E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

September 29, 2011

IBM THINK Forum – Optimism, Outrageousness and Smart Sense-Making on Leadership

Barcelona - MontserratOne of the topics that has been in my mind at the moment, within the context of the Social Enterprise, has been that one of Leadership and how, through the use of social software tools, we are now going through that rather exciting phase where traditional management / leadership, i.e. the hierarchical organisation, is starting to mix and mingle with a new kind of networked, interconnected leadership of wild ducks, trust agents, i.e. intrapreneurs, to perhaps help facilitate and create a hybrid of what could be defined as the Leadership of Tomorrow. One that Carmen Medina nicely defined as full of Optimism, Outrageousness and Smarter Sense-Making.

A few days back you would remember how I put together a blog post around the topic of Leadership as Servanthood, as part of some of the highlights from the wonderful IBM THINK Forum event hosted in New York City not long ago. Well, today, I am coming back for more, as one of the short speeches from the event has been making the rounds quite a bit talking about some of the traits from that new generation of leaders that is emerging at the moment in the current workplace. This time around the pitch is coming from Carmen Medina herself (Former Director, CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence), where, over the course of a bit over 4 minutes, she comes to talk about some of the lessons she has learned throughout her career about being a leader within a knowledge organisation.

Some pretty powerful stuff in there, for sure! Priceless quotes like how optimism is probably the greatest act of rebellion, or how each and every organisation or business out there has always been having a whole bunch of heretics who they couldn’t do anything about. Not even today. How instead of trying to put down those heretics companies would probably be much much better off listening and understanding them better, as they are very willing to help fix their problems as an organisation.

Her second priceless lesson is one of those that when you first hear or read about it certainly would make you think about things twice, more than anything, because of how brilliantly it challenges and questions the status-quo. If not, have a look. Here is the exact quote as she mentioned it: “The only way to make an impact in an organisation is to be really outrageous“, which, when combined with lesson #1 (Optimism), can surely be rather powerful and engaging.

Lesson #3 is actually even more provocative. On the topic of making sense of today’s complex knowledge world to try to make and reach the best decisions, as a leader. But I am not going to spoil it further for you folks out there, you would have to watch the remaining of the video to find out some more.

And while you are at it, I would also like to point you in the direction of a recent blog entry that she put together at the Building a Smarter Planet blog under the heading “[…] On the Importance of Sensemaking” where she lays, quite nicely, the main challenge for today’s leaders as follows:

The contest is not between competing camps of knowledge workers or between us and the machines that we construct. Instead, the contest is between the reality we have and the future we might attain, and sensemaking will be one of our most important aids in making progress.

So our future depends on the ability of leaders to transform the organizations they lead as quickly and effectively as they absorb powerful new technologies–and in sync with the capabilities of those new tools.

Goodness! That’s quite a challenge, don’t you think? So right there it looks like Carmen has put together three different key lessons about leadership in today’s complex workplace, and societal environment: optimism, outrageousness and sensemaking. But what I find really fascinating from her speech is the fact of how such a traditional knowledge organisation as the CIA has always seen, and embraced, the key paramount role of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, and collaborating through the use of social networking tools!, as one of the most powerful methods out there to help make better informed decisions to tackle and fix specific problems.

Thus, if the CIA has been capable of proving how critical the role of social networking is, both internally and externally, for those knowledge sharing activities, what’s our excuse? What are we doing to help facilitate the leaders of today become the networked, interconnected leaders of tomorrow who would inspire the remaining of the knowledge workforce in this Knowledge Ecology that seems to have become more and more prevalent by the day? Why do we keep forbidding the use of social tools behind, and outside, of the firewall, or why some of our leaders of today are somewhat scared of jumping the shark and joining the conversation? It’s just as well as if we had invented the telephone just today , and people would want to keep forbidding its use, doesn’t it?, but a few decades later still remains a critical, unquestionable tool for communicating and collaborating together. Well, guess what? Social networking tools should be no different. For any knowledge worker out there. Even for our leaders.

