because having a diary full of things that other people are in control of fills me with horror!
— Euan Semple (@euan) April 18, 2013
If you notice, there are plenty of similarities with some of the various different issues that I have highlighted over the last few years in terms of how we keep abusing email through our bad habits and behaviours in a successful effort to try to kill each other’s productivity. Well, apparently, the same thing happens with meetings. Or, perhaps not.
When I was in my previous project I used to average about 10 to 15 hours of meetings per week. Nowadays I am doing between 25 to 30 hours of meetings. About 5 to 7 hours of those are dedicated to team meetings and the rest are remote ones solicited by other teams that want to abuse and take advantage of my reduced attention management span to sneak in. And over the last couple of weeks I am starting to think that the main reason why knowledge workers seem to have an obsession with hosting meetings (Specially, back to back, or what I have learned to call very descriptively as meetings galore) is not that necessarily down to work, but perhaps to a couple of other reasons:
- If you are in the office, meetings are usually put together because you want to see people face to face and play the corresponding political, empowerment and bullying games that you have been taught about really well over the course of time.
- If you are working remotely, like from your home office, or at a customer site, or while travelling, the main reason why people host those remote meetings is because (I know I am going to be very blunt and rather bold on this one, so bear with me) people feel lonely at work, isolated, disengaged with what happens “at the office”, distrusted, disempowered because they are just not there and therefore they provoke those meetings so they can have a good chance at disrupting that and show that they, too, count!
Of course, they do. We all do. But there are different ways of showing and demonstrating that. And perhaps meetings are not the best option anymore. We, human beings, have been stuck in meetings for thousands of years I would think and if you come to consider the huge amount of time we have wasted over the course of time for those meetings, think now about the possibilities and the potential of what we would have done with all of that extra time.
There have been several attempts to try and fix the way we host and conduct meetings in an effort to make them effective. I am sure you, too, may have got your own hints and tips on how to make them work, and I would love to read some more about it in the comments, so feel free to share your best tips. Lately, I am playing myself with a couple of options: creating buffers, participate in meetings no longer than 30 minutes and be ruthless in terms of how many meetings I can participate in during the course of a working day. In my case I set that threshold in 4 hours of meetings per day. Maximum (with the odd exception here and there, of course).
But, apparently, that doesn’t seem to work very well, because I still spend between 25 to 30 hours of meetings per week. Last week, for instance, 26.75 hours were just spent on conference calls participating and hosting meetings. Not good enough, I am afraid. And not good enough not because the meetings may have been rather helpful and useful overall, which they were, but more from the perspective that vast majority of them did *not* need to take place, since we could carry out the work offline and rather effectively.
And this is where I am going to jump in and kick off that movement of “Life Without Meetings“. Because all along I have felt that the vast majority of meetings wouldn’t need to take place if knowledge workers would make a much more effective use of social networking tools for business. You know, All Hands Meetings, Cadence Calls, Weekly Team Meetings, Status Project Reports, Monthly Calls and what not can eventually be conducted and rather effectively through various different social technologies.
Never mind as well how by shifting gears and moving the interactions of those meetings into social networking tools we would have the opportunity to get rid of the two main reasons I mentioned above as to why we are so obsessed with hosting meetings at the moment. You see? We don’t need so show up at meetings to play those political, empowerment and bullying games. We have got work to do. By relying (heavily) on social software tools, if anything, we would never have that strong feeling of being isolated, or ignored, or neglected, as remote employees. Quite the opposite. If there is anything that social networking shines and thrives at is helping us all stay connected, regardless of where we may well be in the world.
And that’s the main reason why I am now ready to kick off this particular initiative where over the course of time I have decided to strive for that goal of seeing the number of meetings I participate in go down to those levels of 10 to 15 hours per week. If I can hit 10 or less, even better. But we have got to get started somewhere, don’t you think? And that’s why from here onwards, and every now and then, depending on the frequency, I will be blogging about different techniques knowledge workers can put in practice to reduce the amount of time they spend in meetings, so that they can carry on with their work. And perhaps I’ll kick things off with a bold statement in terms of sharing with everyone what meetings, to me, should be all about, whether face to face or remote ones: decision making. Anything else, it’s just a waste of time, resources and precious talent that could be working on something much more interesting, relevant, purposeful and meaningful altogether.
So, there! I said it. If you come to think about it, we have spent already a huge amount of time on theorising how we could improve the way we host, both online remote meetings and face to face ones. Everyone seems to have an opinion, or an infographic, as to how to make them better. And that’s just a wonderful thing. I guess what we would need to do next, eventually, is acknowledge that it’s a good time now for action to start re-thinking how we would want to keep hosting and conducting meetings in an effective manner, instead of thinking they are one of most poignant productivity drains within the corporate world. We already know that. Let’s move on. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, get down to work and change the way we get work done through meetings by realising that work does *not* happen when we meet. So how much time do we want to keep wasting away drifting our attention to them instead of figuring out perhaps different ways, methods, techniques of how social / open business tools can help us re-gain our productivity back.
In the recent past, we have already done it for email, so there is no reason, perhaps not even an excuse anymore, why we couldn’t do the same thing for meetings and shape them up the way we would want them to by asking perhaps the first initial key question: What’s the purpose of the meeting? How are you planning on achieving that purpose, and, most importantly, can social technologies help achieve the same goals? Because if they do, there is no need to conduct that meeting any longer. We would then have to redefine again the true meaning of meetings, because the current one is already obsolete, and utterly broken, to match today’s complex collaborative and open knowledge sharing working environment. So, we better get our hands dirty and get down to business. It’s time for us all, knowledge workers, to take back responsibility, buckle up and own them again, as Seth Godin brilliantly quoted not long ago:
“Somewhere along the way, meetings changed into events where we wait for someone to take responsibility (while everyone else dives for cover).
How would you do it differently if the building were burning down? Because it is.”
Finally, an Open Business without meetings.
I am game! … And you?
Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit around the topic of Social / Open Business Transformation. Something completely different to what we may have experienced so far in the last three to four years on living social for the sake of social, which is perhaps what we pretty much keep seeing today all over the place. Instead, I keep pondering about how we can transform and redefine the way we do business through our day to day workflow(s) and if there is an idea that keeps coming back stronger by the day is that one of perhaps facilitating the transition from document-centric collaboration into a people-centric one. Essentially, making the successful transition from content is king to people AND their conversations are king.
This whole reflection was triggered, once more, when earlier on today I bumped into this rather intriguing and refreshing article by Conor Neill under the heading “Amazon Staff Meetings: “No PowerPoint”” where it comments how Amazon apparently no longer advocates for PowerPoint-led meetings and instead they require people to read memos, while present at the meetings, as an opportunity to elaborate deeper thoughts and perhaps a bit more involvement from the meeting attendees themselves while going through a specific set of agenda items. Somehow I still feel that I’m missing something on that approach to transform how we work through the meetings we held till I eventually remembered this brilliant article by Aleh Cherp where he states what I think is the main problem with that document-centric computing we all seem to be very good at. To quote:
“Les Posen, a psychologist and the author of Presentation Magic recently hosted on MPU Episode 111 explained this point very well. He said that the presentations are becoming a de-personalized knowledge transfer tool, supposed to be used without seeing or listening to the presenter. Such presentations can be sent around so that even other people can speak to the same ‘powerpoints’. People become unnecessary. ‘Powerpoints’ become omnipresent and omnipotent. This is where the frontline of the battle is, not whether to choose Mac or PC but whether to respect your topic and your audience so highly as not to leave them to the mercy of power points.” [Emphasis mine]
How spot on! What a superb observation! Nothing more to add, really.
This is exactly the point where plenty of our document-centric social collaboration keeps failing to deliver, time and time again, in terms of helping us out provoke that social / open business transformation we are all embarked on and where people are right at the centre of the equation, and very much needed, still. Apparently, it’s not happening, because we all keep being engaged on the influx of exchanging attachments, presentations, documents, spreadsheets, etc. that been sent around through either traditional tools like *cough* email *cough* or Instant Messaging or, even worse, through social file sharing services.
As such, it looks like we are ignoring people, but, most worrying, we are ignoring their conversations and their rapid, free access to information in order to make better decisions, without having to handle additional frictions. Have you measured the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours we spend every year just processing attachments or shared documents, when, for instance, we could have used that precious time for something much more relevant and insightful? Don’t worry, I know it’s just too mind-boggling to even think about that, but you know what I mean. Yes, indeed, “The root of suffering is attachment” – The Buddha, as my good friend, Prof. Paul Jones wonderfully stated a few days back.
Now, imagine this, imagine that use case scenario where we obviously have the need to generate a specific piece of content and to share it with others. Imagine that instead of just trapping that knowledge inside a document-based format, which is always going to be tougher to process and digest accordingly, we actually decide to set it up out there, free from any restrictions or unnecessary frictions, through the use of social software tools like blogs, wikis, forums, activities, social bookmarks, and what not. Imagine if instead of being stuck trying to open up a document, you have its contents readily available on that one single pager (Or maybe two) and you would just need to do a single click, and you are there.
