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

From the blog

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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  1. Great Post Luis!
    And to think I was never interested in a long term project, always wanting short term do it, get it done work, and then move to next project. I was just ahead of the curve.

    1. Hi Keith! You are most welcome! Absolutely!! I know of a few folks who would feel pretty comfortable with working in a project for almost their entire working lifetime, or, perhaps a bit less, but definitely in the several years altogether, and some other folks who have got a generic rule of switching projects every two years or so because when they feel it falls into daily routines and no longer feel challenged anymore to learn and innovate along the way.

      I guess the latter folks somehow sensed what was coming for the org. from back then and they themselves have become the wild ducks, freelancers and intrapreneurs we are witnessing becoming more and more relevant by the day!

      Well, welcome to the club! 😀

      1. I am the latter, prefer weeks to months and months to years. Ideas I don’t think have ever gone out of style, but they have migrated from say marketing or IT to sales and other areas. Those with an ability to see a better way or even a different way have always found the route to make it possible.
        But what about the theory that says these are still the same people as always, just now they are more about their own PR and their projects? And who takes responsibility if the great idea turns out to get you sued? Always something that has limited people in the past, some still will, but others are pushing on in spite of or despite of backing from their company.
        Chaos or revolution? Time will tell.

        1. Hi Keith! Thanks a lot for the follow-up! Interesting perception, indeed! I think a lot would have to do with that concept of co-sharing of responsibility. After all, most companies have been employing hard working professionals all along, so I don’t think that’s going to change. They would still employ plenty of common sense in knowing what can be done and what can’t. And if they can’t make up their minds, that’s probably one of the main reasons why there are social computing guidelines out there as well to help guide and provide advice on moving things further.

          I still think that trusting your employees to do what they know and let things go out there would be more along the lines of a chaotic revolution of some kind, and that’s bound to be a good thing. Chaotic as in unstructured, free form, employee driven and revolution as perhaps the way the corporate world will survive in the knowledge economy of the 21st century…

          Indeed, time will tell… Thanks again for the feedback! 🙂

  2. Chaos is good, thus the Chaos theory.
    Common sense prevails, but what would happen if every employee was given a slice of budget to get something done. Like Google had employees do something else with part of their time?
    The problem, I believe, is fear. Fear by executives. what if they lose their power, or someone has better ideas or plans or gets it done better?
    The next generation of management appreciates better employees and does have so much fear, but this is the hurdle some face today.

    1. Thanks, Keith, for the feedback comments and for the follow up! Well, you cannot believe what people can do with their idle time, if you give them the opportunity and a few $$$ to let their minds run wild! Amazing experience, as Google and other companies have shown already! Nothing to prove, just do it! 🙂

      RE: fear, that’s probably what it comes down to, isn’t it? Fear of losing their command and control, their power from top-down, their ability to call the shots, and whatever else, but the key question here is “Were they ever in control in the first place?”. I doubted it back then and I doubt it now even more, I am afraid!

      That’s the main reason why fear has never been good when facing change by itself. Quite the opposite, it’s not about fearing whatever may be happening; it’s more about being that leader walking the talk, leading the pack, and showing how even wirearchy needs to have prominent and confident leaders wanting to make a difference to keep innovating and delivering business value, that’s what matters at the end of the day. The goals are pretty much the same, the method is what changes, and if folks are too fearful it will be happening, not to worry, the changes will take place anyway, they have already gotten started, and it is just a matter of whether they would want to jump into the bandwagon or not. Our task is to be that helping hand to get them on board, because the train already left a while ago …

  3. I believ that most ‘work’ in most large enterprises is now what we would all call project work .. purpose-and-objective driven, made up more and more often of people from different areas (including outside contractors) and temporary, dissolved when the project is done.

    I believe that this intensifies and amplifies the definition of my favourite emergent organizing principle .. and that ‘knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results’ by an interconnected network of people are the tent pegs for the new (temporary-ish) emergent organization.

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