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

From the blog

JAC 2012 – Joint Alumni Conference Event Highlights

Switzerland - ZurichAs you may have seen from my recent live tweeting from over the last couple of days, I am returning back home from Zurich, Switzerland, one of my favourite European cities, after having presented at, and attended, the excellent Joint Alumni Conference 2012 event on what I think has been one of the most inspiring events that I have attended in a while. More than anything else, because it’s been a rather eye-opening experience for yours truly with regards to where we are with the adoption of social software and that social business transformation that a bunch of us have been advocating for for a few years now. I know that most people out there reading this article would not believe it, but those of you who may be thinking that we are done with the job and are ready to move along into the next thing could not have been more wrong! Ladies and gentlemen, Social Business is just getting started! And it’s a good time for us all, social computing evangelists and enthusiasts, to get out of our lovely, some times desired / needed, 2.0 echo chamber(s) and comfort zones and get to experience the business world in full force, because it’s completely different than what we think it is. There is still a lot of work to be done and we have only just scratched the surface. Roll up your sleeves, because we are not done here just yet. By far! 

Yes, indeed, that has been the main ah-ha moment and massive wake-up call that I have been having while attending and presenting at JAC 2012. My fellow colleague, and good friend, Paivi Raty, invited me to participate on this event to talk about the topic of “The Future of Work“, in general. To talk not only about the subject of Social Business and its impact in the corporate world, but also to talk about general trends of what’s happening with the traditional concept of both work and the workplace, with knowledge workers and the various generations, with mobility, with innovation, with leadership, etc. etc. As with all of my recent public speaking, I didn’t make use of any slide-ware to deliver the dissertation, but I did record it and those folks who may be interested in listening to it can download the .mp3 audio from this location (You may want to turn up the volume a bit since it came out a bit too soft!)

I must confess that for a couple of months before the conference event took place I was a bit apprehensive, as well as incredibly excited for the opportunity, of course, more than anything else, because, if I recall correctly, it was the very first non-technical conference event that I participated in for a long long time, never mind related to Social Business, and I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to fit the profile or not, but since they say that in order to keep improving one self, one has got to throw one-self into the lions and leave that comfort zone I accepted the invitation and decided to go for it. And now that I am, finally, home, while reflecting about what I learned, it was a good decision. A very good one, actually. 

It helped me understand how both the IT and the Business worlds are living separated lives in two bubbles that don’t talk to each other, necessarily. It helped me understand how that lack of communication between IT and the Business is not going to be much more sustainable in the current times we live in. It helped me understand as well how if IT would listen to the Business on the many various different challenges, problems AND opportunities it faces and if the Business would try to understand how IT could help address the vast majority of those, we would ALL be in a much much better position. It, finally, helped me understand how we need to start building a much more cohesive ecosystem where we would be combining both business and IT as part of the same equation: as ONE single entity, facing the same challenges, but also the very same opportunities. Switzerland - Zurich

And I am just not talking about the dichotomy we see inside companies between the needs and wants of the business and the prerequisites and requirements from IT. I’m talking more about the fact of how the IT industry needs to start leaving its own comfort zone and start mingling further along with the rest of the industries, because, right now, there seems to be a huge disconnect between the two. In numerous occasions, while engaging in various different conversations at the event, talking with business leaders about their own firms, their strategies, their many challenges, etc. etc. I couldn’t just help thinking how for a good number of them technology could have made a huge difference in helping address them and find a solution for them. Yet, because both worlds don’t talk to each other, they both keep missing out from one another and therefore from these wonderful opportunities to keep innovating by making a difference.

It needs to stop. And soon! Just as much as something else that I witnessed while at the event that I thought was rather remarkable: the huge disconnect between the IT / Business world and the world of Academia. I am hoping that I would be able to get hold of the presentations that I attended from a couple of professors from various universities who shared their insights and research on some really fascinating topics, because not only were they incredibly inspiring and rather resourceful, but they highlighted a bunch of really mind-blowing research that’s been done on how the current role of Leadership needs to change and adapt to face a brave new world. Covering both natural, born, networked leaders, to executives reaching all the way to the top. Incredibly inspirational research as well on how we need to shift gears on how we are viewing professional development in the corporate world, moving away from that extra focus on weaknesses of your knowledge workers into just focusing on their strengths to help them excel and achieve more at what they are already good at! Yes, the well known positive psychology and positive leadership. Lee Newman‘s on this topic was just brilliant!

Like I said, lots of really good insights that I took away with me on a wide range of topics: Leadership, Healthcare, Finance, Sustanability, etc. etc. and that have made me realise I need to make a much more conscious decision from now onwards to start attending more business related events rather than just technology driven ones.  Specially, in the area of social business and social networking for business. I just felt that I kept missing the business part for far too long!

It may well seem like our job is done, like I said above, specially, those folks who may have been heavily involved with driving such social business transformation at their own organisations, but I am starting to think that’s no longer enough. The ecosystem, yes, that one I blogged about a while ago, needs to GROW and fast! Stagnation is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to any kind of movement. If it doesn’t find a way to develop new trends of thought, if it doesn’t evolve, if it doesn’t continue to challenge the status quo of the corporate world in general, we are not going anywhere. We need plenty more cross-breeding. We all know that the business environment needs to change, but I am starting to strongly believe that it needs to change with a purpose: not just that one of aiming at sustainable, and profitable growth for everyone, not just a few, but also how it is going to reflect into our societies, where we are all starting to sense how the business needs to come closer to our society in general, in order to provide us all with an opportunity to strive for a better world, not just for us, and our children, but for many future generations to come!

Switzerland - ZurichFor far too long the corporate world has been totally disengaged with taking ownership and responsibility for how it can help societies flourish and boom in a sustainable and resourceful manner. It’s just been far too focused on amassing huge profits, power and greed for the benefit of just a few, while destroying the resources, and the planet, for that matter!, we all live in. And if there is anything that I am starting to strongly believe in is how Social Business can help glue both the corporate world into our societies to become ONE. That single one entity that each and everyone of us, humans, continue to build, nurture and cultivate over the course of time. More than anything else with the growing urge for businesses to drive societies into becoming much more sustainable, profitable, relevant, purposeful, educated, meaningful, etc. and for societies to help businesses re-find a new purpose where that power and greed that I mentioned above both stop being the main key drivers. Essentially, what Don Tapscott brilliantly stated at his recent TED Talk: Business Can’t Succeed in a World That’s Failing.

There is probably a whole lot more that I could talk about from what I learned about this event, but perhaps, instead of doing just that I will stop for now, thinking that several reoccurring themes will pop up again in upcoming blog posts over time, I am sure. But, for now then, if you would want to learn some more about what the event was like you could have a look into this .PDF file that I have created with all of the live tweeting I did during the course of the day and perhaps witness, a bit more in detail, why it’s probably a good time now for both the IT and the Business worlds to come together, one step closer, to help us all realise that business and societal transformation that we all know we need to go through, but that we keep postponing time and time again hoping it will fix itself on its own at some point. It won’t. The clock is ticking and we are running out of time. If you ever thought that social business was all done and dealt with, think again please, my fellow social computing evangelists. We are just getting started! And we better begin to hang out there a bit more to keep spreading the message, which is, I guess, what true social business evangelists need to be up to nowadays, specially, outside our very own comfort zones. Don’t you think?


Exciting times, indeed! Time now, for me though, to prepare for the next business trip that will take me, over the next two weeks, to Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, Brighton, UK, and, finally, Montpellier, France. But more about that business trip in upcoming blog posts … 

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