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

Conference Events

JAC 2012 – Joint Alumni Conference Event Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Social Business Is People to People Business – The Iberia Story

2009/02/21 EC-JCYAs you may have seen it already, once again, I am on the move. This time around to Zurich, Switzerland, to go and present at the Joint Alumni Conference – JAC 2012 event, perhaps on what may well be one of the most important and relevant speeches I may be delivering to date, around the topic of “The Future of Work in the Age of Social Business“, which is turning out to be one of my favourite topics to talk about at the moment, for that matter. Over the last few weeks I have been working on the dissertation itself for this particular event and time and time again I have been thinking about different ways of how I would introduce the topic to such a rather selected audience. Who would have told me then though that, despite all of the various different iterations I have been working on so far, I would be going eventually for the one I fully experienced during the course of today, on my way there, as perhaps one of the most powerful introductions on Social Business I have done to any presentation I may have delivered so far in the last few months. As part of the series of “Social Business Is People to People Business“, here’s the next take of what living social is all about. This time around with an unexpected surprise: Iberia.

The future of work is social. I haven’t got a doubt about it. And, after today, even more so. The future of work is going to be exciting, too! It’s going to help knowledge workers become more empowered, more autonomous, more trustworthy, more motivated and engaged, more open and transparent than ever before carrying out important, meaningful and purposeful knowledge work. Work that they care for, work for which they have built certain attitude to do it just right, in short, work that aims at perhaps the panacea of what doing business nowadays should be all about: delighting your customers. 

After today’s experience, which I will start detailing shortly, I am 100% convinced that we are not going to have it any other way. On the contrary, we, customers in general, are going to start aiming higher and higher at what excellent customer service should be all about. And we are perhaps going to start demanding it more and more as well! And rightly so, to be honest. It’d be about time, too!, don’t you think? Here is why … Here is another story as to why the future of work is social. 

If you have been following this blog, and my various social networking interactions over the course of time, you may well remember how I get to travel quite a bit for work and throughout all of those years I have been on the road, or up in the air, I keep having a good number of unpleasant experiences, in general, to the point where I have learned to develop lots of extra patience, resilience and perseverance in order to learn to live with it and move on. Well, today it was different. Totally different. Today, for the first time, in a long while, I have been having one of the most gratifying customer experiences I can remember as a road / air warrior. And all of that with what it is turning out to be one of my favourite airlines out there: Iberia

As I keep writing this article further along, I am sure most of you folks out there would be thinking that I am crazy, right? I mean, Iberia? Really? Iberia is your favourite airline nowadays? Are you really sure? Well, yes! And here’s the reason why… excellent customer service through a rather unexpected channel: Twitter.

Indeed, like I was saying, earlier on today, I was supposed to take a plane from Madrid to Zurich arriving about early afternoon to then get everything ready for tomorrow’s presentation at JAC 2012. Everything was going according to plan. No delays, no additional, last minute problems. Just everything perfect. For a change. So we get on the plane, take off and about one hour later, approximately, the captain tells us that the two systems that regulate the cabin pressure of the plane both broke and we needed to lower our altitude to the point where eventually we needed to divert our course and head to our nearest airport, which, at the time, was Barcelona. The tone of the message was rather reassuring and calm, so everyone did just that: remain calm. And perhaps a bit defeated that once again something did eventually happen, although without further consequences. Something for which I am very grateful altogether on its own!

So there they went, all of our intentions to arrive on time In Zurich on another uneventful trip. We got off at Barcelona airport and this is where the story begins and where it’s changed completely my view of the airline itself. When we all arrived to the airport all of the passengers headed to the Transfer Desk to see what was happening and to find out plenty more details as to whether we would be able to fly again that evening or in the early morning. I didn’t. I decided to remain, lag behind and instead get my iPhone up and running and go into Twitter. After all, I was supposed to meet up a group of colleagues to catch up and needed to tell them I was going to be running late and perhaps not make it altogether, if we were going to leave the next morning. So I told everyone what happened, about the incident, about how everyone was all right, about how we all remained calm (Despite the good amount of recent events that have been reported in the press that I am sure we are all far too familiar with for multiple other airlines) and how we were all waiting for things to happen… 

