E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Collaboration

Work Stream #1 – Learning Is the Work

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

Ever since I went independent, nearly three years ago, there have been a few people who keep asking me, on a more or less frequent basis, why haven’t I put together a regular Web site where I could list and offer my services as an adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation, so that everyone would have a pretty good idea as to what I am up to and see how I may be able to help other people. Time and time again my answer has always been the same, at least, so far: ‘No, thanks! I don’t need it at this point in time’. I guess the growing amount of surprised faces I keep seeing to such reply is triggering, most probably, the urge to put together this blog post explaining a little bit the main reason as to why I haven’t gotten one so far: it depends!

Indeed, it depends on what you want . Over the course of the last 20 years I have been acquiring a number of different skills and experiences in the corporate world around Customer Support, Knowledge Management, (Remote) Collaboration and Virtual Teams, Learning, Online Communities (and Community Building), Change Management and Social Networking for Business (i.e. Social Computing, Social Business, Digital Transformation, or whatever other monikers you may want to use), which means that depending on what kind of business problem(s) you would want to tackle, or depending on the business opportunities or potential new markets you would want to create, I may be able to help one way of another. Like I said, it just depends.

Perhaps I could describe that ‘it just depends with a description of the kind of work I have been doing in the last couple of years to help everyone understand a little bit more what it is that I do for work and get an idea of the kind of services I could potentially offer that people may find useful.

At this point in time there are a number of different work streams I get to execute on as part of my daily work routines, and since there may well be quite a few, based on the skills and experiences I have been accumulating over time in the different various fields I mentioned above, I have decided to split them up in multiple blog posts where I can expand on each and everyone of them further along to add some additional insights and perspectives, so I’ll start this series of blog posts with what’s perhaps, right now, my number #1 work stream at the moment: client work. 

Over the last three years I have been working with clients from both the private and public sectors, and from multiple industries as well, both nationwide as well as internationally. Some of those clients have been small, medium businesses up to 1,000 employees and some other clients from major big corporations with over 40 or 50 thousand employees (or above, up to 100k). And, typically, after an initial round of conversations, I would work with clients based on two distinctively different contexts:

  • A customer may have recently purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever that may well be) and may need some initial advice about how to get started with their own Social Business and Digital Transformation adaptation plans. So I’d get together with the client in an initial round of meetings and discuss the 5 step framework I have developed over the years around Social Business Adaptation Techniques, to get the conversations going, which covers the following areas: business imperative(s), governance model(s), use cases, networks and communities of champions / ambassadors and, finally, enablement. And begin work with them in executing such initial framework as we move further along, if the client agrees, of course.The most important aspect of those initial meetings is for me to state very clearly how I may be able to help out, based on what the client wants and needs, and over what time frame and what fees would be incurred, accordingly, but also to clearly showcase the kind of transformation work that lies ahead for them to work on together with me by insisting on using the co-creation approach towards adapting that framework I mentioned above to their own doing around adaptation. That basically means, not much talk, but tons of action, that is, real work from both of us.
  • A customer may have purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever may well be) and after a certain period of time (usually between 6 to 18 months, if not longer) of excitement with tons of exhilarating, frantic activities around their change and transformation initiatives, their adaptation rates plateau to the point where there is very little progress further along. This usually happens when second, third or fourth waves of knowledge workers don’t follow the initial rage from the so-called early adopters group. Or when a number of different barriers, obstacles, inhibitors and what not, come along and are just plain tough to overcome them successfully on your own, specially, if you haven’t been exposed to them in the past and don’t know for certain what you are up against. Typically, one of those major obstacles is direct management and senior leaders / executives (I’ll explain further in detail on an upcoming blog post what I mean in this regard).In this particular scenario I’d first spend some time trying to figure out what’s been happening all along since they purchased that specific ESN, why is there such a sudden stop to those change and transformation initiatives, what are the main obstacles and what are they trying to achieve, and, most importantly, figure out how to fix them accordingly, so that things can move on further along, once again. There is a great chance that in my 16 years of first hand working experiences around social and change initiatives in the corporate world I may have seen quite a few of those barriers and could share how we overcome them together as part of that co-creation process I mentioned above.

You see? It depends. It depends on your needs and wants based on what you, my (potential) client, may want to work on, not on what I would want. I know what I want. I have it very clear right from the start: help you become successful at whatever you would would want to achieve and that I may be able to help you out with, either by addressing your business problems or by making the most of new business opportunities creating new markets. And along the way, something else very important to me as well, learn. Learn from you, learn with you, on what it is like becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. It’s how I work, it’s who I am, it’s what you get, more than anything else because a long time ago I realised the moment I stop learning that’s the moment I stop living a little bit. ‘Learning is the work, after all.

That, in a nutshell, agglutinates the main work stream I have been involved with ever since I went independent. There are a few other related work streams (i.e. KM, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities and Change Management) I’m currently involved with as well and I’ll definitely be blogging about them over the course of time, along with some other kinds of work I decided to embark on upon becoming a freelancer, but I’ll talk about those at a later time as well. Suffice to say that part of resuming my blogging mojo over here is to eventually blog about all of the things I have learned over the course of those three years, as a freelancer, as well as how it blends with everything else I have done in the past, hoping to share all of those experiences as to why I’m having such a fun time doing what I love doing: helping others become better at what they already do; working smarter, not necessarily harder, with social tools as key enablers.


