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The Social Enterprise – Welcome to the Era of Intrapreneurship!

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Lighthouse - Meloneras in the WinterThere is probably very little doubt out there still about the huge potential, and impact, that Social Networking has been having within the corporate world over the last few years, to the point where a few folks have ventured into suggesting that we are witnessing the tipping point of how we are redefining the Future of the Workplace itself, something that has become, over time, one of my favourite topics as of late and which has finally triggered a thought that’s been lingering in my mind for a quite a bit already: from now onwards I’ll stop talking about Social Business (And leave it down to those folks who coined it first, for our own social goodand, instead, move on with “The Social Enterprise”. And, more specifically, I would like to welcome you all to The Era of Intrapreneurship!

There are plenty of blog posts out there that have covered very well the topic of “The Future of the Workplace” and the impact of social computing in helping shape up the business world to become a whole lot more open, engaged, transparent and nimble. However, there is one particular article out there that became one of my all time favourite ones around this very same topic, and more than anything else, because it describes, pretty well, how work has evolved with the emergence of the Social Web in the last few years. I am not sure whether you folks may have read it already or not, but, if you haven’t, it’s probably one of those blog entries that I would consider an essential reading for people who are interested in getting a glimpse of what lies ahead, if not already! Check out Irving Wladawsky-Berger‘s “A New Style of Work“.

Irving’s blog is probably one of the most refreshing, enlightening and entertaining reads you can bump into at the Internet Blogosphere. In case you may not have subscribed to it already, I can surely recommend you do so. And that blog post I mentioned above would certainly confirm why it’s a worth while read time and time again. In that article he basically defines the work life of Trust Agents, what I would call as well Wild Ducks, that group of knowledge Web workers who do lots of smart work together gathering in social networks, communities and whatever other informal groupings to carry out that piece of work they are truly passionate about and connected with one another due to a common affinity. Nothing to do with hierarchies, nor with organisations, nor with project teams, just plain wirearchy, without which all three of those would probably not exist today, as we know them. Apparently, what Tom Foremski has defined as an “atomic” business model as well.

A New Style of Work” is a wonderful trip down the memory lane as well that will certainly act as a refreshing reminder of what the Web used to be and what it is today and, clearly, this particular quote states what’s meant for each and everyone of us as individual knowledge workers:

My time is now my own. I have a lot more flexibility and personal choice in what I do and how I spend my days. The boundaries between work and personal life, already very porous when working at IBM, are practically non-existent.

But, as a self-employed individual, I am also on my own. While the various institutions I work with provide me some degree of support, their infrastructure and processes are geared to support their full time employees, not part-time professionals and contractors. I thus have had to come up with my own infrastructure and processes suitable for my present distributed work style

To then finish it off with this other insightful quote that I am sure plenty more knowledge Web workers out there would agree with blindfolded:

“The Web has now essentially become my primary work infrastructure. My work processes are essentially web-based processes. While I use physical offices when spending time at any one of the institutions I work with, by primary office is the Web. My primary business address is someplace out there in the cloud

This is exactly what I meant with the title of this blog post when welcoming you all to the Social Enterprise and the Era of Intrapreneurship. You are not reading it wrong. I actually meant every letter: The Era of Intrapreneurship. An era, where thanks to the Social Web, whether internal or external, or both!, knowledge workers, for the first time ever, are now in charged of their own productivity, of their own workflows and personal business relationships with others, of their own responsibility not only towards the work that needs to be done, but also towards the fellow peers they collaborate and share their knowledge with. Thanks to that Social Enterprise we are starting to see how knowledge Web workers are becoming a whole lot more open, public and transparent in narrating their own work, therefore making observable work an integral, critical and paramount activity at the workplace; we are starting to witness how knowledge workers are shaking off their fears for the work they do, or don’t do! as well the fears of no longer being considered indispensable, despite the the huge amount of knowledge they have accumulated over the course of the years, or those other fears of no longer being considered the experts they once thought they were. In short, fear is out, having fun @ work is in.