At that point, it occurred to me that I could query @Iberia and see if they would know what was actually happening. What was the failure about, how long we would need to wait for something to happen and whether we would be leaving for Zurich eventually, after all. And lo and behold within a few minutes I got a lovely response back from the @Iberia folks confirming the problem, how they found out from their colleagues they were sending another plane from Madrid to Barcelona and how about one hour later we would be taking that one from BCN to our final destination and how everything was going back to normal. And there I was, from feeling a bit uncomfortable, tense, perhaps a tad too nervous about what was happening, waiting for more news to come through, I got all I needed: the right information to reassure me (us all, in the end) we were being taken good care of

From there onwards, I no longer felt that I needed to go to the Transfer Desk to inquire any longer. Word started spreading pretty quick and before we all knew it we were all enjoying a refreshment waiting for the next flight to arrive. And it surely did! 35 minutes ahead of the scheduled time we were told! Once again, that distress, uncomfortable situation of not knowing what was happening, which is usually the feeling one has when travelling, was transformed into excellent customer service and all of that thanks though a delightful exchange of tweets, not just with the folks behind @Iberia, but also a couple of other folks (Aviation enthusiasts for that matter, who were tuning in on how the plane got diverted for no apparent reason), and also my own social network(s) who all kept me entertaining sharing glimpses of what was happening to them while they interacted with me to confirm whether I was ok and being taken care of, which I was. 

Yes, I can imagine! I am sure you may all be thinking this success story is an easy one. I mean, so easy to keep your customers informed about what’s happening, right? Specially, while they are on the move… Well, the thing is that it’s not happening as often as it should! Like I have mentioned above, I travel quite a bit throughout the whole year and this was the first time any airline tuned in on to their social channels (Twitter, in this case), to go the extra mile and help their customers get comfort after a rather interesting incident which turned itself into just another anecdote, which is essentially what happened after we got the information we needed. Now, imagine this whole scenario without having social technologies helping out. Imagine the chaos of several dozens of people piling up, complaining about their own rights, about having good information on what’s happening, about their vouches for refreshments while the wait ensured, etc. etc. Yes, I am sure it’s not hard to imagine. It would have been a complete chaos. Mayhem unleashed. And yet, a couple of exchanges with @Iberia through Twitter and we are all good. Yes, just that, 2 or 3 exchanges in Twitter and we are back in business!

Needless to say that this success story, just like it did for Movistar a little while ago and that I have blogged about over here, can only mean something, something that we all seem to take for granted, but that, time and time again, it’s incredibly difficult to gain and enjoy for much longer nowadays as we have all become rather disenchanted: customer loyalty and employee engagement. Because you know, happy and engaged employees surely help cultivate happy customers. Each and every time.

Indeed, thanks to that helpful exchange on Twitter, one gets to comprehend how the future of work is social, how Social Business is all about people to people business and how customers don’t interact with brands to get their problems addressed and fixed and their needs met. Customers talk to people, people who take ownership of their customers’ problems and whom, within a matter of minutes, ensure that problem has been taken care of and a proper resolution is on the way, depending on the context, obviously. Essentially, no matter what people out there may well say, that’s what customers care about. Perhaps not so much about engaging with those brands per se, but more talk to people to have their problems solved, so that they can move on. And since that’s just what has happened to me that can only mean one thing: my new favourite airline out there to do business with is … @Iberia. Just another business that has embarked already on that fascinating journey to become a successful socially integrated enterprise.

In short, another business that, finally, shows and demonstrates fully, by walking the talk with these social technologies, how to care about their own customers: From people to people solving their problems by making them their own, while finding a solution in a timely manner. That, folks, is what a Social Business is all about! And, I do realise that this may well be just an isolated occurrence, so we will have to wait and see about that! But, for now, once again, Iberia is showing everyone the way… It’s now up to us to follow suit.

[ I already have, by the way. They just landed themselves a new, happy AND loyal customer 😀 ]

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State of the Net 2012 – People Tweet Tacit Knowledge – Part Two

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring (This is Part Two of the series … Part One can be found over here) And on that spirit of what the real impact of Social Computing is, we are going to move onwards on to the second keynote speaker session that I would want to share with you all and talk for a bit about it. Again it took place at the State of the Net 2012 event, the same one where Euan was also one of the keynote speakers. This time around though by one of my favourite thought leaders and KM / Complexity mentors, the always insightful and incredibly knowledgeable Dave Snowden, whose blog, along with Euan’s, are two of my most essential, critical reads of the day, every day. Couple of the main online resources on KM, the Social Web, Collaboration, Narrative and Complexity that keep feeding my brain into the bursts that you folks get to read over here and in other social networking sites over the course of time. 