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with in this kind of change and transformation work around Social Business with clients and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Trusting People in This Social Age Is a Tough Job!

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

As a result of the article I put together over here in this blog a little while ago under the title ’The Home You Never Left’, and after a bit of a conversation going on in Twitter on the same topic, Anke Holst put together this rather helpful and very insightful piece under the rather suggestive heading of ‘Building Circles of Trust’, in which she makes a pretty convincing case as to why all of these social networking tools are so powerful in helping self-empower knowledge Web workers to nurture and cultivate their own relationships (both online and offline) by building what she calls circles of trust.

I, too, used to think that very same way, and still do, to a certain degree, but recent work experiences have convinced me that, when talking about trust, words, perhaps, are no longer enough. They have never been enough. It’s actions the ones that matter the most, specially, when people can no longer stick to their word, whether online or offline, and you end up having to rely on their real behaviours and get ready for the disappointment, because, despite all of the kool-aid and all of those cool mantras about how social tools help people trust each other by getting to know them a little bit better, it’s actually their own actions the ones that’d mark the tipping point on whether you could trust that individual or not. And time and time again it’s those very same actions the ones that confirm that who you thought you could trust, initially, based on those offline / online interactions, you find out you just can’t. And you tried very hard, but, nevertheless, the disappointment settles in. I am pretty sure plenty of you know, exactly, what I am referring to as I write these words … 

Anke starts building up her blog post with a rather clear idea, which she describes on the following quote:

When I taught people how to be on social media, back before it was all marketing, it was very much about building circles of trust. It was just like building friendships as opposed to giving fake attention, just to sell or influence’

 
If she were to have written that sentence, say, 5 or 10 years ago, I would have believed in it wholeheartedly to the point where I could justify the need to use social tools in this day and age as an opportunity to do just that: building friendships. Alas, fast forward to 2016 and for the vast majority of cases and interactions, that’s no longer the case. Every single individual wanting to make use of social tools has got an agenda, a different (most of the times very well hidden away) agenda, than whatever you thought they were portraying online initially. So instead of using social tools today to build friendships, I am afraid we are inclining more towards the giving AND taking of fake attention, just to sell, market or influence one self into doing something they very well know it’s not going to be in their ultimate benefit as a whole. Just a one way road, if I may add. But, either way, they would still carry on with it. After all, it’s in their own interest, not yours. 
 
But this is about relationships. Relationships are built on human interactions, on imperfections, not PR, on care, not follow-backs.’
Yes, indeed, this is all about relationships! And relationships built on human interACTIONS, which is where we get to experience vast majority of failures in this regard from how people behave online and how they totally transform themselves when interacting, or working together, offline, turning out to be completely different people than those you thought you knew, somewhat, rather well from over the years. Sadly, those interACTIONS are the ones that confirm, once again, you have been framed into believing you were a true friendship / relationship vs. just another individual waiting to be poached upon getting away with it. Once more. It hurts. A lot!
 
I know I may be sounding a bit too radical and negative in that description of how we eventually bastardised the entire notion of what social networks are all about and how to best make smarter use of them, and instead we decided to just focus on the phoney digital marketing techniques we all knew and learned to live without in the offline world, as if we were just bringing with us our bad habits and misbehaviours from the offline world into the online one. And that’s fine. That’s us, after all. Well, that’s not my intention, by far, in fact, following the discourse from Anke in her blog post, I think she is on to something with this particular quote where I feel she is clearly indicating the way forward to what we used to have in the past, say, 10 years ago, when social tools were emerging in the corporate world and people were genuinely trying to figure out what the fuss was all about and truly engage accordingly: 
 
My understanding of building a personal social media presence for us who don’t already have an audience, and using it well, is that we all, wherever we are, build a close circle of trust.
I couldn’t have agreed more with her vision and mantra as to how we could just go back to basics in terms of challenging and questioning the validity of our current social interactions and how much do they differ from, say, 10 years ago. Remember, for instance, when you were using Twitter back then? Ok, perhaps 5 years ago would work, too! Did your use of Twitter, for instance, change much from back then (or Facebook, LinkedIn, for that matter)? I bet it has and perhaps it’s turned itself into something you may not enjoy anymore, but, you know, since you have to be there, because everyone else is and you certainly don’t want to be either left out or lag behind, you are just thinking about carrying on as is, hoping one day will click again and re-engage yourself into the über-awesomeness it once was! Best of luck with that! I suppose those days are now long gone!
 
But, fear not, there is hope, of course! Remember, I’m still an outrageous, heretic optimist, so, as such we can’t just give up like that! That’s why my favourite paragraph from Anke’s great blog entry is this other one that pretty much sums it all up on the kind of challenges AND opportunities that lie ahead, right in front of us, for us to act upon them accordingly…
 
If the real humanity of people is out there, if people truly appreciate each other, see more of each other, and as a result, care more for each other’s feelings, and don’t just use new media to do old-school exploitation, it can all be so much more useful, peaceful, harmonious for all of us.
 