Imagine that. Just for a minute, and while you keep elaborating further up on that thought, let me tell you what would happen: people-centric computing (Or collaboration around and amongst people, for that matter). Indeed, people, all of a sudden, become the centre of attention. Specially, the conversations they are entertaining with other collaborators around that specific piece of content stored on a Web site (a blog post, a link, a wiki page, an activity) where all of a sudden knowledge transfer accelerates tremendously, where frictions are non-existent and where everyone participating from that set of interactions are on the same page. When was the last time that you had that happening around a document itself without wondering who may have the latest copy, or how many duplicates are out there, or who should be updating what content in that document based on the feedback scattered all over the place?
This is actually one of the many reasons why about two years ago I decided to declare war on document-centric computing, specially, for public speaking events when the output was going to be trapped in a file. Why should we? Why can’t we just elaborate on our thoughts through all of these powerful social collaboration tools that have got almost no friction in terms of helping accelerate our decision making process by not just having the right information at the right time, but also with the right audiences, i.e. your peers (colleagues, customers, or business partners) engaging on some meaningful conversations to get our work done.
“You do not have a conversation to get work done; the conversation is the work“
And in our social / open business transformation, that’s perhaps the main problem that we have in terms of why we may not have moved from Social into Open, from Social into Work, from Social documents into People.
Fortunately, this one is an easy one to address. At least, I think so. People keep saying that practitioners who would want to shine and thrive around Social / Open Business need to put together a good bunch of relevant and insightful use cases that would help them progress further with that transformation. Well, next time that you are required, or requested to trap your own knowledge into a file, think about it twice. Think about how perhaps you could achieve that very same goal through the use of a blog post, or a microblog entry, or a wiki page, or just an activity. Whatever. Just think that next time that someone asks you to document something, you may as well come back stating that, instead, you want to have a conversation about a post you shared online in your favourite social networking space for business.
Chances are that, right there, without you not knowing, you may have just gotten started with your own Social / Open Business Transformation. One that would affect not just your day to day work interactions, but also those from those knowledge workers around you. And that’s when things would get really interesting, because we would then finally be able to confirm that that transformation happens through our very own behaviours and mindset, which is what open business is all about. The technology, finally, will become what it should have been all along: an enabler to facilitate conversations amongst knowledge workers to get that activity, that ask, done in a timely and effective manner.
That doesn’t seem to be that difficult, don’t you think? Thus what are you waiting for to put together that blog post or that other wiki page?
Or, to put it in other words, automation of your social networking presence. That worrying topic has been in my mind for quite a while, and, lately, even more so, specially, seeing how plenty of people continue to automate, even further along, their online digital footprints with the argument, amongst several others, that they have got to do it, because they just can’t find the time anymore to make it happen in a natural, authentic, self-driven manner. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s a topic that worries me, because we are then running the risk of commoditising our very own online presence(s). And what for? Is it worth it? Probably not. Have we forgotten that with social networking for business we are all in it for the long run? Versus just the quick win of a few hundred followers or a quick sell through that automated post? Where did we leave behind the social business transformation?
For a good couple of years this is a topic that has started to concern me more and more, since I have begun to notice how plenty of times when you start engaging through online social networking tools, specially, on the Social Web, you bump into a whole bunch of interesting posts with relevant links, only to respond back, with the hope of starting off, or following, a conversation, and then to find out that no-one is at the other end, after all. In fact, they have all left and they have just got bots / machines doing the work for them. Pretty much like we have been doing with email for a good few years. And just like we commoditised email back in the day, it’s starting to look like we are commoditising social networking for business along the very same lines.
Where did we go wrong? Why do we have to keep up with that constant urge towards busyness (and bursting online activity) vs. pause, reflection and adding relevant value where it may apply into the overall conversation? Haven’t we learned from the recent past? I mean, haven’t we learned that social networking tools are just not another marketing channel, but purely a conversation amongst peers on a common interest and with a strong urge to connect further along? Have we forgotten how for a conversation to take place out there in digital channels both parties need to be present and for real, like the authentic you and your thoughts, versus just another bot doing the work for you? And that if one of the two parties is not there, for whatever the reason, there is nothing wrong with that? It’s part of your overall digital footprint that we seem to keep forgetting about time and time again, but both providing value and being silent are two sides of the same coin, that is, you, that we all take and accept gladly. Thus why do we keep it up? It’s just unsustainable, rather insane and perhaps a bit tad disappointing that whenever you decide to participate in online conversations because you feel that people are there sharing along, you find out they left the building long while ago!
I am surely glad I am not the only one thinking about this relevant and important topic, specially, from the perspective that once we may have industrialised social networking I suspect it will be just too late to revert back. Mike Allton shares similar reflections on a rather interesting article under the suggestive heading of “How to Destroy Your Social Media Credibility through Automation“. An article that I can certainly recommend and which keeps reminding me as well how silly such automation can well be for a specific brand (And that includes your own personal brand for that matter) when you have got an automated digital presence and all of a sudden a global event (Specially, if it is an extreme negative) changes the whole game on what you have been trying to share out there, and portrait, when you are gone, but that everyone else can see the true, harsh reality: it’s no longer the authentic you and your messages, but those of a bot which schedules posts to show up on whatever the frequency.
Now, this has also been a topic that has been in my mind over the last few weeks, specially, when I moved into a new job inside IBM that has provoked a shift of focus from external interactions into internal ones mainly. During all of this time I have been thinking hard about what I would want to do, whether I would want to automate part of my digital external footprint, or just disappear into thin air with that new focus area of behind the firewall interactions. It’s not an easy one, for sure, because in most cases people expect you to be out there, and, if you aren’t, things aren’t going to be the same anymore. It’s starting to look like if you are not out there, online, sharing along, whatever that may well be, you are no longer worth it, because you won’t be showing up in their streams as often as you are doing nowadays. Have you ever felt that feeling of abandonment? It will come. In fact, that’s the main reason why I feel most knowledge workers have automated their own online social media presences; that is, to show they are still there, even just for the sake of it (never mind the value), even though they are not.
Is that what I want to do with my own digital footprint? To sacrifice it and automate it in such a way that whenever I would share something it would no longer be me, the real me? I know how this issue may not concern plenty of people out there about their own digital footprint, but it does concern me. Last thing that I would want to do is to lose that authenticity and honesty in terms of being you behind your online digital tools’ presence. I am actually thinking that at that point, I may as well just go dormant and stop sharing altogether.
Thus while reflecting further along on this topic, I actually realised that I may not need to do anything that drastic altogether or, even, automate my way out of being an active 2.0 practitioner, specially, in the Social Web. And in this particular case it’s interesting to see how the clue was provided to me by one particular social software tool that most folks still keep being rather keen on terminating it. Yes, of course, I am talking about blogging. I am talking about how blogging helps every knowledge worker out there to realise that in terms of social networking for business, we are all in it for the long run! And, as such, it’s ok, it’s actually, advisable, to take time off. To go for periods of silence where things happen around you, but that people still know you are there, even if remote. To go for that relatively short, or long, hiatus, where things take another course, where the focus shifts elsewhere because the job requires it to a certain extent.
The important thing is to always come back. To help people understand that while you may have been quiet sharing along those insights, opinions, conversations and what not, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not reading or learning from them, along the way as a lurker. That’s what blogging is wonderful about. It allows you to have pause, to reflect on what really matters, and to shape up your own online digital footprint sharing what you feel provides the most business value in your interactions. Blogging lives on a different pace altogether and while this year, later on in December, I will be celebrating my 10th year blogging anniversary, I guess I still feel I’m just learning so much from that writing experience of one’s opinions and reflections that there is always something new out there.
So much so that I am sure you may have noticed how I have become a little bit quieter, more than usual, in one of my Big Three social networking tools for business: Twitter, while I have kept up with the online interactions and exchange for the other two (IBM Connections and Google Plus). The blog is different, because it’s an integral part of me, it’s an extension of my brain, my thoughts, my experiences, my know-how, my digital self-being and, as such, it will always be there. However, just like some times in the recent past, I may take a few days off from blogging, I know I’ll always be coming back to it. And I am starting to think that this may well be the very same approach I will adopt for other social networking tools, where I will become a whole lot more focused, purposeful and meaningful on how I interact thinking that while keeping up a presence out there may well be rather good, I think I am going in for the long run, for sharing in smaller portions part of what’s in my mind at the time, but ensuring that it is me the one sharing it and not whatever the bot in place.
That’s part of the dialogue, the authenticity, and the brutal honesty to share across that while I am fully aware I will not be able to keep up with the same pace of interactions held online, externally, outside the firewall, like I have been doing in the last few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t no longer find me. I’m there. I will be there. It’s just that I am thinking I’ll be focusing more on pausing, reading and reflecting on what other folks share across, and keep quiet myself unless I have got something really useful and valuable to share out there.
I guess you could call it an attempt to redefine your own online digital footprint and personal brand, when things at work take a radical shift towards behind the firewall interactions. Perhaps that’s indeed what I have been thinking about. And in terms of the choice I would go for that I feel would represent me better I am thinking that I prefer to go silent and learn from others reading along than to automate an online presence that I know won’t be fair to anyone out there anymore, including me, since you are probably going to expect me and yet I won’t be there. Well, I will be. But in a different shape. I will be reacting, I will be conversing and participating, but with pause, challenging myself on how I can keep up adding value, versus adding unnecessary noise and pollution to already existing digital channels that I am sure we all have been having enough with lately.