Thus when I bumped into Dave’s recording of his keynote “Tacit Knowledge I just couldn’t help finding some time and watch through it. It lasts for a little bit over 35 minutes, but it’s one of those essential recordings of the year you just can’t miss out on and I am not too sure I’m going to be doing proper justice to it by sharing along some of the golden gems and insightful glimpses that Dave himself shared throughout all of that time. However, I’m going to try it, encouraging you all though to not miss out on the video clip itself, because it’s one of the most essential resources on The Social Web, KM, Narrative and Storytelling, Complexity, Collaboration, etc. etc. that you would find out there. Yes, indeed, that inspirational altogether and here’s why.

As a starting point, Dave gets to talk about tacit knowledge, about the differences between knowing and knowledge and where we should be focusing on. Knowledge is basically collective in nature. And as groups who get to share and exchange that knowledge he brings up a superb point of encouraging, within organizations, the setup of crews (In the military sense) to replace teams, as the latter have got to go through a process of formation and knowing the capability of other people, whereas crews themselves can immediately perform since they are ready to go, trained on role and their role expectations well defined. Brilliant point as well to focus on exaptation, not adaption citing Apple as being the prime example. Truly enjoyed his definition of such concept as well as that other notion that we all live in a state of messy-coherence, although I won’t be saying much more on it, other than encouraging those folks in favour of management, and managing things and people, in general, to go and have a watch. It will help change, or snape, your prospecting on managing things and people.

However, the main starting point from Dave’s keynote, and which I got as a key takeaway is how organizations, as we know them today, need to switch from robustness, i.e. organizations preventing failure, to resilience, that is, organizations no longer risk averse, but very capable of learning, adapting, in an agile manner, and recovering quickly from those failures. And how if we would want to make our businesses successful we need to starting thinking about architecting on the assumption of failure and not on the assumption of success, and we would all be much much better off! Truly fascinating!  

Best practice is a bad idea. Full stop Dave’s words, not mine, not much to do with the flow of this article, I know, but I just loved it when he mentioned it, because, as plenty of folks out there who know me would tell you, for a long while “best practices” still remains as one of my pet peeves, specially, when dealing with knowledge work. They just don’t exist and I am surely glad Dave was so categorically when stating that quote! Loved it! Ok, moving on … Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & La Culata

One of the interesting things that you may not know about Dave, but that I have learned from him over the course of the years that I have known him is how when you talk to him, or watch him speak on a keynote, he gets to talk about a whole bunch of different things that initially don’t probably make much sense together, but when you look into it as a whole and you muse about those conversations or presentations you would see how it just makes perfect sense. That’s the full impression you will get as well from this keynote and it’s all probably down to his perception of how we are all Irrational creatures, pattern based intelligences, and not information processing devices. And the best part of that is that we make lots of decisions along the way under these circumstances! Wait till you see his short dissertation on sensemaking and how he describes it as see, attend and act model, three completely different processes altogether. 

He also talked about singularity, how and why it’s not going to happen any time soon, not just from a cognitive perspective alone, but drawn from plenty of research around the implications of our physical bodies in constant contact with the world and how we make decisions and choices based on the combination of both of them. Mind-blowing, is the only word that I can think of to describe his insights in this space. 

He also discussed how human knowledge requires mediation. We don’t trust something just because it’s published, we trust it because we link through a human network of some type. He ditches the whole concept, notion of Web 3.0, and instead advocates, big time, about how the Web is turning itself into a distributed App environment, where we would get to use multiple specific Apps which embody human knowledge and facilitate us to create composite, allowing to create massively coherent systems. And funny enough if I look into my own Social Web consumption and production of content, he’s absolutely spot on! 

From here onwards Dave moved on to what I thought was the best bits in his inspiring repertoire, because he talked about how we need to humanise the Web, how we need to actually recognise that we are humans and we live in a human system. How we have had three decades of a so-called techno fetichism where we needed to adapt to the tools and that implied that we didn’t do much of a good job at it, and how if we pick up a tool it will need fit our hands, and that way we no longer need to re-engineer them, i.e. our hands, to fit the tools, but adapt technology and tools to our hands themselves, which is what we have been doing for thousands of years already. Ha! Taking the whole concept of mobile and HCI into a new level altogether! 