Amen to those words, indeed! 5 or 10 years ago I would have signed up for that vision right away as an opportunity to showcase the true potential of emerging social technologies and, fast forward to 2016, I still do today, except for a couple of nuances, if I may add. Yes, I still strongly believe that emerging social technologies are incredibly powerful to help knowledge Web workers foster, build and nurture their own social capital skills to improve their trust levels wth their peers, their customers and business partners, and, why not?, their own competitors (Coopetition anyone?). We do business with people, because we trust them, and vice versa, we don’t do business with people, because we don’t trust them, or we no longer do. It’s that simple. It’s who are as human beings. Trust is the foundational trait that makes it all worth it, but in this case, for me, the additional nuance is that trust cannot longer be manifested via words alone, but actions as well. Gran Canaria - Artenara
 
Why am I saying all of this in this rather cryptic blog post? – you may be wondering, right? Ah-ha, you noticed it, eh? 😀 
 
Well, there is, indeed, a reason why I’m saying all of this here and it’s perhaps my biggest lesson learned as a freelancer coming close to my third year anniversary as an independent. And since I mentioned in a previous article I’d be sharing my own experiences about what freelancing was all about, I guess it’s a good starting point to share with you all what, to me, has been the hardest and toughest lesson learned as an independent and which I’m still trying to come to terms with, as it’s happening more often than not and I still haven’t been able to figure out how to address it nor fix it: you just can’t trust people through your mutual online social interactions despite years gone by! 

WOW! I know, I know, very harsh words I have just written above, but allow me to share some context in here, please, if I may. I have been involved with social technologies since early 2000 and throughout all of that time I have been able, like I’m pretty sure most of you folks out there!, to build and nurture some pretty amazing relationships / friendships over the years that have made all of these online interactions via social networks a real treat. Totally worth the effort, the energy and the time invested. However, ever since I went independent and became an independent freelancer around Social Business & Digital Transformation nearly 3 years ago, I’ve had, at least, 4 different rather nasty and disappointing work related experiences where people who I thought I could trust and rely on, based on our social interactions from over the years, both offline and online, have let me down big time to the point where I’m still in recovery mode trying to figure out whether I could trust them back again or not. Considering, even, whether that’s even worth the effort altogether. 
 
Yes, I know, we have all gone through similar experiences in our work lives, I am certain of that! (Wish I weren’t!), and I would say we’ll be seeing plenty more of that. Why people keep on behaving in such malicious ways towards others when everyone is just trying their best to make it through and succeed (whatever that may well mean for each and everyone of them), is something that I just won’t be able to comprehend in a long while, specially, when they misbehave and abuse, big time, your own good will, that good will from those who truly believe that we are living in a different world: one where are all are more open, collaborative, caring and overall more trustworthy with one another thanks to that enabling factor from emerging social technologies, as that’s exactly what we are trying to advocate for in terms of things that need to change at work, as much as in our personal lives. Yes, I know, I may well be a bit too naïve in this regard, yet, we keep getting betrayed left and right because of that good will of wanting to have a better (business) world with us not being able to do much about it other than try to learn better for next time around. The scars keep building up in one’s mind. Will they ever heal properly?
 
It’s tough. I mean, it’s really tough to trust people in this Social Age, unless you try to associate their online fancy talk with their actions, in which case you are bound to find out you couldn’t trust them in the first place. And that’s, exactly, what I’m trying really hard myself to do after these different work related experiences from people I thought I could trust, but I eventually found out I just shouldn’t have. I don’t know whether all of this happens more often with freelancers, but I can assure you that in the 17 years I worked at my former employer I never experienced such distrustful behaviours from fellow peers and it makes me wonder that perhaps the big corporate world is not the only one that’s totally broken and needs some serious fixing. Perhaps it’s us, humans, the ones who need fixing in terms of how we need to substantiate our words with our actions. The latter should speak more often for us than our very own words, alas the current Social Web focuses much more on that fancy talk I mentioned above rather than in our deeds on how we treat other people, and perhaps that is the main problem the Social Web has got nowadays… 
 
Trusting people in this social age is a tough job, indeed, perhaps the toughest of them all! We all know how many years of truly hard work, effort and energy it takes to build trust with people you want to respect, treasure and care for, but we all know as well how little time, i.e. a split second, it takes to destroy for good those trustworthy relationships when people say one thing and they do something else completely different abusing your good will of wanting to do things different, because you truly believe that social networks can, and will!, change the world as we know it! Only thing we can do then? Move on, work harder and learn that if people would want to earn your trust, their fancy talk will no longer do. Actions, now more than ever, do matter ever so much more. Now and forever!
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Why Do Social When You Can Live Social?

