You may remember how in previous articles that I have put together over here in this blog I have mentioned how, lately, I am going through one of those stages, where instead of participating rather actively in a good number of various different social networking sites, I’m now more inclined towards plenty of reading and listening what’s happening out there, then do a bunch of more reading (books, articles, white papers, etc. etc.), followed by lots of additional self-reflection and learning on the sides from watching video clips, mainly of conference event recordings available on YouTube and, eventually, come back to the blog to reflect on some of the stuff I have learned in the process.
Yes, indeed, in short, I am spending now more time blogging than in the usual social networking sites, the so-called message boards. And today has been no different. Specially, since I have been catching up on a couple of recent keynote speaker sessions that have totally blown my mind, since my head is still spinning with dozens of ideas and I just can’t help thinking about them. And all thanks to the State of the Net 2012 conference event, hosted in Trieste, Italy, by late June. And all thanks to having watched, in much anticipation, two of my favourite mentors and thought leaders in the space of the Social Web, Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Narrative and Sensemaking: Euan Semple and Dave Snowden.
This is the first part of two blog posts that I will be putting together to summarise some of the findings of what I learned from having watched both presentations over the last few days, starting with Euan’s “People Tweet” and then the second article on Dave’s “Tacit Knowledge“, since I was originally putting together a single blog entry and it was just getting a bit too long, so I eventually decided to split it up in two to help digest it better, since there is just far too much good stuff in both of their keynotes that I wanted to touch base on as my key learnings. So here is Part One and stay tuned for Part Two coming up shortly already!
In “People Tweet” Euan gets to talk for a little bit over 25 minutes on the state of Social Media in general and how, in a way, he misses the good old Social Web, where really good conversations were taking place, as opposed to today when it looks like broadcasting short bursts with your own messages along seems to be the rage of the so-called social tools, specially, those bursts that are no longer shared across by people, but by corporate drones or bots just wanting to get the message across, without an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue. Indeed, the good old known sense of belonging, of connectedness, that we seem to have lost at a rampant pace nowadays, apparently.
Euan comes to state that part of the reason why we are heading that way and why we should question it eventually is how much we have ending up industrialising our lives to the point that for a society that tries to move on from the industrial revolution into the digital revolution, we seem to be going in the wrong direction, and perhaps even without not noticing. How we may have sold our souls in the name of security, of safety, of our own jobs, essentially, even though that’s no longer anything else than a myth. Job security, that is, specially, in today’s current financial econoclypse. He worryingly states how the vast majority of the Social efforts out there done by businesses are now down to outsourcing it to agencies, and put a check on Social, and move on, without realising their decision making / power almost disappears from the entire equation for something so important as collaboration amongst knowledge workers and their customers and business partners.
It’s been fascinating watching him talk about how much of the business world today is rather paternalistic, to the point that strong hierarchies are still in place making most of the decision making process as an outsourced activity, reminding me, big time, of the recent TEDx Talk from Isaac Getz on the issues and concerns of doing so. Truly loved his quote on how “we have sub-contracted storytelling to broadcasters” to the point where they are no longer our stories, but someone else’s, in most cases losing the context of what we wanted to transfer and share across in the first place! Goodness, not sure what you would think, but that, right there!, is a massive wake-up call for all businesses out there thinking they are living social this way thinking they will be all right. No, they won’t. Never will. Bound for failure sooner rather than later.
One of the things that Euan thinks we have gone ashtray with when talking about the huge potential of the Social Web and that we have started to miss big time on is having grown-up conversations, for us to start using these social tools for serious things, for things that matter. And how we keep failing about finding our voice because of how fearful we may well be about tasting the lovely waters of writing, of blogging, for instance. From there onwards he starts advocating for how we need to revert that worrisome trend and encourage knowledge workers to not be afraid about writing what we think, what we know, what we say in face to face interactions about things that matter, because there is a great chance that in doing so we will have a good opportunity to change things that may work relatively well, or not. And improve them for the better. But it needs to start somewhere. And Euan thinks that blogging may well be a great starting point and I must say, while putting together this article, that I couldn’t have agreed more with him, having followed that approach myself for over the last 9 years with thousands of blog posts shared both internally and externally and realising how much blogging has meant for yours truly not only on my own personal career, but on sharing across ideas with other folks who may be interested in and helping improve them engaging in those same conversations that Euan mentions on his pitch.
Ha! Who would have thought that blogging would be so powerful in the era of social tools, errr, I mean messaging board systems like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so forth? Not too bad, eh? Thus, where is your blog in all of this? Think about it as Euan pretty much nails with his commentary about how most of the corporate communications out there are nowadays de-personalised to the point where they are mimicking management speak, where they lack the passion and the emotion of the messages you would want to convey across…
From there onwards he comes to question everyone about when was the last time that we sat down to think about work, to seriously think about why do we do what we do, about the consequences of what we do, about the huge potential of introducing networks behind the firewall, exchanging ideas, sharing with one another, to help democratise how information and knowledge at the same time flow throughout the organisation altogether. What Euan, quoting David Weinberger, mentioned as “Writing ourselves into existence“, which is definitely the perfect introduction to the next section of his presentation where he talked about the perfect blend of hierarchy (Which have now worryingly institutionalise far too much altogether!) and wirearchy in businesses where there would need to be a combination of both in order to get the best outcomes from both of them. Where managers need to shake off that flavour of command and control, suit-and-tie, within their organisations and instead realise you are just one node of the network, one of the leaders, who just basically needs to lead by example, lead with an attitude, not your title, or diploma altogether but through ephemeral meritocracies. Just brilliant! Long live all of those trojan mice!
Now, there are a few other things that Euan gets to talk about on that keynote speaker session that I will leave it down to you to watch and enjoy further. Perhaps, I would just want to leave things over here embedding the code of the video, so you can play it right away, and by including as well what’s my absolute favourite quote from his entire dissertation and which is just worth it on its own. Again quoting David Weinberger, and nicely captured as well by my good friend Samuel Driessen:
“Love is what makes the Internet hang together, the basis human desire to want connect to each other“
Demonstrating, once again, how the Social Web, as we know it, is a whole lot more than just a bunch of social technologies and tools that we have got out there at our disposal for fun and play and whatever other trivial stuff we are just too used to. We need to be able to re-find our focus, our purpose and our meaning, without fear taking over our actions and interactions, and keep thriving on that journey to become a successful social organisation, whatever that may well be. Essentially, the one we have all envisioned from the very beginning, back in the day. And it looks like writing out loud our way there has never been more powerful to achieve that goal. Even today, more than never…