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

From the blog

Essential Qualities of Open Business Ambassadors

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloA couple of weeks back Laura Dinneen put together a rather interesting and insightful blog post on the topic of “Five Essential Qualities of a Social Business Champion” where she described, quite accurately, some of the various different traits Social Business Champions need to master and excel at if they would want to keep pushing the limits and change the way we do work nowadays and make it more social. That article got me thinking, of course, about my own role as a social business ambassador (champion, evangelist, or whatever other term du jour you would want to make use of) from over the last 12 years I have been doing this myself and I thought I would put together this article over here today where I could expand further, but perhaps around the field of Open Business evangelism. After all, I committed this year to get rid of the Social Business moniker for myself, remember?, at IBM Connect a couple of weeks back, so better get things moving then. So what are some other key characteristics from Open Business Champions?

Before we move further along, let’s cover for a couple of minutes the main qualities Laura covers on her blog post to recap what we have got so far: 

  1. Passionate: Of course, otherwise what’s the point? How can you be a Social Business champion (Or a champion in any other subject for that matter), if you are not truly passionate and enthusiastic about your topic? How can you transmit that energy, that enthusiasm, that subject matter expertise, or that purpose and focus on the topic if you are not passionate about it altogether, right? Indeed, not much more to add further up on this one, I am afraid…
  2. Innovative: Not necessarily an exclusive quality from Social Business Champions per se, but perhaps more from knowledge workers in general. The key thing here is that social champions will always be on the look-out for innovative ways and methods about how they can share their knowledge across on that particular topic in order to have their voices heard, which I think is the main reason why creativity and innovation walk hand in hand for them. It’s not an easy task, for sure, but one where they certainly need to master over time, if they would want to be really good at it as time moves on. 
  3. Collaborative: Another quality that’s a given for social champions, more than anything else, because if there is anything that they need to do above and beyond their call of duty is to walk the talk, learn by doing, and this implies that they are the very first ones who breathe this collaborative nature, if they would want to succeed. They fully understand they are part of a network, of a community, but they also understand they are just one node of that same network and therefore one more of the pack wanting to change things, to collaborate more out there versus trying to keep protecting and hoarding their own knowledge. They wouldn’t. They shouldn’t! Rather the opposite. 
  4. Flexible: Flexibility is, for sure, our middle name. I don’t know of any social champion who may not be flexible enough to understand we are living in a rather complex, networked, hyperconnected, distributed and rather virtual working environment and therefore we would need to live that flexibility in getting our work done, because otherwise we would not be advancing much further along … 
  5. Courageous: Definitely, one of those qualities you would probably not expect to see that often in a work environment, yet, incredibly critical for those champions, because being courageous means they do not fear anything, not even their managers! They are in a position where they feel that passion, that innovation, that collaboration and that flexibility would allow them to achieve everything they may well get their heads around in trying to push the limits. And it’s that very same position the one that empowers them to be fearless, even if they are seen as a potential threat, due to their own influence with those around them, i.e. the network(s).

    As my good friend Richard Collin once presented at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris, social business champions need to come to work with this mentality: “Come to work each day willing to be fired

As you can see, I took the liberty of adding some additional commentary around each and everyone of those qualities that Laura mentioned on her original article. It’s now time for the second part of the blog entry where I would want to reflect on another ten critical open business qualities champions would need to master and excel at, because they are going to define the challenges they will be facing over the course of the next few years. Interestingly enough, all of them have got a lot in common with the ones referenced above, but with a little bit of a twist. Let’s have a look: 