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

One of my favourite activities at the moment, after having resumed my blogging mojo just recently, is to currently revisit a number of different blog articles I have put together over the course of time in this blog to check whether they are still relevant or not, in this day and age, in terms of exploring how further along we may have gone into that so-called Digital Transformation journey, if at all, and so far the results haven’t been too comforting, nor reassuring, for that matter, since a good number of those articles seem to be still incredibly relevant. Yes, I know what you are all thinking right now, that it’s a good thing for you in terms of what you saw coming back in the day, but then again I think it’s just another indication of how we are all, pretty much, just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of the change and transformation we would all want to witness AND experience. Let’s start with some of the basics, for instance: where, or when, (and why?!?!) did we go from Live Social to Do Social? 

My good friend, Jane Bozarth, author of the wonderfully inspiring book ’Show Your Work’, which I can highly recommend as a splendid summer read, put together a rather thought-provoking article a couple of weeks back that reminded me about how little we have progressed, if at all, in the last decade or so, around our very own Social Business efforts. In ‘It’s Not About ‘Doing’ Social’ she exemplifies a couple of instances that relate to how most businesses try to embark themselves nowadays into that so-called Digital Transformation journey and how one of them would be more successful than the other and for obvious reasons. Mostly, the one that’s least manufactured, structured, over-engineered, institutionalised (or industrialised for that matter) and governed by command and control, top down hierarchical decisions. Yet, it seems most change efforts out there around Social keep reinventing themselves as just another IT project for which we’ve been given two years to show, prove and demonstrate results. Yikes! 

I’m not going to spoil for you the two scenarios Jane describes quite accurately in her blog post, on the contrary, I’d encourage all to go ahead and read through them to see where your own adaptation efforts around Social Business have been happening at your workplace. It’s a rather eye-opening exercise, I tell you. However, what I’d really like to point out, and perhaps quote over here as well, is the brilliantly captured conclusion as to why one of the scenarios keeps failing big time. Like I said, to quote her: 

So it’s not about “doing social.” It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.

While reading through it, I just couldn’t help but nodding my head in violent agreement with her reflections as to how spot on she is. It reminded about a couple of blog posts I put together over here myself over 4 years ago that pretty much touched on those very same points Jane has been highlighting as to what’s stopping us all from moving forward with our very own adaptation efforts around Social. Have a look into ‘Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?’ and ’The Fallacy of Social Networking’ to see what I mean. 

At one point in time, not sure when, why or how, we seem to have decided to do social (at work) vs. living social. And I suspect that’s where we got it all wrong, because you can do as much social as you probably wish, or can, and still pretty much bring forward with you plenty of the dysfunctional behaviours and mindset that keep troubling organisations to date. It’s like we have just switched masks by putting on a new one, hoping that all business problems will disappear and new markets will be created. Well, not likely. Remember? Putting more lipstick on the pig, it will still be a pig! 🐷

Yes, indeed, as you may have guessed it, Social Business & Digital Transformation efforts aren’t just another IT project with a rather reduced budget put in place hoping it will stick around for employees to fully embrace it, because, you know, they won’t have a choice anyway. Otherwise, it will be just another IT project going in the gutter. The thing is that employees *do* have a choice, they always had it, they have it now and will have in the near future. And that choice is all about the mindset and behaviours they would want to exhibit as they adapt to a new working reality with all of these social tools available at their disposal. It’s their choice as well to showcase how dysfunctional the organisations they work in really are, not necessarily to demonstrate how broken they may well be, since they all know it already, but to perhaps highlight an opportunity to want to do something about it and fix that dysfunctional corporate culture. It’s their choice.

That’s why, all along, I have always advocated about the subtle differences between doing social vs. living social. And, eventually, be more inclined towards living social as a philosophical movement that can inspire yourself, and others, for that matter, to embark on that equally exciting and exhilarating personal transformation journey where we become more open, transparent, collaborative, caring and empathic about the work we all do. Why I’ve always been such a huge fan of Open Business vs. Social Business more than anything else, because long long time ago I realised you just can’t change people, nor organisations for that matter!

Change is personal, one individual at a time, and for their reasons, not your own, so the only thing we can all do is to provide the necessary conditions for that change, hopefully, in small increments, to take place as a personal decision from each and every knowledge Web worker out there, which means that everything we’ve been doing at work around adaptation to social tools over the last few years, including change management, needs to change, pun intended!, and pronto! There are tons of really good work to be done and this past decade has just helped us understand why we need to shift gears from doing social to living social. Default to open as an opportunity to help organisations understand the new dynamics of organising, AND getting work done more effectively, via social networks and communities and not just through the traditional, hierarchical, top down archaic structures.

Time to up the game, all of us, collectively, because, remember, after all, it’s our individual choice to help define how we get to spend more than one third of our lifetime (i.e. at work), and reframe, accordingly, what work should be like for us all, not just a few, don’t you think? 

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The Home You Never Left

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Winter

There are plenty of times when you have got that strong, unstoppable urge to spend more time in someone else’s home rather than in your own, either as an opportunity to want to learn something new, whatever that may well be, meet new people or perhaps because you may need a change of some kind, maybe even some new fresh air, who knows, to really appreciate what you may have had all along till it is then gone. It’s pretty much like when you grew up with that determination to leave your parents’ home as soon as you could possibly make it, to then realise, a few years later, how perhaps you shouldn’t have left in such a rush in the first place to understand what you have had all along: a home. Your home.