Thus if you see me going quiet for a relative period of time, don’t worry, I am not gone, I am not hiding, I am not giving up on my external social presence just like that. I am just listening and learning, from the lurker side of things, knowing that what I’m after is having that opportunity to continue build and nurture those personal online business relationships, but without industrialising it all, nevertheless still keeping up with that same authenticity, openness, transparency and engagement that I always thought was the best part of social networking tools. It’s just that this time around it’s becoming a whole lot more focused and on target of what I would want to do: keeping up with the learning curve of the networks I am part of by amplifying what I think provides value vs. just adding more unnecessary irrelevancy. I think I’m going to spare you all having to go through that. Something tells me that, in the long term, we will all be much better off …
What do you think? Think automation of your own online digital presence has had a significant impact that you would want to share along with us? Has it helped you? Has it damaged the health and trust of your social networks? I would love to learn more what you think in the comments, please… Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. As usual, they are *greatly* appreciated.
Summer time is usually one of the busiest times of the year for me in terms of extra curricular work related activities. I know that this may sound a bit weird, but it’s actually rather accurate. While most folks keep enjoying their summer vacation, or a relatively quieter time anyway, my busyness increases a notch or two! And it’s actually quite fine. I have been enjoying it for a good few years already, more than anything else, because of a particular activity that helps me advance forward and take a good peek into what the workplace of the future would be like in the next 10 to 15 years, where I am hoping I’ll still be employed by then. And what activity would that one be? -you may be wondering, right? Well, engaging with the next breed of Leaders: (young) students working through their PhDs thesis on Social Business or Org. Change Management, amongst several others subjects…
Indeed, it all started around 2006 and 2007 when all of a sudden I began to notice how plenty of PhD students were contacting me, through whatever the means, asking for help, advice, coaching, interviews and what not, because of the research they were doing around Social Business. Most of them found me through Google.com (Yes, I know, I am the one who doesn’t bite other people!), mainly landing into this blog. Before I knew it, I was approached by them asking me whether I would be willing to help them out with their PhD thesis. And that continued to repeat itself over the course of the years.
In fact, and most folks may not know this, but one of the sources of inspiration as to why I kicked off the Life Without eMail movement, over 5 years ago, was eventually from my interactions with those younger generations and how they live AND work through a different set of collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. Never mind their different mindset and behaviours. Yes, I know what you are going to say… I, too, don’t believe much on the digital divide or the generations divide, however, they do have something special in terms of how they get work done. For instance, throughout all of these years I have been working with hundreds of students I never, ever, exchanged a single email with them and yet not only did we get work done, but for some of them, those who decided to come and join IBM afterwards, they eventually did so and they are now my colleagues. And very soon, I am 100% certain of that, they might be rather my boss, my executive or, who knows, even my next CEO.
I know that in times where we are busier than ever at work, all of us for that matter, where time and work pressures are massive for everyone and where we are asked to keep delivering more and more with less and less, it’s surprising for most folks why I keep saying Yes! to that activity when in reality most knowledge workers out there in the corporate world would kindly decline helping out with the argument they are just too busy. Goodness, they don’t know it just yet, but right there, they are closing down the door to find out plenty more what the workplace of the future is going to be like. Starting today.
Even more, they are closing down the door to find out what their next leaders would be like for their own work, how they are going to re-define the workplace through those social technologies, networks and communities, and with one particularly interesting aspect, that those potential new leaders who live and thrive on building strong personal trustworthy relationships, when they get there they usually tend to remember who helped them out when they were starting up and who didn’t. Yes, that’s how the hyperconnected, networked business world will start operating in the near future, if not today already altogether.
Are you ready? I surely hope so, because if there is anything that I have learned throughout the years interacting with those younger generations, both inside and outside of IBM, is that they are not going to wait. Not for you, not for me. Not for everyone else for that matter. It’s how they live. It’s how they operate. And that’s what I really find fascinating, because it’s through those networked interactions that one gets to learn how if you decide to be part of the pack, you are more than welcome. If you decide instead to do your own thing, that’s fine, they will move on without you. It’s just like when senior subject matter experts decide to cling together to their ivory tower related mantra of “Knowledge is power” and they refuse to share their expertise. I keep telling them how long would you think it’s going to take a group of younger folks to recreate their knowledge just good enough to get by and rebuild from there? It’s rather interesting how these wonderfully different working styles collide and clash with one another in an attempt to come up with something better, because there is always something better.
Thus here we go with the question again. Do you think you are ready to face that side of the corporate knowledge workforce, that I read somewhere that by 2020 they will be about 75% of the active working population? Yes, 75%. Well, if not, just yet, allow me to share a couple of resources that I am sure you will find rather interesting at best. The first one is this blog post by Frederic Gonzalo under the suggestive title “Social Media Defined by Kids” where he reflects on a short video clip where a bunch of young kids (That generation that will probably be part of the active workplace between 2020 and 2025 approx.) talks about what they themselves understand about Social Media. Very nice, witty, smart, fun, and insightful video on its own:
Did you notice the remark about email? If not, watch it again; it’s worth it. Yes, indeed, that’s the kind of knowledge workforce that’s just already entering the workplace already today, except that by the time they themselves join the acceleration and pace of the adaptation to social technologies will probably be complete. Vast majority of those generations and working styles will have adapted by then. The workplace will be ready for them by them.
In the mean time though, let me share with you all one other resource that I think would fit in perfectly in terms of where we are today within the corporate world, in terms of having multiple generations and working styles at play. It’s a presentation put together by my good friend Professor Paul Jones who I had the great pleasure of co-sharing the remote stage (Along with Robert Shaw from ATOS) through a webinar, organised by IORG, where we talked about Information Overload and what it is like living in a world without email. I would encourage you all to take a look into slides #9 and #10 to get a taste of what’s coming (If not already there!) and, even better, if you can spare 51 minutes you can actually go through the entire recording of the event, which I am going to embed over here, in case you may want to hit Play right away (See embedded code at the end of this blog entry):
If you would just want to jump ahead and listen to Paul himself delivering those slides that he used, fast forward to minute 25, 16 seconds, and watch it through from there onwards. Very inspiring to see how the very same trends that the world of Academia are experiencing are also starting to become more palpable within the corporate world. That’s what I meant earlier on about the impact of social networking tools for business along with the younger generations and, perhaps, why I would want to add a final piece of advice for knowledge workers out there: next time a PhD student approaches you to help them with their thesis, remember that very very soon they may end up being your boss, your executive, or, even your new CEO.
Thus choose wisely
[Oh, and if you would want to read through another interesting discussion on a similar topic, i.e. younger generations and their education in today's more complex world than ever, have a look into "I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate"]
There have been a lot of people who, over the course of the last few months, have been asking me whatever happened to that initiative I started a while ago around ditching corporate email (Under the moniker “A World Without eMail“), since things seem to have been a bit quiet over here in this blog for a little while on that very same subject. Did I give up on giving up on corporate email? Did I get tired of it and moved back to email? Was the experiment a total failure? Did I get tired of it and move on to something else? What happened? Well, nothing and a lot! The movement is still alive and kicking. It’s now more popular than ever and it’s still going as strong as ever, if not more! To the point where it’s now evolved into what will be the next stage and my new focus area: Life Without eMail.
A couple of months back I was talking about this with one of my fellow IBM colleagues, and very good friend, Rawn Shah, and while brainstorming on something that I am hoping to be able to share very soon (Which I am sure plenty of folks out there have been waiting for it for a while!), we thought it was time for me to help the movement evolve into something much more exciting: going personal. Indeed, instead of focusing on the whole world, which may have been a bit too ambitious and perhaps over demanding on everyone as in too large to cover, I am switching gears and instead adopt a new mantra towards it: Life Without eMail.
Why? Well, mainly because if there is anything that I have learned over the course of time, and, specially, in the last couple of years, is that the world doesn’t use email. People do. So if someone would want to free their life up of the email yoke it’s got to start with people. We are the ones who should, and need!, to break that chain. The (corporate) world is not going to do it. It’s just far too comfortable keeping up the status quo of abuse, political and bullying games just as it is. It’s a matter of divide and conquer. And so far email is winning, at least, according to some folks, although I reserve the right to disagree with those statements, specially, when we start separating email as a content repository from email as an alert / notification system (BACN anyone?). Either way, that’s why I feel it’s probably a good time to move on to the next challenge. To design a new kind of work, a new mindset of work habits that would inspire each and everyone of us to become much more collaborative and keen on sharing our knowledge out there openly through digital tools, whatever those may well be.
So, instead of just focusing on the world itself, it’s time to focus on the people, the knowledge (Web) workers, to help them free themselves up from what may have been stopping their passion to pursue something bigger, much bigger, for themselves. That is why from this year onwards I will be talking about going personal with Life Without eMail.
It’s no coincidence either, really. Because those of you folks who may have been following this blog for a while would realise now how, a couple of months ago, we just went through the 5th year anniversary since I first started “Thinking Outside the Inbox“, then how it evolved into “A World Without eMail” and how it all comes back to basics, eventually: that is, live a successful, purposeful, effective and rather productive work life without depending so much on corporate email. Indeed, I can’t believe it either myself that February 15th 2013 marked the 5th year anniversary of an initiative for which a large chunk of people thought I would be fired from my current work within two weeks, thinking I was just plain crazy, and, instead, here I am, 5 years on and having a real blast with it.
