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

October 4, 2011

How Meaningful, Smarter, Freelance Work Is Redesigning the Social Enterprise

Barcelona - Parque GüellContinuing further with that series of blog posts on meaningful and smarter work and how it is helping the corporate world redesign the future of the workplace to make it much more networked, interconnected, open, egalitarian, non-hiearchical, unstructured, porous, chaotic, trustworthy, engaging, transparent, agile, dynamic, empowering and whatever else you would want to add further up (Phew!) to realise the Social Enterprise dream, I thought I would go ahead and share a bit of special entry today where we can keep talking about it, although it’s not going to be me the one doing the talk, but one of the folks I have long admired and from whom I have learned tremendously over the course of years in the areas of Knowledge Management, Communities (Of Practice, a.k.a. CoPs), Complexity, Enterprise 2.0 and Social Computing. Of course, I am talking about the one and only: John Tropea, whose blog posts, tweets, plussings and tumblrs are always highly recommended reads and a must-subscribe, too!, in case you may not have done so just yet. You should. It’s worth every minute of your time.

Take, for instance, this particularly rich and very insightful conversation over at Google Plus, on the topic of Corporate Culture and whether we can exert some influence in changing it, or not, through social networking, collaboration and open knowledge sharing, all of it as a result of a follow-up conversation from a brilliant blog post that originated from my good friend Jack Vinson under “Culture is nebulous, focus on what you can change“. In it, John gets to share quite an amazing array of insightful comments, along with helpful links that surely help understand how changing the corporate culture of an organisation is definitely not as easy as one would expect. Plenty of food for thought for those internal social computing evangelists out there who feel they are on to another league trying to shift gears and change their corporate culture as they know it to start living social. Well, perhaps it is not as easy as what we have been told all along… Worth while a read, for sure!

However, the main purpose why i wanted to put together this blog post in the first place was to continue making that connection between previous blog entries on redesigning the Future of the Workplace that you folks have read over here lately, and in plenty of other places, I am sure, and build further up on it pointing you folks to what I think is probably one of the best blog entries you will read this year in 2011 around that very same subject. It surely has moved pretty quickly into my Top 3 favourite articles that I am definitely going to keep coming back over and over again to digest all of those hidden gems that keep coming up every time I read through it. Already done with my third reading of the post since it was first aired out yesterday and still learning new insights!

Go and have a look into John’s latest take on how wild ducks, trust agents and intrapreneurs are continuing to take the corporate world by storm gathering informally in groups, whether teams, networks or communities, amongst several others (John mentions a few of them as well!) to carry out that meaningful, smarter work that they themselves feel rather passionate about in the first place! Work, by the way, that’s not mandated from top-down, i.e. the strict organisational structure(s) we have all gotten so used to over the course of decades, but work that has been defined by those groups themselves, just because they share a common affinity, a bunch of free time and a passion to carry it out. Yes, something like finally being capable of freeing up the human batteries within each organisation, as in freeing up those free radicals that know why, what and who they network with in the first place, what John calls freelancing in the corporate world and which more and more seems to help define how work gets done nowadays, where the center of gravity, or power of decision, has been lowered down more than ever before and where being more agile, open, transparent, engaged, empowered, and networked seems to have set up the new rules of the workplace. And it is starting to look like it’s here to stay, too!

Indeed, not going to expand much further on this blog entry itself, since I’m sure you will be enjoying John’s article plenty more. It’s a long, extensive, brilliantly covered and rather comprehensive read on what that new freelance corporate work looks like and how we have already started the transition to it. In “The future of work is to freelance within an organisation – choose your task, assemble to work, then dissolve” you will see how there are plenty of numerous references to other thought leaders in this space and what they have been thinking about this particular topic for a little while now. And while it may look a bit overwhelming as you go through it, you will notice (As my good friend Jon Husband also mentioned in a comment) how there is some very nice momentum building up around it by multiple thought leaders and that can only mean that the shift towards that work model may have gotten started already and John has managed to capture it beautifully into one of those blog articles that would surely have a permanent home in our hearts, and brains!, for those of us who would want to see the Social Enterprise dream come true. And the sooner, the better!

Hope you enjoy reading through it, and from here onwards I just wanted to share a special Thanks! with John for having put together such amount of hard work in assembling all of those great insights and share them across in that outstanding, must-read, brilliant blog post. He’s done us all a huge favour and I can see the day where we will look back into that article as the seminal work that consolidated what a good bunch of us have been saying for a while now as well…

Intrapreneurship is here to stay! Are you ready, finally, to embrace it?