That’s pretty much how I feel at this very moment, as I get to write this blog post, upon reflecting on when was it the last time I have blogged over here, nearly 8 months ago!, thinking I may well have been away from home for far too long, spending plenty of time perhaps where I shouldn’t have, to then realise it may well be a good time now, if at all, to come back again and make an effort to stick around for a while, pretty much like when you return back home after an extended absence thinking the last thing you may want to do is leave again. At least, not yet.

I fully realise that this blog post may well be too cryptic on its own, it’s not intended to be, frankly, but in a way it’s something I needed to finally write down somewhere and what a better place than my own online home from over the last 11 years and counting: my own personal blog. That place that’s always waiting out there for you, like the good parents anxiously awaiting for the return of their prodigal son; that place that once you arrive it makes you feel like you are right at home, comfy, with no attachments, nor strings, where you don’t have to pretend to be who you are not, and you can be just you, the authentic you. No masks. No bullshit.

That’s what I have been missing all along since the last time I wrote a blog post over here. That online space where I could be me, without having to pretend to be someone else, or to play a different role, or to put on that dreaded mask I just don’t feel too comfortable with in the first place as once you have it on, before you realise it, you cannot longer take it off.

That online space, that is, your blog, where you no longer feel like you are being butchered left and right by multiple social spaces that only care about how much data and information I can keep feeding them with without asking for pretty much anything in return. As if I ever had a choice in that silly game of us being the product.

I’m tired of being targeted, of the constant surveillance state of our very moves throughout those social tools and apps, of the silly algorithms being put together by people who just don’t have a single clue of who you are, what you do or what you care for, not that they would care anyway, in the first place, but that have promised to improve our overall user experience, when in reality they keep destroying it big time to no avail, nor say from our part. I’m tired of reading on a daily basis multiple articles about how certain social tools keep improving the way they surveil and capture our data and knowledge, our relationships and our connections to a great detail and how everyone seems to be celebrating it all with much anticipation as an opportunity to be on the crest of the wave, when, in reality, they have already been swallowed by the savaging digital capitalism wave(s) themselves we once thought would change the world, and, in reality, just keep on perpetuating a dying status quo that doesn’t seem to be too keen on wanting to become extinct in the first place. Quite the opposite, It’s as alive and kicking as ever. And we only ought to blame us all for that to have happened in the short course of a bit over a decade. Just yesterday, if it were. 

I’m exhausted about the sickening polarisation, the despiteful vitriol, the useless hatred, the time-wasting and ever tiring trolling for no particular reason, nor excuse, and, above all, the bullying the Social Web has institutionalised over the course of time with those very same social spaces wanting to do very little about it themselves, because, you know, it’s morbid enough to drive huge traffic and therefore generate more revenue for the benefit of a few while rejoicing on the disgrace from everyone else who keep suffering from all of these horrendous and dysfunctional behaviours the Social Media keeps pontificating and advocating for. Well done to all of us! We truly deserve the Social Web we keep building on and on and on.

I’m utterly worn out about how we, collectively, don’t seem to want to change things, nor to put a stop to it all, to quit making heavy use of those very same social tools ensuring they die a slow, painful death for having mistreated us for years as if we were just resources to feed their hungry needs for with tons of data, to then be disposed off and find someone else to drain in the process. Somehow it feels like we haven’t learned much over the last decade or so about ‘The lost infrastructure of Social Media’ and how it’s turned itself into something completely different than what we originally envisioned in the first place. Remember Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us?

 

But then again, we are the media, indeed, and, as such, we have got a responsibility to make a smarter use of these social tools to help us connect, learn and collaborate more effectively; we have got a responsibility to *not* make use of these social tools that are only interested in the data we provide them with on a regular basis, so that they can then use it against us time and time again, if we ought to change things. We’ve all got a volume control on mob rule and, as such, we should exercise that right, instead of letting morbid, tragic and dramatic news flood our feeds while we watch and observe from the comfort of our couches, as we left the computer desks behind us. We know better. We should do better. We must do better. We should break the chain. Today. 

That’s essentially what I’ll be doing myself from here onwards as an opportunity to come back home, to come back to those special social spaces we once treasured and loved dearly for how they helped and allowed us to change the world as we knew it and make better people out of ourselves altogether. Each and every single time. Back in the day I deleted both my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, amongst several other social spaces, and it looks like that was one of the best things I could ever have done in the last few years. But that doesn’t seem to have been enough, at least, for now and there isn’t an indication that things will change any time soon. 

Time to regain control of our conversation(s) then and leave the silly, pretentious algorithms behind thinking they know better than us. They won’t. They can’t. It’s going to be us, knowledge Web workers of the 21st century, the ones who need to decide what kind of Social Web do we want to build and nurture over the years, not the social tools themselves dictating how us, the mindless sheep (according to them), will continue to behave. I know, and realise fully, how this may well be a bit too radical and everything, a bit of an outlier, if you wish, but then again it wouldn’t be the first, nor the second time for yours truly. I want a totally different Social Web user experience and I know that unless I do something about it for myself, no-one will. It’s in our hands to change it and I realise now that by resuming my blogging mojo it’s perhaps the perfect opportunity to reclaim back the conversations. So we better get started with it, don’t you think? 