  1. Open: Indeed, Open Business is about being just that: open. Open to the unknown, to the unexpected. To uncertainty. Open to living our lives in perpetual beta, as a constant form of improvement, of learning on the go, of adjusting accordingly, of understanding hiding away behind your Inbox, for instance, or your own little cubicle is no longer good enough. Open means embracing those serendipitous knowledge accidents where magic happens to transform how we collaborate and share our knowledge. Essentially, how we work. 
  2. Transparent: And along the lines of no longer being capable of hiding away from everything at work, here comes the need for Open Business champions to become rather transparent on what they do. So that instead of protecting and hoarding their knowledge, their expertise and their networks, they transition successfully from that good old mantra of sharing knowledge “only on a need to know basis vs. sharing publicly by default. Or that other one that I keep referencing time and time again on “Knowledge is power” (so if I share my knowledge across I share my power), when we all know it’s all about “Knowledge SHARED is power”. It’s that openness and transparency the two single traits that have got the most significant impact on helping business realise that journey of become socially / openly integrated enterprises.
  3. Empathic: In the world of social networks there is one quality that shines through time and time again; a quality that social champions have passed on to open business ambassadors when interacting through these digital tools, which is, essentially, empathy. Our ability to build much more fruitful personal business relationships highlights the need for each and everyone of us to become more empathic with those around us. To help them when they need it and for whatever they would need, all in all without asking for much in return. We would need to be patient and resilient; to persevere, because we know that good active listening and understanding can take you very far. And showing that you care is what matters the most at the end of the day…
  4. Engaged: I don’t think I have ever bumped into a social / open business champion who may not be feeling rather engaged at work. Have you? Indeed, they are a special breed. They define their own rules of how they would want to work, what kind of work they would do eventually and who they are going to be working with. For them, hierarchies just don’t work. They live through wirearchy. They understand that if someone moves their cheese it’s their turn, and full responsibility, to re-engage back again into what they live for and engage back. They won’t be asking the traditional hierarchy for much help. Their free radical nature, their outrageousness, their eternal optimism, their hippie 2.0 lifestyle, their (corporate) rebel at work nature will help them shake off that disengagement and find their cheese again. They are essentially the good outliers who know how to get things back when someone decides they are becoming too much of a threat and use their political / bullying power to displace them. Not to worry, they always find their way back and when they do come back, they are even much stronger, more powerful and engaged than ever before!
  5. Trustworthy: Open Business champions live on trust as well, of course, as I am sure you know all along if you have been involved with social networking tools for business over the course of time. Trust takes plenty of time to build up (And a split second to break it away forever). It’s about getting to know someone, i.e. what they are good at, what they are not, what they are passionate about, what they care for, how they build personal business relationships through nurturing to the extreme their social capital skills. So much so that in the end it becomes second nature. Yes, trust, we all know, is an essential quality, but it’s one that it’s not been worked at much over the course of time and I guess we are paying for it at the moment seeing how the financial econoclypse keeps hammering multiple economies and countries worldwide due to that lack of trust. Say, for instance, when was the last time you had to work with someone you didn’t trust? Something tells me it wasn’t that long ago … 
  6. Authentic: If there is anything that these champions will be excelling at as well, as a living proof of what an open business should be all about, is how authentic they all are. Essentially, how they keep building very powerful authentic personal brands, that, if anything, help amplify the overall corporate one. If there is anything they do rather well is they walk the talk. They don’t come around and talk to you about how wonderful and how great these digital social tools out there are, and then go and hide inside their mailboxes processing email, because, you know, they have got work to do! Never mind you won’t see them complain much about how overloaded they are with email, because, eventually, they don’t get much. They no longer live there. They are out there, in open networks, interacting and collaborating with their peers and knowledge workers helping build further up on those digital footprints and authenticity that they know customers and business partners would appreciate quite a bit, because it’d help them convince businesses and brands that they, too, need to be just that: authentic.
  7. Honest: And right along those qualities of being open, transparent, trustworthy and authentic would surely permeate into perhaps another trait that we may have been neglecting for far too long in the corporate world: honesty. Call me Hippie 2.0 and everything you want, but I feel that if businesses and people working in those businesses would have been a bit more honest with not just themselves, but with the societies they live in, we probably would not be where we are today: perhaps one of the most serious, critical, and revolting crisis times where lack of ethics and morals have surely trumped people in the millions, while only a few benefit. Honesty knows better. Honesty fosters ownership and responsibility, not just towards you and your business, but towards the societies we live in. After all, what’s the legacy we would want to leave behind for future generations? Just like social / open business champions are much more honest, so do businesses in this brave new world. I doubt we can afford heading in any other direction without having to pay for the consequences in the short AND long terms… 
  8. Autonomous: Right along the lines of being engaged, here comes one of those qualities that is perhaps the most refreshing one, coming out of the tailorism regimes we have been living in over the course of decades: being autonomous. Having the opportunity to think for yourself, to make decisions on your own grounds based on the experiences and skills you may have, without having to depend on your manager to make those decisions for you. That lowering of the centre of gravity, of the decision thinking process is probably as good as it gets on empowering your employee workforce to learn (even from failures) into doing things better, much better.