Of course, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way, and there are still plenty of them ahead of us, but, if there is anything that I have learned in the last year, since my last progress report update, and even more so in the last few months, is that this movement is now unstoppable. And that’s why I thought it would be a good time to put together this blog entry where I could reflect on what has happened since the last update I published over here, where we are moving forward and what surprises do I have reserved for you folks, because I do have a couple of them…
But let’s start with the beginning. First, let me assure you that although this article is going to be a bit long (Remember, it’s a yearly update hehe), it is not going to be as massive as the last one I put together by the beginning of last year. This time around I am just going to focus on giving you folks an update on what’s happened in the last 12 months, then share some further details on a new experiment I have conducted last year that I am sure you would all enjoy learning some more about it and after all of that we will go through the surprises I have got prepared for you. So, let’s begin…
A World Without eMail – Year 5 – Progress Report
If you remember, in the last blog entry on the topic I mentioned, for the previous year, how the average of incoming emails I had over the course of the whole year was down to 16 emails per week, which is roughly about 2 emails per day. So, as you can see, I wasn’t capable of killing email per se as most folks have been saying all along, specially, when I am being introduced at a public speaking event. However, if I look into what I used to have before I started this initiative there has been a decrease of up to 98% of the total volume of inbound email, which I guess it’s just not too shabby when thinking about how 5 years ago I received a total amount of 1647 incoming emails and last year only 798.
No, that’s right. eMail is not dead and it’s far from being dead, despite what some other folks may have been claiming all along. This is something that I have been saying all along myself, too! eMail still has got its place in the corporate world. More specifically in three different contexts or, as I call them, use cases. To name:
- Universal Identifier (For whenever you need to sign up for a new service)
- Calendaring and Scheduling of events in your agenda (Most of those meetings, appointments seem to come through email still).
- 1:1 Confidential, sensitive exchanges (HR, Legal, Financial matters would be prime examples for this use case. Notice how I mention 1:1 and not 1:many confidential emails, by the way, more than anything else, because as soon as you include more than one person it’s no longer confidential. You never know where it will go next and who may leak the information across)
However, beyond those three use cases, there isn’t an excuse anymore to move the vast majority of our interactions into more open social, collaborative, knowledge sharing spaces: digital tools. And this is when it is getting really exciting, because, despite the various different reports that indicate how email use has gone sky high through the roof, here I am to confirm how not only the number of incoming emails for yours truly has remained steady, but it actually decreased for the 5th consecutive year, ending up at barely 15 per week. Yes, barley 15 per week and if it weren’t for a couple of weeks where that traffic experimented a certain peak I would have been on 14 emails received per week! Too funny, as an anecdote, that one of those weeks was the very same one that 5 years ago it also triggered the giving up on corporate email by yours truly!
Here’s the full report of the entire year, where you can see the maximum number of emails received for one day, and the minimum. And right next to it, you will see as well the comparison with the previous 3 years, so you can have a look into the overall trend from that 4 year period. If you would want to check out the entire progress report into more detail from all of those years go to this link and you will find it there:
Not too bad, I guess, for an initiative that most people thought it was going to be dead within the first two weeks, don’t you think? 5 years on and a Life Without eMail is now a reality. And it can only get better …
Social Networking tools *do* make you ever so much more productive
Over the course of the last 5 years one of the main comments I have been getting all along from those folks who may have been exposed to this movement has been along the lines of how as interesting as it has been moving my work interactions from email into social networking tools, it seems as if the only thing I did was swap from one tool for another. Still the same result. Well, not really. Here is why…
You may have seen that particular piece of research that McKinsey did in 2011 where it mentioned some fascinating insights on our corporate work habits confirming how the average time that most knowledge workers spend just processing email is roughly around 650 hours per year. Yes, I know it may not sound too much, but that’s actually nearly 3 months out of the year people spend it processing email. Now, if you add up the month of vacation approx., we end up with nearly 4 months out of the whole year being spent just working through emails, because you do check out your mailbox while you are away on vacation as well, right?
So earlier on last year I decided to do a little experiment where I would try to measure the time I spend on internal social networkings tools to get my work done and see how that would compare to the time spent doing email. If I would have just switched from one tool into another set of digital tools it would show pretty much the same time spent, right? Well, wrong!
Most of you folks out there know how much of a big fan I am of the pomodoro technique, which I have blogged about a couple of times already. Last year I decided to ruthlessly measure the time I would spend in internal social networking tools in chunks of 25 minute long pomodoros and see how many of those I would accumulate over the course of months. And now that the year has gone by it’s time to share the stunning results.
Over the course of 2012 I have spent 683 pomodoros of 25 minutes each to not only keep up with what was happening around me through social technologies, but at the same time to get my day to day work done. So that means I have spent 17.075 minutes working my way through these digital tools, that is, 284.5 hours approximately. Eventually, resulting in 35.5 days or, in other words, 5 weeks. Yes!, not even a month and a half!! Who would have thought about that, right? But it gets even better…
Because it also means it could save people even more time to do other more productive tasks. These statistics are just from myself, a power user of social networking tools with no scientific method in place. A social computing evangelist at heart. Someone who lives these digital tools, walking the talk, learning by doing. Perhaps the atypical social networker, because that’s where I have moved all of my work related interactions to a great extent. As an example, in our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the average number of connections / contacts fellow IBMers have is roughly around 40 people, approx. For me, I’m currently coming close to 3,280 folks, so you can imagine how my internal networks do not represent the normal and why I strongly believe that those productivity gains in time saved using social tools could be even bigger for vast majority of knowledge workers out there.
Thus what does that all mean? Well, essentially, that next to all of the perks and various benefits I have been sharing around becoming more open, more public, collaborative, flexible, autonomous, transparent, agile, and more responsible for how I work I can now add up that living social / open has made me more than two times as productive as whatever I was 5 years ago! And believe me, this is something that I really appreciate, because, like for everyone else, work does never decrease, but it is always on the increase, so knowing that I have remained over twice as productive over the course of the years, no matter what, has been a splendid and surprising new finding that has made me realised the whole initiative since I got it started 5 years ago with it has been more than worthwhile.
But what do you think yourself? Would you be able to relate to this new experiment yourself as well? Specially, if you have started already that journey of reducing your dependency on email, is it something you can confirm yourself, having experienced similar results, although perhaps not at the same scale as what I have done and described above myself so far? Do you feel it’s a realistic conclusion altogether? I am not claiming it’s a rather scientific experiment, since it isn’t, but I’m starting to think that it could well prove accurate enough to confirm the ever significant impact of social technologies in the corporate world.
The one thing that I do know now is that relying more and more on social networking tools for business to carry out my day to day work does make me much more productive and effective than whatever email claimed to be in the past. And that’s a good thing! Finally, the living proof is there! It’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder. All along. It’s all about making it personal and making it work for you, just like I did for myself. And therefore the new moniker kicking in from now onwards…
Life Without eMail – The Community, The Movement
So, “where to next then?”, you may be wondering by now, right? Well, certainly, I am not going to stop here. Like I said, there is no way back anymore, but onwards! The movement is alive and kicking and we are going to take it into the next level with a couple of surprises I have got for you folks for sticking around following this initiative all along and for being so incredibly supportive over the course of time and for sharing along with me this fascinating journey. Hello and welcome to the Life Without eMail community. The Movement.
Last year’s progress report, you would remember, was rather massive, more than anything else, because I decided to summarise one whole year of progress with a substantial amount of interesting and relevant links about the impact of social networking tools on helping us reduce our dependency on email by a large margin. I talked as well about other companies attempting to do the same, as well as sharing plenty of interesting and relevant links on good practices on using social tools, or fine tuning the email experience to get the most out of it.
Well, this year I am not going to do that. I still have got a bunch of top-notch resources, but instead of sharing them over here in this blog post I decided to eventually gather them all, and over the course of time, share them over at my Scoop.it account that I am in the process of feeding it, as we speak, and where I will continue to add those links over time, so from here onwards you would be able to keep up to date with all of those relevant links I may bump into that would cover this topic of “Life Without eMail” from other people interested in the topic, or writing / talking about it, as well as including articles I may write myself, interviews I may conduct or public speaking events I may well do, so you could have them all in a single place. Starting already today!
But the main surprise is another one I have got prepared for you folks. Plenty of people have been asking me over the course of the years whether there would be a central place where those #lawwe and social networking enthusiasts could gather together to share their own experiences, hints and tips, their know-how, lessons learned, and whatever other activities where they (we) could all learn from one another. And time and time again I have been telling folks there wasn’t a specific space. Till today.
Indeed, along with Prof. Paul Jones, Paul Lancaster and Alan Hamilton, all really good friends and folks who have already embarked on freeing themselves up from the corporate / organisational email yoke as well, we have decided to put together a community space where we could hang out with other folks interested in this movement and help share our very own experiences, know-how, and plenty of practical hints and tips on what it is like having ditched work email for good. The original idea, and due credit, of course, is going to go to Alan Hamilton, who suggested to me some time last year to put together a community space where we could hang out. And while we couldn’t get it sorted out back then, too much going on, as usual, I guess it’s never too late, eh? So thanks ever so much, Alan, for triggering the thought of having an online community for us to get together!