Extrinsic rewards destroy intrinsic motivation“. Another one of those priceless quotes that I just have to jot down somewhere on this blog post to remind me every time that someone brings up either intrinsic or extrinsic rewards to motivate your employee workforce. Perhaps one of the biggest issues within the corporate world at the moment, don’t you think? 

Incredibly inspiring his words as well on being proactive, on not focusing on measuring networks or the use they make of the social tools at their disposal, but instead stimulate the formation of networks around purposes. Distributed cognition, as we he calls it, giving them freedom within constraints to make decisions. Apparently, the key here is to have those constraints. That’s how we seem to operate better, as human beings. Goodness, who would have thought about that, eh?  

Fascinating commentary as well when he describes how we are really homo narrans, vs. homo sapiens. How we are the storytelling apes. Even to take things one step further how the primary mechanism for human knowledge transfer and meaning is through stories. Stories determine our culture. We live in a narrative flow which constrains and directs the way we think, clearly reminding us all the power of storytelling, even for business purposes, like I have recently blogged over here as well. 

His final words during his keynote were very motivational and moving altogether, because he kept encouraging us all to, once and for all, leave behind that techno fetichism that has been with us for decades, even on the Web, and how we need to embrace the fact that we have a need for constraints and human interaction. How, used properly, technology can augment human memory and experience. How, used improperly, it can destroy human capability. His final words: “We live in a time of choice between those two alternatives“… And it’s our choice to go for the right one. And somehow I think we all know, deep inside our heads and our hearts, which one we would need to go and aim for, don’t you think?

 

Whoahh! What an adrenaline rush! Head spinning wildly, eh? Well, that and so much more is what you will be getting yourself exposed to if you just hit play, on the embedded YouTube video link shared above, but I would just want to leave you now with what is my favourite quote not just from his keynote session, but perhaps from the last few years that I have been involved with Social Computing myself. It’s just so close to some of the recent stuff that I have been blogging about, that’s just perhaps a bit too scary, if not hopeful, that we are on track on to greater, better, bigger, more meaningful things. If not, judge yourself from this quote:

“98% of our genetic history is as clearly seen as hunting gatherers; our brains and social processes evolve for small, family clan-type groups and tribes. A model of an organisation all for that matter and economic model of society which is based on personal self-interest is fundamentally inauthentic to the nature of human evolution. We evolve as social entities, able to act and know things socially, not individually, and you can start seeing that happening on the Web”.

Colour me excited and rather privileged for having the great pleasure of thanking both Euan and Dave for their truly inspiring keynote sessions that surely have helped me overcome, big time, those moments of weakness that we all know we face every now and then. Whenever I would have the next one, I will just start reading that quote from Dave and remember both these two articles and their presentations. And I know I’ll be just fine. And I’ll know things will be all right eventually, too!, getting back in business with all of that excitement and joy of continuing to make a difference.

Our difference. Yours and mine.

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State of the Net 2012 – People Tweet Tacit Knowledge – Part One

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the SpringYou may remember how in previous articles that I have put together over here in this blog I have mentioned how, lately, I am going through one of those stages, where instead of participating rather actively in a good number of various different social networking sites, I’m now more inclined towards plenty of reading and listening what’s happening out there, then do a bunch of more reading (books, articles, white papers, etc. etc.), followed by lots of additional self-reflection and learning on the sides from watching video clips, mainly of conference event recordings available on YouTube and, eventually, come back to the blog to reflect on some of the stuff I have learned in the process.

Yes, indeed, in short, I am spending now more time blogging than in the usual social networking sites, the so-called message boards. And today has been no different. Specially, since I have been catching up on a couple of recent keynote speaker sessions that have totally blown my mind, since my head is still spinning with dozens of ideas and I just can’t help thinking about them. And all thanks to the State of the Net 2012 conference event, hosted in Trieste, Italy, by late June. And all thanks to having watched, in much anticipation, two of my favourite mentors and thought leaders in the space of the Social Web, Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Narrative and Sensemaking: Euan Semple and Dave Snowden.