That’s why, from here onwards, at least, for myself, there will be a whole lot more blogging and a whole lot less time spent in social tools, specially, those that seem to be only interested in me for the data I keep feeding them with and not for the conversations they can start and facilitate accordingly with me. Remember blogging? That’s exactly what it once did and why it feels good to, finally, be back home.

The home I never left… 

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Social Computing Guidelines and Why You Would Still Need Them

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

A few weeks back I wrote about the first of the 5 pillars I keep using with clients, time and time again, whenever they are embarking on the so-called Digital Transformation journey. Back in that blog entry I mentioned how having the right purpose is the main trigger to get things going. From there onwards it all starts rolling out and for today I thought I would go ahead and continue with the series of articles and write about the second pillar itself, which I know is going to cause a bit of a surprise, and perhaps a bit of a stir, too, because most people are not going to believe that here we are, nearly at the end of 2015, and we still need them and pretty badly: Social Computing Guidelines.

Yes, that is right, whenever you are embarking on the Social Business journey, right after you may have figured out what the main purpose is for that transformation initiative through social / digital tools, the next big activity to look into is to have a rather robust, representative and relevant set of social computing guidelines. I know what you are thinking, here we are, already passed through 2015, and we still need guidelines? Really? Haven’t we learned much from the last 10 years or so? Well, you are probably not going to believe it, but we certainly do need them! 

Initially, because when starting to make use of social tools, whether internally, or externally, you would *not* want to use or talk about rules to describe how people should behave at work, no matter how insistent senior leadership may well be when stating they want to control how people behave in this brave new world of digital tools. Narrative matters, nowadays more than whatever you would have thought of in the past, and that’s the very first thing senior management would tell you that you would need to take care of: ‘Yes, I want to have a bunch of rules, so that my employees would not be goofing off, nor misbehave and what not and instead continue to work really hard. I want to command and control what they do‘. As if that ever happened in the past, right? Bless them … 

Here is the thing, if you let that happen you are just opening a can of worms you don’t want to open. Rules, control, entitlement, arrogance, (a certain) position or status, micro-management, etc. etc. don’t work well in an unstructured, almost chaotic, network driven environment where democratisation of conversations by earning the merit, the attention and the conversation of your peers is the new modus operandi. We no longer talk about rules, but guidelines. We no longer talk about imposing a certain method of operating while getting work done, but, instead, work through influencing certain behaviours to flourish and thrive over the course of time. Openness, transparency, publicy, trust, engagement don’t work well with rules. Quite the opposite. Those Social Computing Guidelines are your entrance door into modelling certain new mindset(s), behaviours and overall good business practices. 

Now, let’s have a look into what it would be like not having those social guidelines in placeLet’s take, for example, Twitter. Umair Haque put together, not long ago, a superb piece of writing in which it became pretty clear, right from the start, what Twitter is all about without those social guidelines themselves. The World Wide West would not suffice to put it mildly. You haven’t seen it just yet? Take a good look into Twitter’s Trending Topics, for instance, whenever you have got a chance, and you will see the kind of vitriol that takes a whole new level of describing what both trolling and bullying is all about. It’s just as if we are using these social tools as an additional digital layer of sociopathy that de-humanises not only who we are, but also both our actions and interactions with others. No wonder senior leaders are so scared of embracing internally social / digital tools, if they think things would be pretty much the same as what happens out there in the Social Web. 

See? There are many reasons why you would want to put together some Social Computing Guidelines in place, before you would run into potential trouble, but perhaps there are two of them that keep coming up time and time again in the conversations I usually have with my clients: 

  • Organisations need to become comfortable with their employees making good, smart and responsible use of these social tools, so they can put together a green check on their corporate legal records, and move on…
  • And people in organisations (i.e. knowledge workers) need to become smarter in terms of how they can make the most out of social tools to collaborate more openly and share more of their knowledge across to, eventually, help them get work done effectively vs. using it as a corporate weapon of massive destruction (of one’s own digital reputation, that is). 

That’s why whenever I work with clients I firstly asked them: ‘What’s your purpose?’ and, right after they have shared across the why, the what’s in it for them, I usually ask them whether they have thought about putting together a certain number of social guidelines to help their employees, and the overall organisation, prepare for the journey. And, if not, why not? Having a conversation about potential social media bloopers and evaluating, initially, the potential (negative) impact they can have within an organisation helps understand why those guidelines may well be needed, after all. From there onwards, ‘how do we get started with them?‘ usually comes up and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working on them. 

The good thing is when trying to get things started we are never starting from scratch. There are tons of really good resources out there already, as well as dozens of examples, of other businesses and organisations that have graciously shared their own as an opportunity to contribute into the overall #SocBiz community effort. Take a look into the Social Media Governance Web site, for instance, where you will find hundreds of those same examples I just mentioned above. Even just go into Google and search for ‘Social Computing Guidelines‘ and you will find (first link on the top!) the one that has been perused over and over again over the years: IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines.