    More than anything else, because along with that autonomy and free thinking comes along dissent, i.e. constructive criticism, which we know in today’s corporate world is far too rare and almost inexistent, because we just don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. Well, it’s not about that. It’s much more profound than that. It’s just that we have become much more comfortable with not having to think much and let that task to others so we get to live the easy life… Social / Open Business champions aren’t like that at all! They transpire autonomy, they define their own rules of how they would want to contribute to change the game, how they would want to redesign the way we work, which, if anything, has demonstrated how the last 50 years we haven’t done much in terms of progressing further in our thinking processes. That has been of the most liberating capabilities from social technologies today: give us a new opportunity to think and think freely, something that may surprise most, but it’s part of our human nature. It’s just been too hidden for far too long altogether!

  9. Motivated: What can we say about motivated champions that may not have been said before, right? I mean, do you know any social / open champion who may be rather demotivated on wanting to keep pushing the limits of how we work and look for ways and methods that could help transform not only the way we do business, but also our very own organisations? I surely don’t know of any and, like I have mentioned above, if someone decides to demotivate them, because they may have reached a level of autonomy difficult to control and manoeuvre around, there is something out there very clear that we can see time and time again come afloat: they will fight back. Finding new energy, new ways to show their passion, to build even more powerful social networks, to eventually become motivated again about what they do, to keep sharing with passion what drives them to work over and over again. And, believe me, they always find the way to re-motivate themselves. Remember? They are rather resilient and perseverant with plenty of flexibility, so they would always find out there what would motivate them. Ask them and they would tell you how they do it. They are rather open and transparent about it after all …
  10. Caring: And, finally, perhaps the quality that I find the most inspiring and refreshing to have happened in the corporate knowledge workplace thanks to social technologies for a long long time: caring for one another. I know that this one may also sound a bit too Hippie 2.0 as well, but I keep thinking that if there is anything that all of this social networking has done for all of us within the corporate world and within our societies for that matter is help us understand how over the last few decades we haven’t done much to care for one another, but to care only for ourselves, because that’s how we have been taught and educated about it thanks to those individual performance traits and reviews that measure, if anything, how good of a fighter we are trumping everyone else’s efforts along the way. And it shows… It shows, indeed, where we are and where we may have gone wrong all along. Can you imagine a business world where we could do plenty more caring for one another with just trying to answer a rather simple question that I have quoted over here in this blog a couple of times already: “how you are going to help people become even more awesome?” Well, how about starting with caring plenty more about them and what they do, instead of just focusing on your own self that, we all know, over time, is not going to take you very far… 

Yes, I know, this has been another relatively long blog post that I have put together over here. I guess that’s what happens when you are stuck in a plane, en route to Philadelphia, to then land in NYC, to spend an entire week with your work team, and you have got plenty of thinking time, and lots of space to write about it comfortably. But here is the thing, you may be wondering that these social / open business champions are far too rare inside companies or too hard to see / notice them, while demonstrating those qualities at work. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s just that you haven’t paid much attention to what’s happening outside your self. They are all around us. Amongst us. With us. We are us. They are slowly, but steadily, coming along as a rather powerful network of change agents that, if anything, should be treasured and nurtured by every single business and, mainly, because of a single reason: they are the only main reason why your business still exists today, as my good friend Carmen Medina described a little while ago on a rather short, but incredibly insightful and relevant presentation on why we needed to cultivate and treasure those outrageous optimist rebels at work


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