Maybe, we / they need to be a bit more optimistically outrageous, don’t you think?

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Stop Online Harassment – Create Passionate Users

Gran Canaria - Artenara in the winter ...In the last few years there have been a good number of people, out there on the Social Web, who have come and gone and who have remained quite an inspiration for yours truly in helping shape up plenty of the ideas and thoughts I have been sharing over here, in this blog, over the course of time, around the topics of Social Computing and the Social Enterprise. One of those special thought leaders in the 2.0 social space(s) is Kathy Sierra; someone I do wish would come back to the Internet Blogosphere to continue to inspire all of us with some of her amazingly insightful and rather enlightening articles on her blog, amongst several other places. She surely is thoroughly missed by plenty of us.

Now, for those folks out there who may not have heard about Kathy just recently, or, at all, I can certainly go ahead and recommend you have a read of these two gems that she put together over at gapingvoid (Hugh MacLeod‘s blog) and which would make for some excellent food for thought around the topics of gamification and customer loyalty, respectively. Brilliant reads with lots of great insights to digest, chew on and learn plenty more about two of the most hyped conversations going on at the moment in the social media space. Must-read materials they would surely manage to change your own perception about both subjects. No doubt!

But today’s blog post though doesn’t have anything to do with either of those articles. Perhaps, at a later time, I will talk some more about them. However, for now, I do want to talk about a particular YouTube video that has been making the rounds lately, and which features Kathy herself talking about a rather poignant, controversial, but equally important topic: Stop online harassment.

While plenty of people have been talking about the controversy around the Google Plus policy about using our real identities, instead of fakes or pseudonyms, Kathy just focuses, in a bit over 5 minutes, on what I think is probably the main issue at hand at the moment within the Social Web: the potential risks and harm done by not putting a hard stop to online harassment. It’s a very touchy, thorny issue; one that perhaps does deserve a whole lot more attention by everyone than just this blog post by yours truly, more than anything else, because I suspect that all of us who have been online for a while, at some point in our lives, we have experienced some kind of harassment while making use of the Social Web and various (social networking) sites.

So I thought for today’s blog entry I would go ahead and share the video clip over here, as a way to help bring forward some more awareness of the potential issues at hand, and, most importantly, some good guidance on what each and everyone of us can do to help out. It’s the least we could all do, more than anything else to perhaps show how for those folks involved in such harmful activities that there are better ways of participating from the Social Web, including protecting your own identify and virtual presence with a good purpose. This hasn’t got anything to do with patronising or trying to diminish people’s experiences on the Web, whatever they may well be. This is a whole lot more about educating people on what we could do to finally take a stand about such activities and help prevent them in the near future. All of us. Together.

My good friend, the always sharp and insightful Euan Semple reflected on Kathy’s short video clip as well with a wonderfully inspiring short article under “Be the change” that makes that very same point across of educating and facilitating a better, and smarter, use of the social tools at our hand with this priceless quote:

Yes act in ways that cultivate positive behaviours and yes, be prepared to stand up and say when someone is “behaving badly”, but stop short of telling other people what they should or shouldn’t be doing – it just tends to wind them up!

Exactly! I guess that’s the piece of homework that both Kathy and Euan have laid out nicely for all of us: look after each other against that “bad behaviour” and instead inspire, as Kathy would probably state as well, the creation of passionate users, because, at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, as this priceless quote from “19 Revealing CEO Leadership Quotes” puts it brilliantly:

It’s so important to be happy in your role and to have passion for the role. I have made a conscious choice to focus on how I love the people and the products, and to be happy each day

After all, it’s our (virtual) home, isn’t it? I mean, the Social Web. My home. Your home. Our home. So we may as well treat it accordingly, don’t you think?, and start looking after each other in much more meaningful ways. For our own, and everyone else’s, good. It still is the least we could all do.

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