And after much discussion and looking around for some really good solutions that may be available out there, we have all agreed to create this particular community space over in Google Plus Communities. So here’s the link to it:
We hope you would find the time to come and join us in the community, where all of us, me included, will be sharing plenty of our own experiences, as I mentioned above, on how to reduce our inbox clutter while we keep sharing some additional insights on what’s happening in the space of social networking, Social Business and, of course, Open Business and how they keep disrupting the corporate email driven world as we know it. Still today. Our main purpose is to help out knowledge workers become more open, transparent and collaborative through digital tools vs. just keep dragging along through an excessive and perhaps unnecessary abuse of our email habits. I can surely guarantee you it’s going to be a fun ride!
So much so, that if you are really willing and committed to give it a try yourself we will be sharing with you some initial tips by which we can guarantee you that within the first 5 weeks, since you start, you would be able to see your incoming email volume getting reduced by over 80% and without hardly any effort, just applying some methodology I have developed over the course of time and which I am sure you would be able to follow with no problem since it isn’t rocket science, really, but just the trigger to break the chain and to, finally, have that rather rewarding and fulfilling sensation of owning your work, perhaps for the first time in a while!
Will you join us? Remember, 80% reduction of incoming email in just 5 weeks! Here is the link again to the community to get you going and thanks ever so much, once again, for the continued support, for sticking around and for having made these 5 years quite an interesting, inspiring, exciting and rather refreshing time!
Onwards into a Life Without eMail!
[In my next article on this topic, I will be writing about a rather interesting twist that I have gone through this year so far. A hard reset. A reboot from everything that I have done in the last 5 years… But that would be the story for another post soon enough…]
In a work context, I have always been fascinated by transparency. And, lately, even more about radical transparency. I have always believed that if we would have been, all along, a whole lot more transparent in what we do in the corporate business world, the vast majority of the problems that we are currently suffering from, including what I still think is at the #1 spot, Employee Engagement, all of these troubles would be a thing of the past. Yet, they keep lingering around, because, after all, and, in general, we are not too open, nor transparent enough. And it shows. Over the course of the years I have blogged about this topic a good number of times and in the last few weeks, as I am starting to settle in the new job, I have come to the conclusion that it’s going to be that very same openness and transparency the ones that are going to dictate pretty much whether I’ll be successful, or not, in my efforts to help facilitate the adaptation of fellow knowledge workers to the main Open Business principles. Goodness. I love that challenge.
Indeed, I have always felt that unless you are dealing with rather sensitive, private, confidential, work related information (HR, Legal, Copyright, IP Assets, Financial data, etc.), and even then I would question the vast majority of that data to remain opaque, there is no reason for knowledge workers out there to continue to protect and hoard their knowledge, but, instead, they should share it along freely. All along, I have been using the argument that, as a subject matter expert, of my own domain(s), I am always more than keen to go ahead and help out others around me. No questions asked. You know, if I can help, why wouldn’t I want to do that? It’s the least I could do eventually, i.e. to help others become more awesome at what they do, because in doing so I realise fully that I am helping them become more powerful. Now, as a result of that, since a large chunk of those knowledge workers may well be in my / your network(s), if they become more powerful, you become more powerful.
Remember, long gone are the days where you were alone in your own little cubicle, your own little silo, minding your own business, fighting everyone out there, so you could just get ahead of everyone that could get in between you and your quarterly / yearly bonus. Nowadays though it’s becoming more and more apparent how hyperconnected, networked and interconnected we all are, after all. So instead of fighting and competing with one another, there is a huge shift happening, instead, where we are starting to care (and show more empathy) for one another. And all of that thanks to rubbing our virtual shoulders on each other using social technologies to build further up on our own social capital skills: Trust. Indeed, that’s what it is all about. Not much about how much you trust people, but eventually how much they trust you, for who you are, what you do and how you could help them out without asking for much in return.
The thing that interests me the most in terms of radical transparency is that aspect of how different it actually is from Social Business, or from Social for that matter. See? You can be extremely social, over-sharing and making heavy use of these social networking tools for business, but if you don’t share much about what you do, about who you talk to, about your daily tasks, activities and to-dos, about your own frustrations that are stopping you from growing further in your work, about what interests you that relates to your motivations, etc. etc. and instead you just keep sharing along about what other people do, about what you are having for lunch, or that upcoming business trip where you only mention the city you are travelling to, you are just bringing forward the very same good old habits we have become really good at over the last 30 to 50 years. For you, knowledge still is power.
Now, don’t take me wrong, I quite enjoy it when people share those social tidbits, more than anything else, because they are critical towards increasing your own social capital, but from there to essentially keep everything you do hidden away is not doing you any favours in terms of generating strong trustworthy bonds with those who you work the closest with. It’s like I have been saying all along: how can I help you further along, if I don’t know what you are working on?
Last time I checked, I didn’t have telepathic powers (Although I wish I would have them!), so by you not opening up enough in terms of what you do, what you are working on and who you are collaborating with, you are not helping your network(s) help you. In fact, you have just become a barrier. And that’s the whole point behind Open Business and radical transparency. Yes, of course, transparency has got limits and I am sure we all know what they are. But from that to working in a 100% obscure environment, there is a whole grey area in there, waiting to be explored by everyone. And that includes management and executives, for that matter.
Take this one good example from one of my good friends in the space of Social Business and Collaboration, Oscar Berg, who just recently put together this very insightful and rather inspiring blog post on My 7 Work Mantras, where, thanks to item #6 from the list, he ended up with some pretty amazing visualisations done by folks in Oscar’s networks:
@anadatagirl thanks Ana! Since my mantra #6 is to share everything that can be shared, it was time to share my mantras
— Oscar Berg (@oscarberg) April 23, 2013
Or take a look into this other rather insightful blog post by another good friend of mine, Gautam Ghosh, where he is encouraging HR and organisations, in general, for that matter, to accept the new normal: Transparency is here to stay, by demand, not just because of your customers and business partners are asking and demanding it more and more often, but also because your own employees are starting to place those very same demands on transparency upon your own org. Not you as an individual, but the overall organisation itself.
Finally, there are plenty of rather insightful blog posts, articles and other relevant writings and info-graphics around openness and transparency and the impact they are having within the corporate world. See this other one, one of my all time favourites, from the always insightful Rachel Happe, as another example. Feel free to share as well, in the comments, what other ones you have enjoyed the most or that have provided you with additional food for thought on the topic. I would love to read plenty more on this topic.
However, and for now, I would want to finish off this blog post with a rather intriguing, thought provoking and incredibly refreshing YouTube video clip, from Thomas Frey, posted originally in May 2008 (Yes, 5 years ago people were already posted some really amazing content out there on the Social Web!) on this very same topic of Radical Transparency and which has served me as inspiration for the various different blog posts that I am planning on sharing across over here to detail plenty more what my job role is all about as an exercise to continue walking the talk, leading by example, on what has been, to me, one of the main core mantras from over the course of the years in terms of realising an Open Business: narrate your work, working out loud, to facilitate observable work.
Now, apply that to a business context, i.e. your day to day work… and get ready, please!
Because it’s coming …
I cannot believe that, in just a few minutes from now, I will be celebrating the first month anniversary in my new job as the Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM and I hardly did notice how fast and furious it’s gone by. Goodness! One full month already?!? Where did April go? Even more important, what have I been up to during that time? Well, time for an update that I will try to summarise briefly with these few key words to then perhaps expand further along a single key point that has been my major learning throughout the first month on the job: culture clash, hard reset (Or even a Reboot) from last 5 years of living social, octopus effect, Organisation Change Management (a.k.a. OCM), execute, and, finally, meetings galore. But here is my favourite one from them all: a real blast!
Yes, indeed, I have now been one full month in the new job and I can tell you that it’s been quite a culture clash the one I have experienced in these first four weeks. And I know that for most folks out there it’s going to sound like a little bit strange. I mean, how can you go through a culture clash in your new job when you are still working at IBM? Well, that’s what I thought, too! And yet, moving away from the Software Group into the CIO Organisation is like two separate worlds altogether. The challenges, as well as the opportunities, are just so different, yet so rewarding. Back in the Software Group the main hat I was holding was always along the lines of that one from a Social Business Evangelist. Within the CIO Org. though, it’s more like let’s get down to business AND do some work on helping facilitate the adaption of fellow colleagues to both Social / Open Business.
The hard reset (Or reboot even) comes from the perspective where my mantra of Living “A World Without eMail” has just gone 5 years back in time. Not so much because of the amount of emails I have received from my immediate team(s), but actually because of the good increase of email traffic I have been receiving from colleagues outside the CIO organisation. Go and figure this one out, but going from 15 emails per week to 23 per week, which is what I am currently averaging, is not one of the things I expected to happen. But then again, I am looking into it as a new exciting opportunity. How? Well, since it seems that not many people know I have given up on corporate email over 5 years ago, it’s time for me to start things up again, continue to walk the talk in showcasing how it is possible to live a work life without email, but this time around with an additional 5 years more of experience. Not to worry, I will be reflecting plenty more on this one in an upcoming blog post that I am already working on after I share the yearly progress report from last year, which will come along with a couple of lovely surprises to celebrate that 5th anniversary of #lawwe.