It’s that social revolution that we are witnessing entering, slowly, but steadily, the corporate world, that’s certainly going to help us move along, not thinking along the terms of becoming a social business, but more embracing that social transformation that trojan mice typically would provoke as intrapreneurs. It’s that social revolution and transformation that will help us all understand how critical it is for each and everyone of us having the right access not only to relevant information and content resources, but also access to the people behind it by nurturing and cultivating those relationships and networks on a regular basis in order to make better, smarter, more sensible and more informed decisions, regardless of wherever we may well be, whether in a physical office location, or while working from home, while travelling or while at a customer site. What will matter then is how work will start shifting around us, and not the other way around, as it’s been happening all along over the last few decades. Iriving’s account of how, amongst several other social flavours, mobility, i.e. going mobile, and blogging, specially, as one of the most powerful ingredients to help boost your own personal brand vs. that one of the corporation (as I have blogged about over here myself a few days back) is probably as good as it gets in helping set the stage of how the workplace has been transformed into something so empowering as helping employees take a bit more co-responsibility of their own workflows, without having to wait for orders, or being told what they would need to do. Quite the opposite, in most cases, the center of gravity has been, finally, lowered down tremendously, to the point where it’s through those informal social networks and communities they themselves co-facilite the ones who will be defining what work needs to get done and with whom.

Something that, to me, represents the true spirit of Entrepreneurship, in our case, for this article, Intrapreneurship. Something that, for the first time in a long while, could be classified as a truly inspirational social revolution that will help transform not only how we do business, but also how we behave as human beings in our very own societies. My dear friend, Susan Scrupski, couldn’t have put it in much better words than this wonderful gem she shared earlier on today to describe what I have meant all along with that social revolution within the enterprise:

“[…] The zeitgeist of Social is about introducing the promises of Web 2.0 (Openness, egalitarianism) to reinvent the way things have been done in prior eras, evolved from industrial age principles, e.g. Taylorism.

Social is not about anarchy ; it’s about freedom and democracy and innovation. It’s not about rigid structures and hierarchies; it’s about transparency and honesty and re-distributing power to create agile change motivated by passionate, engaged actors. It’s about leadership that rewards and recognises talent and instinctively has a collective understanding of the community it serves, because it’s tuned into what they think, as well as what they do. It’s about authenticity and trust. (Yes, trust)”

Like I said, I couldn’t have put it in better words than those and if you haven’t read the entire piece I would strongly encourage you all to go ahead and do so and go through the highlights of a keynote with 45k attendees that may have marked the beginning of that Social Revolution within the Enterprise itself.

Essentially, this is not about becoming a Social Business; because with the word “Business”, we lose all of the original intent that sparked the creation of that Web 2.0 movement back in the day that Susan talked about in her post. We need to go beyond that! Further beyond that! This is all about embracing and living a new state of social empowerment that will break the status-quo within the Enterprise, and I do realise that for plenty of people out there I may be in fantasy land myself and won’t probably see it in my lifetime or perhaps a bit too deep into my Hippie 2.0 shoes, but just like recent global events have shown us, we are witnessing a truly unique historic moment where, now more than ever, it would be up to each and everyone of us to decide where we stand, i.e. whether we would want to co-lead it, or wait for it to blow us all away without remedy and no point of return! It’s your choice. It’s our choice. And I guess, if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know on which side I would be standing, right?

… Well, what about you though? Are you also a wild duck, one of those critical trust agents, intrapreneurs ready to co-lead that social change within your own enterprise? Are you ready to drop Social Business and instead continue to live the Social Enterprise Revolution we all once truly believed in, when we all thought we could change the world with the Social Web? What do you think?

Of course! Come on and join us! The waters have always been lovely!

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The Future of Work by 2020

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringFascinating topic, don’t you think? And here we are, still in 2013, and already thinking about what the workplace of the future would be like by 2020. Well, one thing for sure is that it won’t be anything like we have today or what we may have had over the course of the last 50 years. Even more, I am suspecting that over the course of time, if not happening already today, we are going to make a very healthy split between work and jobs. Because, you know, they are not the same, no matter what people keep telling you. They have never been the same. And, certainly, with the emergence of digital tools that split is even more natural and in full accordance with a new reality: work is you, you are the work.

So what is the future of You? What is the future of work then? It seems that lately there have been lots and lots of interesting and rather relevant insights shared across, i.e. blog posts, articles, mainstream news, insightful whitepapers and whatever else, shared across by folks who have embarked themselves into redefining how we should be looking at work from here onwards over the course of time and also from the perspective of how we are rethinking the role of jobs, even to the point of perhaps venturing whether it’s worth while quitting yours and move on to the next big adventure (Highly recommended and superb read by Irvin Wladawsky-Berger, by the way). Uncertainty will be there. Uncertainty is always there. But that’s perhaps a good thing, because it’s essentially what helps us progress further into the unknown while we keep rethinking what we will all want to be doing as work.