This is the first part of two blog posts that I will be putting together to summarise some of the findings of what I learned from having watched both presentations over the last few days, starting with Euan’s “People Tweet” and then the second article on Dave’s “Tacit Knowledge“, since I was originally putting together a single blog entry and it was just getting a bit too long, so I eventually decided to split it up in two to help digest it better, since there is just far too much good stuff in both of their keynotes that I wanted to touch base on as my key learnings. So here is Part One and stay tuned for Part Two coming up shortly already!

In “People Tweet” Euan gets to talk for a little bit over 25 minutes on the state of Social Media in general and how, in a way, he misses the good old Social Web, where really good conversations were taking place, as opposed to today when it looks like broadcasting short bursts with your own messages along seems to be the rage of the so-called social tools, specially, those bursts that are no longer shared across by people, but by corporate drones or bots just wanting to get the message across, without an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue. Indeed, the good old known sense of belonging, of connectedness, that we seem to have lost at a rampant pace nowadays, apparently.

Euan comes to state that part of the reason why we are heading that way and why we should question it eventually is how much we have ending up industrialising our lives to the point that for a society that tries to move on from the industrial revolution into the digital revolution, we seem to be going in the wrong direction, and perhaps even without not noticing. How we may have sold our souls in the name of security, of safety, of our own jobs, essentially, even though that’s no longer anything else than a myth. Job security, that is, specially, in today’s current financial econoclypse. He worryingly states how the vast majority of the Social efforts out there done by businesses are now down to outsourcing it to agencies, and put a check on Social, and move on, without realising their decision making / power almost disappears from the entire equation for something so important as collaboration amongst knowledge workers and their customers and business partners. 

It’s been fascinating watching him talk about how much of the business world today is rather paternalistic, to the point that strong hierarchies are still in place making most of the decision making process as an outsourced activity, reminding me, big time, of the recent TEDx Talk from Isaac Getz on the issues and concerns of doing so. Truly loved his quote on how “we have sub-contracted storytelling to broadcasters” to the point where they are no longer our stories, but someone else’s, in most cases losing the context of what we wanted to transfer and share across in the first place! Goodness, not sure what you would think, but that, right there!, is a massive wake-up call for all businesses out there thinking they are living social this way thinking they will be all right. No, they won’t. Never will. Bound for failure sooner rather than later. 

One of the things that Euan thinks we have gone ashtray with when talking about the huge potential of the Social Web and that we have started to miss big time on is having grown-up conversations, for us to start using these social tools for serious things, for things that matter. And how we keep failing about finding our voice because of how fearful we may well be about tasting the lovely waters of writing, of blogging, for instance. From there onwards he starts advocating for how we need to revert that worrisome trend and encourage knowledge workers to not be afraid about writing what we think, what we know, what we say in face to face interactions about things that matter, because there is a great chance that in doing so we will have a good opportunity to change things that may work relatively well, or not. And improve them for the better. But it needs to start somewhere. And Euan thinks that blogging may well be a great starting point and I must say, while putting together this article, that I couldn’t have agreed more with him, having followed that approach myself for over the last 9 years with thousands of blog posts shared both internally and externally and realising how much blogging has meant for yours truly not only on my own personal career, but on sharing across ideas with other folks who may be interested in and helping improve them engaging in those same conversations that Euan mentions on his pitch. Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring

Ha! Who would have thought that blogging would be so powerful in the era of social tools, errr, I mean messaging board systems like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so forth? Not too bad, eh? Thus, where is your blog in all of this? Think about it as Euan pretty much nails with his commentary about how most of the corporate communications out there are nowadays de-personalised to the point where they are mimicking management speak, where they lack the passion and the emotion of the messages you would want to convey across… 

From there onwards he comes to question everyone about when was the last time that we sat down to think about work, to seriously think about why do we do what we do, about the consequences of what we do, about the huge potential of introducing networks behind the firewall, exchanging ideas, sharing with one another, to help democratise how information and knowledge at the same time flow throughout the organisation altogether. What Euan, quoting David Weinberger, mentioned as “Writing ourselves into existence“, which is definitely the perfect introduction to the next section of his presentation where he talked about the perfect blend of hierarchy (Which have now worryingly institutionalise far too much altogether!) and wirearchy in businesses where there would need to be a combination of both in order to get the best outcomes from both of them. Where managers need to shake off that flavour of command and control, suit-and-tie, within their organisations and instead realise you are just one node of the network, one of the leaders, who just basically needs to lead by example, lead with an attitude, not your title, or diploma altogether but through ephemeral meritocracies. Just brilliant! Long live all of those trojan mice