About the Octopus Effect. That’s something that I came up with on the first week and a half on the new job. I guess I was not expecting it to happen, at least, this soon, but the incredible excitement around the new role and responsibilities as Lead Social Business Enabler from a good bunch of people both from my social network(s) and all over the place for that matter has meant that all along I have been feeling like an octopus, as in everyone wants to have a little piece of me, whether it’s attention, support, advice, consultancy and what not, and therefore everyone wants to have a tentacle or two without not giving me much breathing space to do anything else.
At the beginning I thought it was all due to that novelty effect of being new into the job, but I guess that after one full month gone by, it’s more the excitement of seeing me going back to my roots as an internal social / open business evangelist that keeps dragging people around asking for help and for support. Except that now I’m not longer an evangelist per se. And you will see why shortly…
Here’s the most interesting piece though. Organisation Change Management. That’s what both Social / Open Business seem to be all about, apparently. I guess those of us, social evangelists, have never seen it before, at least, so far, but OCM seems to be at the heart of provoking that open business transformation everyone keeps talking about, but very few may have seen it happening. On my day to day job I am starting to see how OCM is taking over everything and I literally meant that: everything. As I am getting more and more involved with it though it’s starting to make sense, after all, it’s all about how you manage and facilitate change to take place. The interesting thing though would be to figure out whether OCM would eventually manage to help commoditise and industrialise Social / Open Business in a corporate environment. I, for one, would not want to see that happening, but this is something that I will have to come along and play with it as I keep iterating more and more on it over the course of time. So I am sure you will be seeing plenty of this one soon enough!
Remember when I was mentioning earlier on how I am starting to feel I’m no longer a social / open business evangelist, at least, in its purest of senses? Yes, that’s right. That’s how I feel at the moment. So you may be wondering, if you are no longer a social / open evangelist, what are you then? Well, I am what I would call an executor. That’s right. I have now moved from being an evangelist into execute mode, meaning that I am spending a whole lot more time helping others adjust their learning curves, adapting to new behaviours, new ways of doing work, inspiring a new mindset altogether realising that my good old days of an evangelist are gone. And, somehow I have noticed it doesn’t bother me. In fact, the way I look into it is how I have been all along doing those very same tasks already, except that they were done in a minor scale, while nowadays it’s a massive one. To the point that it’s starting to explain why I’m slightly quieter on the external Social Web.
Will it change me for good to the point where I may not come out of the firewall in a good while? Hummm, I don’t think so. I am sensing I need to have these escapes into the outside world to give me a different perspective, a valid touchpoint to confirm whether I am on the right track or not, and while I recognise that my external social presence may suffer to some degree, I guess I will just need to re-consider my involvement and participation in the Social Web out there and become a whole lot more focused on what I want to learn and contribute to helping others, rather than just “being out there” trying to keep up with what’s happening throughout the various social spaces. Not to worry, I will be expanding further on with regards to this one, since I think that the new job role is going to help re-shape, once again, how I would want to participate in social networks out there outside of the firewall. There will be a need for some re-adjustments, although I don’t know at this point how much and how far or for what purpose. We will have to wait and see about that one…
And, finally, the one you all folks have been waiting for all along and which has been my main key learning this first month on the new job. Meetings galore. Yes, I know what you are all thinking at the time I am writing this. I’m starting a movement, a new movement. Actually, I am not. It’s been already there for a good few months, so perhaps I will just join it. My good friend Kevin Jones coined, not long ago, “A World Without Meetings” (#lawwm), following the same moniker from ”A World Without eMail” and I am thinking he was just right!
Game is ON!
In the last couple of weeks, and not going to consider the last three days since I have been away celebrating some bank holidays, I have gone from 10 to 15 hours of meetings, weekly, which is not too bad, rather doable, to 30 to 35 hours of meetings per week, which I am finding it’s a lot!, considering that vast majority of knowledge workers, myself included, are just hired to work 40 hours per week. Now, since I am new on the job I decided to go along with them to figure out what they were all about and to confirm whether I could then go back and challenge each and everyone of them, in a rather constructive and helpful manner, of course, and instead of hosting them in real time, provoke the conversation on whether that meeting, or this other one, or that other one, could be moved to offline social networking tools to carry out the work in an asynchronous way.
So now that initial influx of meetings has gone through, I am going to consolidate an idea I have been toying with for a couple of years now, but that I’m starting to become more serious about: restrict the amount of time that I am spending on meetings per day to eventually not do more than 4 hours of meetings or conference calls. And use the rest of the time to just get work done. It’s going to be a rather interesting experiment, although I am hoping over the course of time it may also become a movement, just like #lawwe is. We shall see…
One thing that I know, for sure, though is that I’ll need to do something that I never thought I would be doing while working in a corporate environment: protect my own working time from being abused left and right. Don’t take me wrong, I quite enjoy meeting up with my colleagues and extended fellow IBM teams across the board, real-time meetings can be very effective if conducted and done rather well. However, they are also very much time consuming, since it’s always rather tough to do multitasking. But if there is anything that I have learned in the last couple of weeks is that if you don’t protect your own working time, it will get abused left and right by others, which means you will be spending plenty of extra works hours out of your own private time to then get the job done. Something that I am not sure I would be willing to go for, since the last thing I would want to it would be having to go through a significant impact on my private, quality time.
That’s why I quite enjoyed the recent article published by Jeff Weiner under the rather suggestive title of “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing“, where he is proposing to create “buffers” of between 90 minutes to two hours in your day to day workload, so that you don’t get stuck in back-to-back meetings throughout the whole day and can therefore get your work done, whatever that may well be, whether tactical or strategic. With perhaps this quote as my favourite one from the entire piece:
“Above all else, the most important reason to schedule buffers is to just catch your breath. There is no faster way to feel as though your day is not your own, and that you are no longer in control, than scheduling meetings back to back from the minute you arrive at the office until the moment you leave. I’ve felt the effects of this and seen it with colleagues. Not only is it not fun to feel this way, it’s not sustainable.” [Emphasis mine]
That’s why I have decided, from now onwards, to start working my way around putting buffers throughout my whole day. Even if I don’t mark them in my calendar to eventually make them happen. And thinking I’m going to start with it in a rather aggressive method, because, if I don’t, I sense I won’t get away with it. So instead of putting buffers of 90 minutes to 2 hours, I am going to start with those buffers to make up for up to 4 hours per day. Anything else that comes afterwards, in terms of meetings, will have to rather be rescheduled for another day, or, even better, carried out offline through social technologies. And dedicate that buffer time gained for doing my real job, as well as having thinking time. That rather important task we seem to have forgotten more and more within the corporate world.
Back in the day, at IBM, we used to have what we called Think Friday! which were periods of time, during Friday afternoons, where we could catch our breaths with the rest of the world, do plenty of thinking on the side, and whatever other work related tasks that didn’t involve going through meetings. And that worked really well, in fact, it is still there. Alive and kicking, but I am thinking that with “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing” I am just about to take things into a new level. Because that Think Friday all of a sudden has turned itself into Think Weekday.
Thus we will have to wait and see how things will progress further. I may be able to go ahead and create a number of reports to see whether I would be able to manage it and make it happen, that is, to keep my meetings galore to just 4 hours each day. It surely is going to be rather interesting and intriguing from the perspective of whether my (extended) teams would be willing to play along as well in terms of experiencing the many benefits of working offline through social collaboration tools. I will keep folks in the know as we move forward…
For now, that’s it! That’s what my first month has been pretty much like as Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM. There are a few other things that I would want to bring forward and share some additional insights about, but that would be the time for another blog post.
For now, Game is ON!
Let’s live “A World Without Meetings”.
[Fancy joining me along the way, please?]
A couple of years back, Giovanni Rodriguez put together a guest blog post over a ReadWriteWeb on the topic of Enterprise 2.0 Adoption: Does It Have To Be So Hard? and it’s rather interesting to see how almost three years later the challenge seems to be there still, alive and kicking: Social / Open Business Adoption is hard. Well, it should well be. If not, what is the point? What’s the challenge? Where is your vision? Where is the business value? What are your goals? Think of it, if social / open business adoption would have been really easy most of us would have gotten pretty much bored right from the start and would have moved elsewhere already. Whether we like it or not, we, social / open business evangelists live on the laggards, the critics, the skeptics. They are the ones who keep feeding us with their negativity, who make us stronger by putting up a good fight, the ones who makes us think whether what we do is worth while or not. In short, they are the ones who will make your adoption efforts a real success or just another IT project failure. So what can we do to channel through all of that extra energy they have? Should we ignore them? Should we help them? Should we focus elsewhere? Social Business Adoption, if anything, needs to be inclusive, at least, make it a personal choice for people to dive into, or not, and help them make up their own mind.
Earlier on this year, at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit event in Paris, there were plenty of reservations from both social business evangelists and practitioners, in general, about the whole aspect around adoption of social technologies. Apparently, plenty of people have got issues with key concepts like drive, adoption or even social for that matter, amongst several others. And while being asked about it, I mentioned how if people have got issues with words like adoption, we may as well end up raising up the game and instead perhaps switch to what is really all about: Adaptation. My good friend, the always rather insightful and smart Ana Silva, captured this shift rather nicely at her #e20s highlights blog post. Worth while a read for sure.
That you have got issues with Social then switch over to Open (Business). That you don’t feel comfortable with Drive then go back to basics of what online interactions have been all about over the last couple of decades: (online) facilitation. And so forth. The idea in here is that by building further up on your adoption strategies the only thing you are doing is making yourself stronger by the day in your arguments and counter-arguments, so that when the time comes you can face the laggards, the critics and the skeptics and have a good chance of helping inspire and model new behaviours, a new mindset, even for them.