Back in May 2005, yes, that’s not a typo, IBM decided to ask a bunch of very brave and rather prolific IBM bloggers to come together over the course of a couple of weeks, and using a wiki, put together an initial ‘Blogging Policy & Guidelines‘ that will then need to be cross-checked with both corporate communications and the legal teams to ensure things were all right and then publicise them both internally and externally. After a couple of weeks of frantic co-editing, updating, adding, removing, revising and working together the guidelines were done and presented to both of those teams. Not a single update was needed and IBM’s Blogging Policy & Guidelines were born. May 2005

That was, right there, IBM’s opportunity to, instead of blocking the use of social tools, send out a pretty loud and clear message to its employees, customers, business partners and competitors that, if anything, IBM wasn’t going to block access to them at all, but, instead, fully support and embrace them altogether. And IBM’s official journey to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise had just begun. Two years later, pretty much the same group of bloggers, as well as everyone else already using, internally and externally, those social tools, came together again to revise them and update them accordingly with guidelines about new tools, trends, and what not. And IBM’s official Social Computing Guidelines were born. During that time none of us, i.e. that group of bloggers, would know such guidelines would become an industry standard, but they, eventually, did. If anything, reaffirming the power of co-creation, through a wiki, of a bunch of enthusiasts, advocates and overall 2.0 practitioners. 

10 years later I keep thinking the main reason why those different guidelines (not rules!) were a success, both for IBM, as well as other companies that decided to adapt them to their needs and embrace them accordingly, was because of two different factors that were taken into consideration right from the start: 

  • Match those guidelines to the corporate culture of the organisation, to send out there a very clear message to everyone that these social tools are business tools, and, as such, there is a certain netiquette that needs to be respected, complied with and abide to. It’s how you do business, people to people. 

  • Put yourself in the shoes of those (back then new) 2.0 practitioners and ask them how they would want to make a smarter use of those digital tools in a business context. Then invite them to tell you what directives they would feel comfortable with and embrace those. Helping define a level of comfort for those 2.0 practitioners in a co-creative manner they would want to go ahead with is just the beginning of sending out a clear message, from there onwards, that you, as an organisation, do care as much as they do. Why? Well, you trust them to do the right thing. And they will. 

With those two underlying principles in mind, and with all of the resources already mentioned above, it’s now a good time to get things going and decide whether you would want to open up the process of creating those social computing guidelines, as IBM did back in the day, or whether you would want to have a representative team, as much as possible, to work on them. Either way, let’s start!

Here are though, some additional thoughts you may want to take into consideration as well when beginning to work in those social guidelines that may prove to be both helpful and relevant: 

  • Align them to current, existing business conduct guidelines, corporate values, code of conduct, etc. that you may be using already to set the tone and their overall purpose. In a nutshell, it’s still work.
  • Keep them simple and straight to the point. You would not want them to be longer than a single page people can go ahead and quickly print & have it ready at their desk for when in doubt. Don’t over engineer nor add too much corporate speak into them. You don’t need it, neither do they. 
  • Use plenty of common sense. If you see those guidelines don’t have much of that, start again. Till they make good business sense both to the organisation and to those 2.0 practitioners.
  • When in doubt, ask those social computing champions, ambassadors, evangelists (or whatever other naming convention you may be using) to give you advice. They live daily this brave new world of social networking for business. Use that to your advantage and let them help you accordingly, where you may need it.
  • Think about your customers, because, more than anything else, you need to remember the final frontier is not that people should use internal social tools and that’s it. It’s way bigger than that. They need to be able to use, in a smarter manner, external ones to interact, collaborate, connect and share with your customers and business partners.
  • Don’t spend too much time in them; get them out of the way as soon as you can and publish them out there for everyone to use. Observe and learn how people would behave through them and if you would need to adjust, correct, update them and iterate again, do it. Better adjusting on the way than having to wait for 6 months or a year for your legal team to come around telling you it’s ok. Keep the pace up.
  • Ensure confidential content is properly addressed in the guidelines. There is a chance everyone would already know what to do with it, but better to still have it down in writing, in case people might forget. You know, just in case.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected; there is a great chance once you get started with this process you would be entering unknown territory and that’s a good thing. Learning to act accordingly while on the move will probably dictate whether the guidelines will be a success or not. Adjust and adapt accordingly.
  • Finally, once the guidelines are done, publicise them externally, communicate about them, bring them up at every single place you can imagine. The more you communicate about them, the better. You would want to have every single employee wanting to use social tools be well aware of them even way before they dive right into it. 

From there onwards, let the fun begin!