Now, there are a few other things that Euan gets to talk about on that keynote speaker session that I will leave it down to you to watch and enjoy further. Perhaps, I would just want to leave things over here embedding the code of the video, so you can play it right away, and by including as well what’s my absolute favourite quote from his entire dissertation and which is just worth it on its own. Again quoting David Weinberger, and nicely captured as well by my good friend Samuel Driessen

Love is what makes the Internet hang together, the basis human desire to want connect to each other

Demonstrating, once again, how the Social Web, as we know it, is a whole lot more than just a bunch of social technologies and tools that we have got out there at our disposal for fun and play and whatever other trivial stuff we are just too used to. We need to be able to re-find our focus, our purpose and our meaning, without fear taking over our actions and interactions, and keep thriving on that journey to become a successful social organisation, whatever that may well be. Essentially, the one we have all envisioned from the very beginning, back in the day. And it looks like writing out loud our way there has never been more powerful to achieve that goal. Even today, more than never…

 

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Once Upon a Time … the Power of Storytelling for Business

Carmona's Parador (Seville)Over at StrategyFocusedHR, Ron Thomas put together, just recently, a rather interesting and intriguing blog post, under the suggestive heading “Once Upon a Time: Remember When We Could Tell a Story Without Slides?“, that I can certainly recommend everyone reading through it, specially, if you are a public speaker, and, more importantly, if you like storytelling with a business purpose. But perhaps even much more highly recommended if you feel that slides have taken over your public speaking world and, eventually, they may have become the “crutches” for your narrative. It’s a rather thought provoking read, because, in a way, it’s going to help you challenge the way you use slides for your public speaking gigs to the point where he questions whether we should be using them rather heavily, or, instead, use them as a simple guide, but no more

I guess at this point in time, we are all sensing what he really means and we probably have got an affirmative answer to his reflections; the fact that, whether we like it or not, we pretty much rely on telling stories by using PowerPoint presentations. And perhaps we shouldn’t. At least, we shouldn’t depend on them as much as we do nowadays. Ron is essentially launching a call for action to stop relying so much on slides and instead focus on sharing some good stories to get your messages across. 

I can see his point. In fact, I have probably abused myself that Death by PowerPoint a few times already, far too many, perhaps, that I would care to remember, as I have blogged about in the past, but if there is anything that I have learned in the last 6 months or so, after having been a (keynote) speaker in multiple events, is that sooner rather than later, even you, the public speaker, will burn out from PowerPoint Overload and eventually tune out. And that’s exactly the stage that I am at at the moment. And so far, although I didn’t expect it this soon, I am enjoying it quite a bit!

More than anything because, as Ron mentions on his blog post, it’s allowed me to discover a new facet as to why I’m enjoying it so much more doing all of this public speaking at various different events that I never thought I would be able to experience again anymore. Probably because of how much automation and industrialisation we have incorporated into the overall process altogether when we do presentations that we hardly leave any room, nor space, for something that we are all, human beings, really good at: telling good stories.

That’s why, back in May, I reflected on my Google Plus profile on a new experiment that I thought would be worth while going for to explore how much further along I could bring forward my own creativity when doing presentations, so knowing how buzzing my travelling schedule would be for the following couple of months I thought it would be the perfect ground to take on that new experiment: go and present in a number of various different public events without using any slides, and just delivering my speech trying to capture my main points of interest for the audience in the shape of stories, and see how far creativity would take me along without any of those “crutches for my narrative” (i.e. Slides). 

Little did I know that what eventually turned out to be quite an interesting experiment it developed into something I didn’t expect at all, to the point where it managed to break up my addiction of using slides as a way of protecting my self, my overall presence, my messages, my stories. And it was something so relatively simple, yet so powerful, that it blew off my mind when I realised about it, just as much as it does today: A new learning experience (in real time).