I have been doing work as a social computing evangelist for over 12 years and if there is anything that I have learned over the course of that time is that adoption / adaptation is a rather tough sell. It’s hard work. It’s lots of hard work. It’s actually pretty tough breaking up people’s habits, specially, the bad ones, because they are the ones that are most ingrained into how people get their day to day work done. No-one said that enticing those new behaviours into openness, publicly and transparency through social technologies would be a piece of cake. Yet, it’s the most rewarding of activities you can embark on as a social business evangelist, more than anything else because for as long as there is resistance / reluctance about it all, you will still have a job to do.
That’s essentially the role of the social / open business evangelist, that is, to make ourselves redundant and make our job roles obsolete, so that by the time that happens we would be ready to make the move into the next thing, whatever that may well be, while businesses become truly socially integrated enterprises. That’s why I have always felt that my mission is to make myself redundant. All along. To work my way into helping my fellow colleagues understand what social / open business is all about. To help them adapt to a new way of doing business, where open knowledge sharing and collaboration become the norm and where practitioners, instead of hoarding and protecting their knowledge, working in their own little silos, fighting with one another, they would eventually be caring and helping each other in a truly open and collaborative manner, where instead of stabbing each other to see who will get their bonuses, they would showcase, instead, enough empathy to care not only for themselves, but also for those around them: their networks.
And, as you can imagine, it’s not easy. It was never meant to be easy. Like I said, it’s actually quite tough, but, goodness, is it worth while all along? It surely is! It’s what would allow each and everyone of us, social / open evangelists, to grow in our skills, our experiences, our know-how, our collective intelligence and knowledge shared. See? We thrive on that negativity. We get bigger and bigger every time we get exposed to their negativity and reluctance to open up. We keep developing a whole bunch of various different strategies that, eventually, would help tame down every single one of your negative responses, to the point where you eventually might run out of steam yourself. Like I said, we truly thrive on that negativity.
The thing is that things weren’t always like that. I remember the time when, back in the day, there was lots of excitement about Social Business. Yes, I am talking about those first, second or third waves of early adopters who understand what a game changing Social Business is all about. I have seen it with plenty of the customers I get to talk to, as well as my fellow colleagues. It’s what a bunch of us have been calling the Post One Year Challenge. Essentially, the initial enthusiasm in terms of adoption would last you probably for about a year or 18 months before the good fun starts. Yes, indeed, before the laggards, the critics and the skeptics start noticing they are the only ones left on their own little boats.
And that’s just the time when we need to be the strongest. When we need to be the most resilient, perseverant, perhaps somewhat stubborn, and fully committed, of social / open evangelists out there than ever before, so that we can prepare a good number of arguments and counter-arguments to face those critics. Constructive criticism, dissent and critical thinking (Worth while reading this superb blog post by one of my favourite thinkers at the moment, Anne Marie McEwan) are essential traits to a healthy corporate environment where you can keep challenging the status quo of how certain things have been running, where you are always looking for room for improvement on how you work and interact with others. In short, where you engage in really passionate conversations that help you question everything you have done in the past. That’s both your growing and learning paths. That’s all along what will keep you going for years to no end!
And that’s essentially what I have been experiencing over the course of the last couple of weeks in the new job that I have moved into within the IBM CIO Organisation. During that time I have been exposed to plenty of fellow colleagues, laggards, critics and skeptics mainly, who know plenty of what we have been doing over the course of the last decade in terms of accelerating our own pace into becoming a socially integrated enterprise, but they still haven’t jumped into the bandwagon, because they feel there isn’t anything in it for them, never mind how little they have tried it all out in the first place.
The interesting thing from these occurrences and conversations is that over the course of that time I have grown bigger, much bigger, in terms of building my own strategies around social / open business adaptation, to the point where in the last couple of days I have been involved in some rather extensive discussions on the topic at hand and I am still feeling like I am just getting started. Like I mentioned above, I realised a while ago, perhaps a couple of years back, how I keep feeding myself from people’s negativity and aversion towards embracing Open Business. The more reluctance I get exposed to, the bigger I get and I am finding it really fascinating how that growth has accelerated tremendously in the last two weeks. Knowledge and experiences around living social that I thought I didn’t have anymore are coming back in full force and with first hands-on experience, walking the talk, that I can relate across using one of the most powerful means of transferring knowledge: telling stories.
Plenty of people keep asking me and wondering where do I get the energy from, the enthusiasm and the passion for it all, to keep pushing and challenging folks back in a healthy, constructive, but perhaps provocative manner altogether and I keep telling everyone that, to me, it’s something you build over the course of the years through three basic key traits: resilience, perseverance, and, above all, patience. Lots of patience that will always try to help you understand the other side, their point of view, their business pain points, their productivity black holes, and what not, so that you can eventually come back in full force with plenty of ideas, stories, experiences, know-how AND your networks to help amplify the conversation and help them overcome each and everyone of their issues.
After 12 years of doing that I’m sure you may all be wondering whether I am getting tired of it all and start thinking about moving on, or not. Well, the reality is that I feel I am just only now getting started with it. Time and time again I have been working with a whole bunch of really smart, insightful and rather talented group of evangelists, but right now, in this new job, I feel we have all just been giving a new mission: keep feeding on that negative feedback shared across by those who can’t, nor won’t, adapt to a new way of working, and try to turn it all into something positive. Something they can relate to, something they can touch, feel and experience themselves. Something that has now become one of my core activities as a Lead Social Business Enabler: help provoke their own heartfelt business transformation.
Not mine, but theirs.
Now that the word is out there, and since I have been in the new job for a couple of weeks already, I guess it’s a good time to reflect on what does the Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM’s w3 and www Connections do on a daily basis in terms of my job role and responsibilities. As a starting point, the novelty effect has been huge altogether, because in these first two weeks I have been in the IBM CIO Organisation there has been a growing trend that I am finding it quite fascinating, and rather intriguing, and, perhaps, somewhat rewarding, although totally unexpected: everyone seems to want to have a piece of me now, or, better said, everyone wants to grab my attention for one activity or another, whether it’s related to my day to day job, or not. Something that, funny enough, did not happen in the past, even though I have always been rather visible all along. Looks like the new job may have triggered a new, fresh interest in Social / Open Business for fellow colleagues, specially, when they are no longer pondering about the Why or the What but diving right into the How. And that is a good thing, that’s one of the many reasons why I got hired into this position in the first place: help Social / Open become the new fabric of how fellow knowledge workers get work done by becoming part of their collaboration DNA.
But I am sure at this point in time you are probably wondering about what does that mean exactly, right? Well, this is the blog post that will try to detail somewhat what my job role and responsibilities are in the new gig. It’d be the first time that I share publicly (Even outside of the firewall) what I will be measured upon in terms of my overall performance at the end of the year, what we call at IBM our Personal Business Commitment, but in that exercise of openness and transparency I am hoping it will help folks out there get a bit of clarity in terms of where my main focus areas will be. Over the course of time I am hoping to be able to share plenty more about each and everyone of those responsibilities and how they are working out over the course of the time. And perhaps expand even further on the wider implications of some of those tasks.
So, for now, perhaps an initial introduction that I am sure would be good enough to help everyone understand what I will be involved with in the next few months (years), more than anything else because last week Friday I was doing an internal keynote talking about Social Business and Adoption in Madrid and the host didn’t know exactly how to present or introduce me (jokingly). Understandably so, since hardly anyone knows what I will be doing from here onwards. Thus I thought to help out with that clarity I would go ahead and share it over here. That way I can reference it much easier over the course of time, while at the same time it will help serve me as a good reminder for myself of what my main focus areas should be like, instead of jumping from initiative to initiative that may be, or may be not, related to my core tasks. So, without much further ado, here you have got the tasks and activities I will be heavily involved with in the new job:
- Overall Global Social Adoption & Enablement Lead: essentially, meaning that I’ll be leading the overall effort to transform the way employees work using social software as the core part of their work.
- Drive enablement to increase successful adoption, leveraging the models established in the past by both BlueIQ and CommunityBuilders: meaning, basically, not to reinvent the wheel and leverage the huge mindset that both of those efforts, i.e. community driven social adoption initiatives through BlueIQ Ambassadors and CommunityBuilders have done over the course of the last 6 years and which, as of late, were a bit dormant. Time to wake them up and get down to work!
- Support the specific goals of driving social adoption through the Innovation & Values Team 9 project of Expertise Locator and Client Collaboration Hub: where finding experts in an organisation of over 450k employees along with collaborating more effectively with customers and business partners outside the firewall have become two of the major use cases to help Social / Open Business blend with the day to day business operations, getting one step closer towards considering social networking just that: netWORKING.
- Expand Outside CIO Interaction & Engagement: with a couple of efforts that I am truly excited about myself, because both of them do help out accomplish a common vision: build on the ecosystem around Social Business. To name:
– Create and consolidate a Social Board of Advisors to help improve the feedback mechanism for our very own Enterprise Social Software Solutions.
– Establish an open source Connections social community for sharing extensions and customisations to Connections itself resulting in having the best of both worlds coming together: 2.0 practitioners and developers being part of the same ecosystem.