Long gone are the times where we were aiming for long term careers and their big aspirations, for loyalty to a specific business or company, for a long-term opportunity to have an impact over the course of decades. Long gone are the times where knowledge workers were aiming at fitting in within a working environment for which they were perhaps not ready for it, while carrying on their work, with very little motivation, waiting for the payslip at the end of the month. Hummm, well, maybe this one is not gone just yet. But perhaps it is a clear indication already as to why certain jobs need to be questioned and redefined in the context of whether they are still purposeful or meaningful altogether. After all, and this is what I keep telling people all around, we only have got one single life, so it is probably a fair game we all try to make the most out of it, don’t you think? 

Lou Adler has also got a rather thought-provoking article on a similar topic under the suggesting heading of “There Are Only Four Jobs in the Whole World – Are You in the Right One?” where he proposes how those four jobs are the following ones: Producers, Improvers, Builders and Thinkers. Go ahead and read it through, as it will certainly be rather helpful in understanding what your current job may well be about and it will confirm whether you might be on the right one, or not. Interestingly enough, while I read it myself, I just couldn’t help thinking how in today’s more complex than ever working environment each and everyone of us may eventually be doing the four jobs at the same time depending on the context of the task at hand, which is essentially what keeps driving us all into achieving our goals: that purpose and meaning I mentioned above, along with the right context in such a hyperconnected, networked (business) world. 

And to that effect, while I keep reflecting myself on the future of work, I thought I would point you to a recent article that my good friend Jemima Gibbons worked on over at “What will “work” look like in 2020?” where she gathered a good bunch of folks sharing their insights on how they see themselves the workplace of the future. Some pretty interesting insights with key concepts like Intrapreneurship and its impact behind the corporate firewall (By William Higham); or the redefinition of work from a physical space / office into a state of mind where work life integration play a rather key, paramount role (By Karen Mattison) towards sustainable growth; or how the convergence of cloud, mobile and social (Along with the “Internet of Things”) will inspire more contractual / freelance work helping organisations become more liquid, hybrid while knowledge workers become freer and more autonomous around their work, owning it and co-sharing that responsibility (By David Terrar); or how knowledge workers will no longer be talking about adoption of new technologies, but more a key concept that I have become rather fond of myself over time and which I find also rather descriptive in terms of where I feel the key is of how we redefine work, that is, how do we adapt to this new digital work environment to make the best out of it, as in how well do we adapt to change (By Helen Keegan).

Like I said, lots of great, relevant insights and plenty of key pointers that surely highlight where we may be heading to over the course of time. Jemima asked me as well whether I would be able to contribute with my ¢2 and, of course, I couldn’t reject such generous offer so I added a short paragraph that explains what’s been in my mind for a while in terms of what I sense the future of work would be like in the not so distant future … So I thought I would go ahead and finish off this article by taking the liberty of quoting it across: 

In the future, work will be more distributed and remote – technology means that people will be able to work from wherever they want to. Work processes will be driven by interactions from workers through networks and communities rather than traditional company hierarchies. Large enterprises will no longer need to exist, because of the nature of the hyper-connected and networked workforce. Trust between workers will be more essential than ever – and critical for success. People will find new meaning and purpose through building strong personal business relationships: the key objective for everyone will be sustainable growth.

So what will “work” look like in 2020 for you? Care to venture and share a comment or two on what it may well be like? Perhaps in a few years we can come back to this blog post and see how accurate our perceptions were after all. Or not. Something tells me the journey is going to be just as fascinating, inspiring and refreshing as the final destination, if not more altogether! Why? Well, because for the first time in decades it will be us, knowledge (Web) workers, the ones who can choose what we would want it it to be.

And that’s a good thing. After all, work is us, we are the work.

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The Cultural Impact of The Future of You

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the WinterOver at Harvard Business Review Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic has put together, just recently, a rather interesting and relevant article on The Future of You that clearly highlights three rather intriguing career suggestions for knowledge workers out there for the new year to carry out, if they would want to raise their visibility, demonstrate their subject matter expertise and build their social eminence effectively in a social world infested with perhaps far too much noise. The article itself is worth while reading on its own, for sure, as it highlights some of the challenges, but plenty of the advantages of what it is like having a powerful personal brand, as a knowledge worker. But I would think there is something missing on the article itself that makes me a bit too uncomfortable: the enterprisey touch. 

I am sure you may be wondering what do I mean with regards to that enterprisey touch, right? Well, if you take a look into the article you would see how Dr. Chamorro celebrates three suggestions he thinks are going to work really well for knowledge workers, but perhaps he forgets how the whole thing changes as soon as you enter the corporate world. Here is an example. In that article he quotes the need for more self-branding, along with plenty of entrepreneurship, as two key traits to succeed in the business world. Part of me would definitely agree with those two traits big time, specially, in the context of the Social Web and pure knowledge Web work, but then again, if I look into the corporate world itself, and judging from both first hand experiences while interacting with customers and other thought leaders in this space, self-branding, a.k.a. personal brand, would only work out just right IF (And that’s a *big* IF) the corporate brand doesn’t decide to kill it in the process. 

