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

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Business Can’t Succeed in a World That’s Failing

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras - Las Palmas de Gran CanariaOne of my favourite topics du jour is that one of the Future of Work and, more specifically, how the world of Social Networking is helping redefine it by provoking one of the most profound business transformations we have lived through in our entire history. But then again work, per se, is a whole lot more than just in a business context. Work keeps morphing at a rather rampant and unstoppable pace moving from being that physical space where things happen to become nowadays a state of mind. Work happens wherever you are, in a specific, unique and given context, with the tools you have at your disposal (and the people you may have around you to help you get it done). We are no longer restricted to the traditional office, nor a fixed top-down driven hierarchical team with a specific set of goals. We probably have got nowadays much better collaboration and knowledge sharing tools than ever before, allowing work to flow versus stagnate thanks to those unstoppable open knowledge flows amongst knowledge workers, whether inside or outside of the firewall, participating in meaningful conversations with customers, business partners, competitors, thought leaders, etc. etc. The traditional concept of the workplace is now a thing of the past. And about a good time, too! We are work. Work is us

Later on next month, on September 21st, I will be participating, as one of the speakers, at the superb Joint Alumni Conference (a.k.a. JAC 2012) event that will be taking place in Zurich and my dissertation is going to be around this very same topic, i.e. The Future of Work. Over in Google Plus I have been having an exhilarating and rather inspiring conversation with a few folks, that I would love to invite you all to check it out, drop by and leave a comment, or two, if you wish to as well (Will be using that thread live on stage!), on what I will be covering on this very same topic and while doing plenty of research on stuff that I would want to talk about I bumped into another G+ Post from my good friend Jim Hays that clearly helps redefine our traditional concept of work. And how we may need to start shifting gears and make a mental switch from what we have considered, traditionally, as work, and what lies ahead for all of us, specially, in the current turmoil and financial econoclypse we have been going through in the last few years.

I think I would just go ahead and take the liberty of embedding the screen shot over here that Jim re-shared, so you can see what I mean with that redefinition of the state of work: 

Future of Work

To quote:

If you’re unemployed it’s not because there isn’t any work – Just look around: a housing shortage, crime, pollution; we need better schools and parks. Whatever our needs, they all require work. And as long as we have unsatisfied needs, there is work to be done. So ask yourself, what kind of world has work, but no jobs. It’s a world where work is not related to satisfying our needs, a world where work is only related to satisfying the profit needs of business. This country was not built by the huge corporations or government bureaucracies. It was built by people who work. And, it is working people who should control the work to be done. Yet, as long as employment is tied to somebody else’s profits, the work won’t get done.

I am not sure what you would think about such brilliant and incredibly provocative quote, but the Hippie 2.0 side of me keeps telling me that we are probably starting to witness an unprecedented and unique opportunity to go through a massive change on how we view work and how the business world needs to start readjusting to a new reality. A new reality where if it is not an integral part of helping improve the well-being of our societies, of our qualified workers, pretty soon we are going to reach that point where we may not have those workers anymore, not even qualified ones. Which certainly helps me get reminded about a quote that I recently blogged about by Don Tapscott that I think clearly defines the main big challenge ahead for the business / corporate world of the 21st century, very much along the lines of adapt to the new reality or die in the attempt: 

Business can’t succeed in a world that’s failing

Indeed, I do strongly believe that the corporate world has been, long enough, perhaps for far too long!, totally disengaged with (knowledge) workers AND their societies. That lack of outer meaning, focus and purpose out of the short term, individualistic corporate profit (Driven by power, politics and greed, mostly) is soon reaching an end-point, if not already, whereby if businesses would want to survive in the 21st century they can no longer thrive in isolation, but must find their way to embrace and apply that so-called concept of corporate social responsibility, because otherwise knowledge workers will find a way to continue thriving without paying too much attention to the traditional business world environment.

Remember that myth of employee engagement? Well, thanks to social computing, and social networking tools, whether internal or external, we now have got a huge opportunity to revert that myth back, embed business back into society, our collective society, and continue through that learning process of redefining work to make it more human, democratised, accessible, universal, worthy, just and meaningful not only for those people who are actively working, but for everyone else altogether, as part of a single, unique ecosystem: society as a whole

Exciting times, indeed, to live through! However, let’s just not waste that opportunity (again). We may not have another one coming up soon enough… and, if anything, let’s not forget that we, the workers, are the ones redefining the workplace of the future. Let’s ensure we get it right this time around with the little help and good effort from social software. We all are capable of wonderful things, we all know that. We just need to show it and demonstrate it. If we have been looking for a purpose for Living Social, I think this is our chance. We all know what’s the alternative, and how ugly it is, so it’s probably a good time to make a stand and start owning and take a bit more responsibility of our work. After all, it’s perhaps our only way to make this world a better place, not just for a few, but for everyone else altogether for that matter…

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  1. “It is working people who should control the work to be done”. What a call to arms! Are you going to be talking about this at Zurich?