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The Future of High-Performance Work Systems – Towards Meaningful Work

Bsarcelona - MontserratA couple of years back the folks over at oDesk put together a rather interesting and insightful YouTube video clip around The Future of Work, which lasts for a little bit over 6 minutes, that surely is worth while going through, specially, the last minute and a half, as it would remind plenty of people how close it is to the well known series of the “Did You Know?” videos. The clip comes to ponder about the future of work and how social computing tools are helping redefine the current workplace as we know it. Two years later, it looks like pretty much all of the main key messages from that video, still resonate quite a bit, thus making us all wonder whether things haven’t changed that much after all. You would expect that they may well have, but have they really?

Well, I am not sure what you would think about, whether we have shifted gears and moved one step further, perhaps two, from where we were in 2009, but I strongly believe that we surely have made some giant leaps into embracing, and adopting social networking tools as one of the most powerful methods to help redefine how work gets done nowadays. However, if there is anything clear coming out from back then and into today, after watching that video clip, is that a few of the annotations made during that six minute long clip are eventually a reality just two years later, in 2011, if not even further! Let’s have a look with some examples:

Priceless quotes like “Project teams at work are beginning to resemble movie production teams“, or “Although home is still the most common location, millions of virtual team members work from just about anywhere“, or “Employers will have access to a larger and more skilled workforce“, or even “Individuals will have more freedom and power than ever before” (One of my favourite quotes, by the way!), come to confirm, quite clearly, how we may be living through a time in which the future of work is a whole lot more transparent, flat, competitive, and on demand than ever before thanks to that emergence of social networking tools that we have mentioned above already and that are taking the business environment by storm.

And when talking about competitiveness we should probably not forget about high performing teams either. And how they themselves, when making use of social software tools, keep augmenting, even more, their already high performing working methods, to the point where the time finding the right experts has now gone down from several hours a week, to perhaps just 5 to 10 minutes. Or how the time to search AND find the right information at the right time has been also improved dramatically helping those high performing teams reach new levels of engagement, responsiveness and collaborative, as well as innovative, interactions by their own urge to keep up cultivating and nurturing those personal business relationships that they have been building over time.

However, we should not forget that what businesses out there would be the most interested in at the moment would be what my good friend Dr. Anne Marie McEwan calls Value Creation that she has blogged about earlier on today under the suggestive title “High-Performance Work Systems“. How it is all about efficiency and effectiveness (Whether amongst individuals or between groups, i.e. teams, networks and / or communities), about embarking on a constant learning curve that never ceases to stop, as it provides an open window into meaningful, motivating and engaging work. Some really good stuff in there!

In a way, it reminds me of another blog post I put together a couple of months back of how this helping redefine the future of (meaningful) work AND of the workplace, is also helping redefine the role of the Knowledge Worker him/herself, which just recently, a couple of days ago, my good friend, Harold Jarche beautifully reflected on as well into re-shaping up “The new knowledge worker“, one who seems to breathe plenty of critical thinking and a rather empowering inner urge to want to make things right or as Thomas Stewart would say: “A knowledge worker is someone who gets to decide what he or she does each morning“. With a purpose, if I may add.

Mind you though, Harold pretty much nails it as well when he comes to conclude that not all of the work is done. As much as those high performing teams, networks and communities are dictating how work happens around them and their networked structures, there is still a larger population of knowledge workers we cannot afford neglecting, nor ignore, and leave behind, just because they haven’t embarked on embracing social networks as part of their game. It will be, indeed, our role to lead and help facilitate those folks come on board as well, at the their own pace, at their own time, i.e. when they feel it’s the right one, with their own rules, with enough preparation to make it work for them and their needs. And somehow, like I have already been hinting out there on one of my recent Google Plus posts, I suspect that the glue part of the organisation that’s going to have a paramount role, if not far too critical to fail altogether in provoking such outrageously optimistic change into bringing some sensemaking to truly realise  The Social Enterprise vision, would be Human Resources, our good old HR organisation(s); as the one and only, Marcia Conner, described really nicely in a recent article over at FastCompany under the heading “Now that people finally matter to businesses, HR is the next big thing“.

It surely is! In fact, it’s been all along! Even more, from a Social Enterprise perspective, it’s perhaps the final frontier for all of us, knowledge (networked) workers, out there to claim that our work is now done!

Alas, we are not there just yet. Still plenty of work to be done! So we better roll up our sleeves and keep driving innovation further into meaningful work to help shape up the future of the workplace, our workplace: networked, more trustworthy, transparent, engaged, open and nimbler, in short, empowering altogether for ALL of us. Not just a few.

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