It’d then be a good time to move into pillar #3 of the Social Business and Digital Transformation Journey, where, in an upcoming blog entry, I will be talking about Building a Solid Library of Use Cases to help your 2.0 practitioners dive right into how they can get work done more effectively by working smarter, not necessarily harder. By making good use of the social / digital tools at their disposal, focusing on the tasks and activities at hand to help, in the long run, entice a new set of behaviours and mindset and, overall, good business practices to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. But that would be the topic for another blog entry coming up next! 😀

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Social Business Is People to People Business – The #Movistar Story – Part Deux

Gran Canaria in the Winter

Over three years ago I wrote an article over here around the ‘Joy of Business Travelling’. I still feel pretty much the very same way about it as I did back then when I wrote it, but I guess I underestimated how draining it can well be if you embark yourself on a European Tour of sorts over the course of a few weeks, and before you realise it, a couple of months have gone by without you noticing much! And that’s exactly what I am starting to recover from nowadays, as I just finished my last round of business travelling for the year. And, of course, it’s time to resume my blogging mojo, once again, now that things have, finally, started to slow down a bit, as I get to wrap up another year. My goodness and what a year it’s been altogether!

If you remember, back in December last year, and over the course of the following 2,5 months, I put together a round of different blog posts about the appalling customer service I received from my local ISP provider (Movistar), that, pretty much, disabled my ability to work properly throughout all of that time by not providing me with an opportunity to be connected to the Internet (where most of my work happens nowadays), in a timely manner, at my new home. A year has nearly gone by and, boy, how has the story changed from that horrendous customer experience.

Giving good credit where it’s due is a healthy behaviour, if only, to act as a proof of concept that not all of us keep complaining about poor customer experiences ad nauseam via social tools no matter what, so, as an opportunity to resume my blogging activities, I thought for today’s blog article I would share a short story about the truly amazing customer service I received a couple of weeks back from the rather smart and talented folks at Movistar. Who would have thought, eh? 

Well, it’s not the first time that it happens. In fact, over three years ago I wrote this other piece that confirms that good customer service, even from Movistar themselves, is, after all, possible, that is, if you bleed the purposeful intent of delighting your clients to the extreme. And the folks behind @Movistar_es (on Twitter, that is) surely do!

You see? There are many many reasons as to why I keep hearting Twitter, as my preferred digital tool from the Social Web tools suite, but one of the most compelling is what great customer service experiences you can get from it vs. other traditional means such as email or the Help line. And just a couple of weeks ago I had myself a first hand experience of how delightful customer service can well be via Twitter itself. Who knew, right? When everyone tells you that social / digital tools don’t really work for customer service, here comes Twitter to prove everyone else wrong. Ha!

So, like I was saying, a couple of weeks ago, I had an issue that was bugging me for a little while already with my Movistar full package for Internet access, Satellite TV and both phone and land lines. Typically, you would expect that I’d pick up the phone, call the Help line and ask for help. Or perhaps send an email :-P. The thing is that I didn’t. I went on Twitter and sent a Direct Message out right away, and without much thinking, to the folks behind @Movistar_es asking for help and guidance on how to sort out my problem. What happened over the course of the following couple of days was an intense, in terms of frequency, exchange of wonderful DMs with Raúl, Noelia, Amor, Nazaret & Coral to help me get answers to the various different questions I kept having, over and over again, that I wanted to have an answer for. 

All the folks I just mentioned above were, simply, superb! Incredibly helpful, witty, polite and specially patient in trying to clear out all of the various different issues and concerns I was having as a client for one of their products / services. Never a foul word was exchanged. On the contrary, one of the most delightful exchanges I can remember when embarking on that horrifying experience of customer service that sometimes we bump into without really wanting it. In this case, everything but that. It almost felt as if they were in the same room as I was trying to help me understand how to address and fix the problems I had with their product. Did I mention how patient they were with me while I struggled to comprehend the situation I was going through initially and that they managed to clear out accordingly AND on a timely manner? Gosh, they surely were!

Bless them for that, because they managed to turn around, completely, the horrendous customer experience I had earlier on in the year to a delightful one this time around. And, like I said before, it was not the first time either. I’m not too sure what happened from that linked story over 3 years ago to the unfortunate happening earlier on this year, but I can certainly tell you one thing I have learned throughout those different exchanges and over the course of time: the moment you treat your customers as people, as human beings, with respect, trust, and open, frank dialogue of genuinely wanting to help, the moment you are starting to embark on that fascinating journey of, like I said multiple times, becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise. And you know what? This time around it was Twitter, once again, the one that came to the rescue confirming how powerful listening to your clients’ needs & wants via digital tools can well be. 

You know, they say that customer centricity is really hard. Then there are those other folks who keep claiming that customer centricity is just plain obsolete and that we should move on away from it (Oh, by the way, read this absolutely brilliant refutal from my good friend Javier Recency on this very same topic to re-think why that would be a bad move). But then again you bump into other pretty interesting and insightful reads that confirm how critical that transition into customer centricity would be for most organisations to survive into the 21st century, and when you rely on that transformation process in your own energetic, enthusiastic and creative employees there is only one other major perk coming along that, if anything, will help us all re-humanise not only our very own businesses, but also ourselves and how we work: employee engagement. Why?, you may be wondering … Well, you know how it goes… happy employees produce happy customers. 

That simple. And, right now, I can tell you all I am a very happy customer (once again) 😀

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