- And, finally, evangelise our use of Social / Open both inside and outside of IBM, through client briefings, internal / external meetings, public speaking events, and various other social networking activities out there on the Social Web. I know, this is the one task that most of you out there would be familiar with all along, since I have been doing that for a few years now. Perhaps the twist though is that over the course of time I’m planning on writing about the usual themes I have written over here all along, but also share additional insights on how this new job role moves along in terms of what I learn, what I am working on, the challenges, the opportunities, the lessons learned, the mindset, the overall mission of showcasing IBM’s own journey into becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise. That’s why, after the short hiatus I went through in the last couple of weeks, I am back now with my Big Three hoping to dive back into the Social Web to keep the conversations and the dialogue going…
And that’s it! Those are essentially the main tasks and activities that I will be working on over the course of the next few months. Yes, I am excited, as you can imagine. Very much so! More than anything else, because of what I wrote down in a previous blog post in terms of why I took this job a few weeks back: “keep challenging the status quo of how certain things work in the business world in an effort to become much more open, transparent and sustainable. Indeed, an openly Socially Integrated Enterprise.“
There have been a whole bunch of other interesting and rather intriguing things that I have noticed as well in the last two weeks that I will be talking about and reflecting on over here, like the massive hard reset / reboot I have gone through with living “A World Without eMail“, taking me back to February 2008, but then again that would be another story for an upcoming blog post…
This is it! The moment of truth! The wait is over. The long hiatus of silence is now a thing of the past. The soul-searching period is finished and dealt with. It is, at long last, official and I am now ready to announce it to the world! As you may remember from a previous blog post, I mentioned how late last year someone decided to move my cheese and how that turned around into becoming a very good opportunity for me to make the move into the next big thing. It’s been a rather interesting and exhilarating experience how an extreme negative of a 20 minute long conversation can be turned around into an extreme positive with another 20 minute long one. Both of those having taken place within a couple of weeks in between. Both extremes are always disruptive enough to make you question your entire career and what you would want to do with your work / personal life next. Yes, I know you all know what I mean… that kind of change. The truly mind-blowing one. The one that, once you strike it, you know there is no turning point. No way back at all anymore. It’s just there to stay and become part of you and you become part of it. For better or for worse.
Well, I have just gone through one of those. I know that some of you folks may be wondering about what happened back in January about who moved my cheese and why was I so relatively quiet on social networks for a good few weeks, right? There was a reason for it, after all. A reason for which I am still trying to come to terms with and that I will be blogging about in its due time, whenever I feel I am ready to share it across. In short, it’s the one that provoked the extended period of silence on the Social Web and which concluded with me deciding to *not* stand till, do nothing and wait for the pay-check at the end of the month and succumb to everything that I have never believed in, in the first place.
I am not that kind of person. Don’t think I ever will be. So sorry if you thought I was, but I am afraid I am not. I eventually decided to find my new cheese in an attempt to move further on in my professional career. Yes, I know what you are thinking, there is a whole lot more than I could probably talk about around what eventually happened, but I am starting to think that it’s probably no longer even worth it. In fact, it may have happened because of a good reason: my time was well overdue and it was just the perfect chance for me to move on. And serendipity, as you all know, works in various mysterious and magic ways, so after having looked both inside and outside of the firewall, I am now pleased to announce I have got a new job.
Indeed, still at IBM (My current employer for the last 16 years… and counting…), and already fully immersed in it for the last couple of weeks, which is also why it’s taking me a bit of time to blog about it, as I first needed to adjust the massive learning curve, but still doing what I love doing: keep challenging the status quo of how certain things work in the business world in an effort to become much more open, transparent and sustainable. Indeed, an openly Socially Integrated Enterprise.
That is right, like I said above, a couple of weeks ago, my new reporting manager, Barb Mathers (IBM Director of Workplace and Collaboration Solutions), announced, of course, in no other way than through our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the following exciting piece of news:
“BIG NEWS! I am thrilled to announce that Luis Suarez is joining my team as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections. Luis will be driving the successful adoption of Connections across IBM, in support of our Workplace of the Future goals of transforming the way employees work in a globally integrated enterprise. Luis will be an excellent champion for the CIO office as he helps to communicate our direction of becoming a truly social business and what it takes to get there. Welcome aboard, Luis!!!” [Emphasis mine}
A dream job, without any doubt!, another one, that just came true. I could probably say that back in the day, when I was first getting involved with social networking tools, back in 2001, I knew, deep inside, that, at some point in time, I would be ending up doing this kind of job. And 12 years later that dream came true. Yes, I know, probably a bit too long, perhaps, right? Well, I guess that's what patience, resilience and perseverance can do for you (Along with having plenty of good fun along the way doing a bunch of other interesting projects and initiatives as well and working with an amazing group of talented and rather smart fellow colleagues, too!). They keep saying that those who are patient enough to wait for it will eventually end up achieving it and I guess that is what just happened two weeks ago!
I am incredibly excited and truly honoured to be filling in this new position. Thrilled that I will have an opportunity to continue doing what I love doing, i.e. exploring that whole brave new world of Open Business in the context of helping my employer become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. I realise that, for most people out there, it would probably mean the very same thing I have been doing all along in the last 6 years, but there are a few differences...
As a starting point, I will no longer be working within the IBM Software Group as a Social Business Evangelist for fellow senior technical leaders and subject matter experts, which is the work I have been doing now for a bit over a year. Instead, I will be joining the Global IBM CIO Organisation as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections, our Enterprise Social Software platform (Internal and external), with the main goal, vision and mission of continuing to help facilitate the adoption / adaption of IBM and fellow colleagues in our journey to become a successful social / open business. Yes, indeed, I will be doing lots and lots more work on enablement, adoption, education, facilitation, adaptation, consultancy, and so forth around accelerating our very own social / open business transformation.
As most of you know already, IBM is one of the many Enterprise Social Software vendors out there, perhaps one of the most competitive ones, too (I will leave that to you to decide…), but, at the same time, long time ago, we decided that, instead of blocking the use of these social technologies, and in order to help improve the way we collaborate and share our knowledge, both inside and outside of the firewall, we were going to, instead, drink our own champagne and become a showcase of that social business transformation a good number of other firms have embarked on already over the course of the last few years.
And that is the journey that we started back in 2001 and that since 2005 it's gone through a good number of tipping points, some of which I have already blogged about in the past. Well, I guess this will be the next one, at least, for yours truly, because that announcement that Barb mentioned above already is the most popular microblog post shared internally already from the very beginning, which has me even more excited and incredibly humbled, because, in a way, it's confirming it was the right move when I started conversations about it a couple of months back. And even more so from the perspective that my new management line knew that, when they were hiring me, they weren't just hiring Luis Suarez (That weird, strange guy who lives in Gran Canaria, and who doesn't use corporate email to do his work any longer, that social business evangelist who works leading by example on what social / open is all about) but my entire global network, both internal and external! That's how this new hyperconnected, networked business world works nowadays ...
But what I do feel really excited about is that my new management line also walks the talk, they do lead by example in this brave new social / open business world. They do live one of my favourite mantras as of late, that is, "Doing is believing!", so when I was first offered the job I just didn't have to think much to accept it, right on the spot, on February 12th, in New York City, at a Starbucks coffee shop, near the IBM building in 590 Madison. [Yes, I don't know why, but NYC does manage to have a special place in my heart over the course of the years. It already did back in 2008 when I first announced there publicly to the world I was starting the movement of Thinking Outside the Inbox. And it still has it 5 years later when I landed in this dream job!] I am sure over the course of time I will be introducing you to them all, my management line, that is, so that you all get to start knowing who I will be working with. It’s going to be quite good fun, I can guarantee you that!
I know that at this point in time you may be wondering about what my job role and responsibilities would be like and everything, right? Not to worry, I will be sharing all those in an upcoming blog post, but perhaps for one I will detail the main task / activity I will be working on from here onwards: Help facilicate and accelerate the adoption / adaptation of Social Business at IBM (Both internally and externally) through our strategic enterprise social software solution, IBM Connections.
Like I said, more to come in an upcoming blog post, but that’s it for now! That is the reason why I have been relatively quiet in the last couple of months while I was adjusting to this brave new adventure I have been so much looking forward to. Yes, your suspicions were absolutely right, too! There is a whole lot more than I could tell and share over here and that’s my intention as well over the course of the next few months when I will be blogging about the very same themes I have been blogging all along over the course of the last 8 years around Social / Open Business, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing, Online Communities and Learning, but at the same time I also feel this blog will turn itself into an open and transparent window as to what it is like being in the role that I am, narrating my work, working out loud, by sharing how that fascinating journey moves along, i.e. the challenges, the opportunities, the really cool things, the not so cool ones, what I learn along the way and whatever else that comes up in my mind… I guess this blog will turn itself into what the original concept of blogging was all about: a (my) personal Social Web journal…
For now, time for me to move on and delighted to come back again, in full force, to the Social Web and really looking forward to keep up with the conversations and additional dialogue around Social / Open Business with all of you folks now that I am back in business with just one final token of sincere appreciation and gratitude for sticking around this long and for your patience and genuine interest (Yes, you all know who you are!) and for making it possible for me to bring into reality my next dream job: keep leading the Open Business (r)Evolution.
Thanks ever so much and let’s do it!
Let the good fun continue!
Bring it on!