Indeed, there is a lot to be learned on How To Do Everything Wrong In A Presentation, as Mitch Joel would say, but there is a whole lot more to learn from doing a presentation just right and that only starts, as far as I am concerned, and based on plenty of recent experience, on how well you engage your audience. Because in most cases we don’t. I mean, how many times have we been attending a masterly presentation from a speaker only to find out that he / she has run out of time and we, the audience, don’t have a chance to engage, ask questions, share our key learnings, perhaps our very own stories, AND interact? Far too often, I would admit, and I would be guilty as charged, because I have suffered from that myself far too many times, far too often even, as a speaker. Till May 2012. 

That’s when I decided that the main reason why I was running out of time in the vast majority of cases was because my stories, my narrative, were solely based on the visual aids that I was making use of, and perhaps that’s the reason why it took that long to deliver them. Yes, I do know and fully realise that relying too heavily on your slides is not a good thing, not even a healthy one, but we have to admit that we all pretty much overdo it time and time again. So the last couple months of running this experiment of not using slides in public speaking events have taught me a couple of things:

1. Not doing slides for your presentation is Ok. No-one is going to complain about it, and if anything, they would love you for it. That’s how far we have gone into PowerPoint Overload so far… What really matters is your message, your narrative, your stories, even your own charisma as an individual; basically, what you would want the audience to walk away with when you are done, and what method you use for that it won’t matter much, as long as you deliver. 

2. Once you engage with your audience it’s adrenaline you just can’t ignore anymore. This was the major takeaway for me for the last few events that I have participated in, including the very last one I hosted, a full day summer course at the University of Pablo de Olavide, in Carmona, Seville, on “La Empresa y La Administración Pública en la Era de Las Redes Sociales” where I, finally, came to realise what I enjoy the most from public speaking. Not being in front of the audience, not being on stage, not enjoying that public flair, but, essentially, and that’s the kicker, learning from your audience. Because in most cases they are much smarter than whatever you could be.

That’s exactly right! That’s the new drug that I have gotten so used to in recent times that I can no longer neglect it, nor ignore it. That’s why whenever I am on my way to provide another speech I hardly ever look into putting together slides, but more I try to find out as much as I possibly can what the audience would be like, to then tame my messages, stories and narrative through plenty of scripting, mindmapping and reflection in order to meet their needs. Yes, I know it takes a whole lot more time, effort and energy, but it is totally worth it every penny you spend on such preparations. Basically, I decided that I would want to, on purpose, learn from the audience, just as much as they can possibly do from me, if not even more! Eventually, those presentations have turned themselves upside down from that masterly delivery of a speech, into something that’s just so rewarding that I can certainly encourage everyone to go and experience: open true dialogue. Utterly refreshing and incredibly reenergising. 

Once upon a time, as Ron would say, I used to remember what it was like doing a presentation with slides… Nowadays, though, I prefer to be there on stage, actively learning from the audience, engaging in meaningful dialogue, sharing some terrific stories that I am sure you would all agree with me that we all have deep inside ourselves, after all, we are all born natural storytellers, and eventually finish up the presentation much more energised than when I started it in the first place. Why? Well, because right there, in the audience, there is always going to be that great leader, or leaders, who “throughout history had the power to move people by telling stories. Success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move people“. And it looks like I have decided a couple of months back to be moved by people, as my main method of learning as a public speaker to the point that whenever I go and speak at a public event it’s no longer the audience privileged to have the presence of the speaker, but more the speaker is the privileged one to have the unique opportunity of learning from the audience through those interactions that usually happen before, during and after the session. 

And that’s how I feel, and I may well be way beyond my call of duty, that we need to transform conference events and public speaking events to become truly social events where we all do what we know we can do best: share our knowledge, tell our stories, collaborate with one another, learn from each other through conversations, storytelling, open dialogue. Not sure what you would think, but I sense it’s time to re-define the way we engage as speakers with our corresponding audience(s). I think it’s time we ditch for good our masterly slides and, instead, we put to the test our masterly skills on listening, engaging, and interacting with those who we share a common passion with in the first place. And keep up with the learning curve…

After a long, much anticipated, last, I am way all up for that … and you? 