Essentially, the corporate brand needs to evolve and both embrace and celebrate the richness of powerful employee brands, because, if anything, they surely help amplify and augment the overall corporate one; yet, what you see on a rather regular basis is how businesses ensure that the personal brand remains subjugated to the corporate brand’s needs and wants, resulting in turning off completely the motivation from employees to even look after their own. They just don’t see the value of being just one more voice adding to the noise, which is essentially what most companies want (mistakenly). There are better ways. Never mind that thought from companies that employees with powerful brands could become a threat to the  business or they could just be snatched away by talent hunters. Well, not really. It just depends on how hard, you, as a business, would work your magic to engage, from the knowledge worker perspective, those employees to augment AND increase both the visibility and mindshare of the overall corporate brand. Right now, that hard work is just not happening. It’s non-existent. The easy way out has always been undermining or terminating the employee brand, as soon as it is considered far too powerful or a threat to the business. 

This is certainly an area where I would expect HR to take a much more active role in helping knowledge workers develop the right skills set, as much as corporations to learn how to live with that personal branding trend for their own employees, because it’s only going to become more and more relevant over time. Remember? People do business with people, not with brands. People, after all, like to talk to other people when doing business. It’s just that simple. So the sooner HR can dive into the conversations and act as referees defending with good counter-arguments the opportunity for knowledge workers to develop their brand as part of their key, essential personal development opportunities, the better off we would all become, because it will help address part of that business problem I keep referencing time and time again: employee engagement. 

With regards to Entrepreneurship, we have seen that for enterprise knowledge workers it’s slightly different. Over here, in this blog, I have been talking time and time again about it referencing it as Intrapreneurship with perhaps this specific article as the most relevant one to the context of what Dr. Chamorro talks about on the HBR article. I would love to know in the comments how you folks feel about Intrapreneurs, because, somehow, I suspect we are going to start talking more and more about them as Trust Agents, Wild Ducks, Liquid Freelancers, become more and more prevalent of the new Workplace of the Future that we are currently shaping up!

And, finally, the one other suggestion that Dr. Chamorro mentions in that article and which I think is perhaps the most exciting in the context of Open Business altogether: Hyperconnectivity. That is, the ability of you, as a knowledge Web worker, to act both as a powerful connector, as well as that empowered node to find what you need, which, in most cases, it’s not going to be down to you, but down to how well you have nurtured, cultivated and looked after your own social network(s). 

It’s in this context that I thought I would finish off this blog post referencing a webinar presentation that I hosted way back in November 2012 for IBM’s Academy of Technology on trying to define what that hyperconnectivity would be like in the context of defining the significant impact social networking tools can have in helping redefine the workplace of the future with some essential critical traits. In “Cultural Impact of Social Networking in Defining the Workplace of the Future” you would be able to see my attempt of describing the new kind of skills set that knowledge Web workers would need to excel at if they would want to thrive in an Open Business environment. Here’s the embedded code of the presentation, so folks interested in it could have a look and see what you think: 

My good friend, and fellow colleague, Brian Cragun, host of that IBM Academy of Technology event, arranged to have the session audio recorded, as well as a transcript of my speech, along with the live chat transcript and I thought it would be a good idea as well to share that across over here, so that if you would be interested in spending a bit over an hour listening to it, while flipping through the charts, you would be able to do so accordingly. I have zipped all three files into a single one and you would be able to download it all from this link.

Dr. Chamorro’s conclusion of the article highlights the need for employees to become a brand, their own personal brand, to transform the way they work and become powerful change agents with an opportunity to keep challenging the status quo of how certain things happen while at work and with an innate ability to link to useful information scattered around your various social networks. Somehow I suspect that the hardest part of making all this a reality is not just going to be down to the employees themselves, but more down to HR, Open HR, that is, as an opportunity to help prepare for those upcoming talent wars and personal development initiatives that will help define the workplace of the future in the Knowledge / Open Economy. Somehow, something tells me that this is one of the main reasons as to why HR will cease to operate, or be perceived to operate, around the edges and become *the* central hub that makes that business transformation of the employee workforce a reality. 

The challenge is on though. Will HR be capable of transforming itself into Open HR, as part of Open Business? I surely hope so. After all, we don’t have much of an option nowadays anymore, I am afraid.

Do we?

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