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

From the blog

If You Have Never Failed …

Tenerife - On the Way to Punta TenoNow that I am back to my regular blogging schedule, I guess we wouldn’t have it complete without sharing across a relatively short blog entry with an Inspiring Video Clip of the Week, don’t you think? I mean, it’s been a while since I have shared over there the last one, so I may as well use this opportunity to share one that I have found incredibly powerful and rather thought provoking around the topic of Taking Risks (… and see what happens). You know, for a good number of years I have been postulating that for a business to become a truly Social Enterprise one of the traits that would need to come with the job is to not only know about risks and the potential failures they provoke, what they are, and what they imply, but to eventually encourage that same sense of failure as one of the most powerful learning processes for knowledge workers and organizations alike out there; that is, to learn from the risks they take and the mistakes they make, in order not to repeat them again. And continue growing through learning accordingly. And it looks like the folks portrayed on this short video clip surely know what they were talking about: If you’ve never failed, you’ve never lived…

It’s been flagged as perhaps one of the most motivational videos out there and I would probably have to agree with that statement; to be honest, once you watch through it you will know exactly what we mean. It lasts for a little bit over a minute, but it’s worth it every single second of it and I can certainly vouch that after you watch through it, you would not be looking into risks, or risk taking, with the same pair of eyes. Quite the opposite. The metaphor of Risk = Life is just brilliant! If not, judge for yourselves. Here is the embedded code for you to play the clip right away:

Incredibly powerful, don’t you think? While going through it though I just couldn’t help remembering a keynote session I attended while at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris a couple of weeks ago, where my good friend Richard Collin, shared plenty of amazingly inspirational stories and anecdotes on what it is like living an Enterprise 2.0. And, as part of that experience, one of the slides that I liked the most was the one I captured through live tweeting, and Twitpic, under the suggestive heading “The 10 Commandments To Take Back Home For You” that surely captures the essence, in my opinion, of what risk taking is all about in a corporate environment for all of those knowledge workers, social computing evangelists or not, who are trying to live and embrace Enterprise 2.0 and who are very much willing to walk the extra mile that most people wouldn’t want to, because the latter are just too comfortable getting the most out of the specific status quo they have inherited over the course of the years.

Yet, over the course of time, and without them realising much about it, those 10 commandments tend to become their new mantra because it reflects, quite nicely, not only their new way of working, and getting the job done, but also their new way of living. And throughout all of it there is plenty of risk taking, as we can see from that list itself:

  • “Remember it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission
  • Come to work each day willing to be fired
  • Circumvent any orders aimed at stopping your dream
  • Do any job needed to make your project work, regardless of your job description
  • Find people to help you
  • Follow your intuition about the people you choose, and work only with the best
  • Work underground as long as you can, – Publicity triggers the corporate immune mechanism
  • Never bet on a race unless you are running in it
  • Be true to your goals, but be realistic about the ways to achieve them
  • Honour your sponsors”

Thus when people asked me, during the event, to describe out of all of those 10 commandments which one would be the one that would represent the closest to what I have been doing in the last 11 years, as a social computing evangelist, I probably came to terms with realising that, all along, it’s been #2: “Come to work each day willing to be fired”. Perhaps a bit too drastic and a tad too dramatic, I  can imagine, but I guess that’s what optimists and outrageous, rebels at work, trust agents, intrapreneurs, heretics, free radicals, etc. etc. have felt all along: risk taking in what you strongly believe as that next, new innovative brilliant idea is just as worth while doing as risking being fired for it. If not, it’s not worth it. Not worth the effort, nor the energy nor the support from others. Because if that happens eventually, getting fired, that is, there is a great chance that you aren’t working for the right business in the first place and a good indication that it may well be a good time for you to move on altogether…

However, risk taking is not only one of those traits that you could apply to knowledge workers, in their ability to push the limits as social computing evangelists, for instance, or whatever other knowledge work activity, but we can also see plenty of that with executives themselves in whatever the organisation, and, I guess, that instead of me detailing what that would be like, I am just going to point you folks to a short video clip interview that Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO, did recently where she talked about taking risks and what it meant for her:

So, now you know, next time that you bump into someone who may well be a bit too apprehensive and perhaps a bit too self-critical inside when taking risks they may just as well loosen up a bit, because, you know, as Ginni herself puts it rather nicely, “growth and comfort do not co-exist“. So it will be up to us, knowledge workers, to decide how far apart we would want to go take both growth and comfort through risk taking while wanting to achieve our goals and go that extra mile.

After all, when was the last time that you were about to be fired for the stuff you love doing the most? Has it happened yet? I bet it hasn’t, so why we do keep being so risk averse within the corporate environment? Something tells me we are the ones on the losing end and big time. Somehow we should probably start reverting that trend, and soon enough!, should we want Social Enterprise to succeed in the corporate environment. Is it worth it? Probably. Should we go for it? You bet!! Even if that gets us fired!

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