    It is also working people who should control their own experience of work. I have always hoped that people would use the phenomenal democratising potential of social technologies to take responsibility for their own destinies.

    I am afraid to say that I think my enthusiasm of five years ago is being replaced by a more realistic assessment. Despite the explosion of interest in MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) I think people are using social technologies mainly for entertainment.

    I know you have written about the pain that many in Spain are currently suffering. As you probably know, I mention it enough, I come from a part of the world that experienced catastrophic economic decline early, with the collapse of shipbuilding along with all the ancillary engineering and steel making.

    The health effects of that decline go from generation to generation, and are still being mopped up.

    This is why I venerate the work of Professor Sir Michael Marmot. In this article, Health in an Unequal World (http://www.who.int/social_determinants/publications/health_in_an_unequal_world_marmott_lancet.pdf) he talks about empowerment (and disease causation) being socially embedded.

    Lack of control and autonomy (“leading the life one values”) are linked to disease; it is those lower down the pecking order who have increased risk of coronary heart disease.

    Marmot also says:

    “Taking social networks and support to the level of community leads to the ideas of social capital – the idea that some communities are marked out by cohesiveness and trust. The evidence supporting the links between the social capital of a community and health is suggestive.”

    He suggests that socially cohesive social networks encourage community action. I see these issues as being intimately linked to effective corporate social responsibility and the untapped potential of social technologies. Marmot ought to be required reading in every business school. He was recommended to me by a professor – his work is part of no syllabus that I have seen.

    1. Hi Anne-Marie! Oh, my goodness! That’s just some EXCELLENT input and feedback comments! Thanks ever so much and how very inspiring!!

      Yes, I will be talking about this very same topic in Zurich, in fact, it’s going to be the title I will be using for the presentation as well with a bunch of themes I will be covering: autonomy, co-ownership, co-responsibility, mutual trust, dual engagement, etc. etc. I will be sharing a draft of the presentation shortly, so that you can have a look into it… Would love your feedback, once I share it out there, Anne-Marie.

      Indeed, I, too, have noticed that same situation where the vast majority of end-users are taking social networking tools for personal, trivial, casual use, perhaps even as a escape from what happens at work, where they are demotivated, disengaged, overloaded, exploited, very badly paid for the skills they have and with very little inclination to go further up the ladder. Over here in Spain, it’s even more notorious, when you go and check out the Trending Topics, for instance, from Twitter, where the vast majority of the topics are TV related. And a strong sense of #lesigh goes through my spine when I see the huge potential of what these social technologies could help us achieve and how misused they are, once again.

      That’s why I am keeping up the fight. That’s why I’m planning on continuing with my blogging, and social networking participation to keep things moving along. I feel we have just invested far too much effort, energy and effort to just dedicate it to trivial, fun stuff, that, also good, it’s just not good enough!

      We need to aim higher, we need to level up the game and participate from that network mindset that, as a community, would help us shape up how we interact, both at work and outside work. The stuff from Marmot is a superb confirmation of the kind of work that lies ahead and why I still feel we are going through some exciting times altogether! Thanks much for pointing me to his work! I was not away of it and I think I may have missed out quite a bit! Time to catch up!!

      Stay tuned for the next blog post, Anne-Marie, because it’s going to talk about something similar to this one, but with a purpose on how we make things work together and how we, as a society, are reaching that point where we may be looking for a massive reboot of our potential, if we would want to survive plenty of the tough times that lie ahead. The example about health issues is a good one when social technologies could help us all advance, for instance, towards preventive health, looking after each other, like we used to go in the good old days when people were people and when people were value as such! We need to bring that back! 🙂

      Thanks again for the wonderfully inspirational feedback, Anne-Marie. Always much appreciated reading such boosts of mind-blowing thought leadership!

  2. “Participate from the network mindset” – yes! Although my enthusiasm of a couple of years ago is now a bit more realistic, my belief in the potential of these technologies is undiminished. Things obviously take time to change – so we carry on a conversation at a time.

    And it is you who inspire so many of us and encourage us to keep going. Thank you, Luis 🙂

    1. Hi Anne-Marie, awww, no worries. That inspiration is mutual and most of the reflections I keep sharing over here on these blog posts are a direct influence of the conversations we keep having here and there, one at a time, indeed! But still having a blast!

      Yes, there may well be the odd moment of weakness, but that’s fine. It helps us become stronger in our beliefs and modus operandi and eventually come back for more in full force! In fact, I have been having a few of those moments, lately, and then what I do to shake them off me, is to write away jotting down firm beliefs of why I got involved with “Living Social” in the first place many years ago. That excitement and passion for that huge potential is still very much there … In a great deal, thanks to you all of you! Keep it up, please! 🙂 hehe

      Thanks again, Anne Marie!

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