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Becoming a Jedi Master – The Secret Art of Cultivating Online Communities #sbf12 #cmgr

Social Business Manifesto #sbf12 #lawweNow that I am done with my last business trip for the first half of the year, and will be taking a break from travelling till the second week of September, I guess it’s time to reflect a bit on what it has been like and perhaps share a few insights here and there on things I have learned, events that I have participated in, (keynote) speaker sessions I have done, workshops I have conducted, seminars and panels I have participated in, conversations and new ideas I have been exposed to and everything else in between. There is just too much to share out there and so little time, so we better get things going … And to get us started how about sharing a couple of thoughts on what, to me, has been the Social Business event of the first half of 2012? Not bad, eh? Well, indeed, that event took place in June, in Milan, and it’s the Social Business Forum that Emanuele Quintarelli, along with the smart folks from OpenKnowledge, put together doing a fantastic job and managing to raise the bar so high that hardly any other conference event held thus far has come even close. Specially, in the area of Thought Leadership 2.0. Yes, that good. 

I am sure that by now most of you have been exposed to the couple of blog posts that have been shared across that contain all of the presentation materials, and video recordings from the entire event. Perhaps you may have watched already a few of them altogether. But, just in case you may not have, take a look into this particular article, where you will find all of the video recordings from all of the keynote speakers, or this other blog post, where you will be exposed to the video recordings of 40, out of the 65, speakers. Yes, 40 videos for you to enjoy and learn lots from! And covering a wide range of topics, too!, from case studies of companies that have already embarked on their Social Business journey and that are willing to generously share their key learnings on the experience, to multiple discussion panels and various presentations from thought leaders on different 2.0 topics (like online community management, social CRM, customer service, etc. etc.). Like I said, lots of superb content to digest. In small chunks, one at a time, perhaps, but not to be missed!

So where do you start then? Well, allow me to give you a fast forward introduction on what I think would be some of the most compelling sessions for you to dive into from the comfort of your computer or whatever other device. Starting, for now, with the keynotes, I would strongly encourage you all to go through the Social Business Manifesto by Emanuele Scotti and Rosario Sica which is a must-watch to get some perspectives on what Social Business should be about!

Over the course of time I am hoping to bring forward over here to this blog a good number of the topics they shared with us, during the opening session, that would help spark some additional conversations, I am sure. There is just lots of meat to digest just alone on that particular session. But then I would encourage you all to watch John Hagel‘s presentation (“From Stress to Success – Pragmatic Pathways for Social Business“) as well to internalise what are some of the various different challenges that linger around Social Business to become successful in the corporate world today. Not to worry, I am not going to spoil this one much, since I would encourage you all to spend 22 minutes to watch it on its entirety. It will be worth while your time, I can guarantee you that! 

From there onwards, move on to Ray Wang‘s keynote speaker session on “Enterprise gamification to drive engagement” to see how gamification and gaming in a business context can have a space and, most importantly, how it can be done just right, without having to infantilise your knowledge workforce, which is what is, unfortunately, happening nowadays out there with plenty of vendors who are making the very same mistakes we have consistently done for over 18 years when we tried, and failed!, to gamily Knowledge Management. Priceless insights from Ray, for sure! 

Now, fast forward to the other couple of rather inspiring keynote sessions that we had the privilege of listening to and watching and that have definitely left one of the better aftertastes from the overall conference. Starting off with Knowledge Management and Radical Management extraordinnaire, Steve Denning, who wowed and inspired the audience with a rather provocative talk with an even more controversial heading: “Transforming the Workplace with Radical Management“. This is the one keynote session that I would strongly encourage all managers and leaders to go and watch. And find out more about what’s coming their way sooner rather than later and how they may need to be prepared … 

Finally, my other recommendation for one last keynote session to not have missed is that one from my good friend Esteban Kolsky under the suggestive heading “Social, Connected, and Collaborative – Will Employees and Customers Build the Future Enterprise Together?” where over the course of about 25 minutes he comes to disrupt, and pretty disturbingly, our own perceptions around the social enterprise, the connected enterprise and stick around with what’s left … Yes, indeed, the collaborative enterprise. Another must-watch without a single doubt! 

Like I said, pretty tough to eventually pick up the keynote sessions that I have enjoyed the most, but, if I were to choose, the ones I have mentioned on this blog post so far would have hit the mark and big time! However, if you do have the time I would certainly recommend you go through all of the remaining ones, too! 

Now, on upcoming blog posts I will be sharing further insights and additional recommendations on breakout sessions that I feel you should also have a look into as perhaps some of the most compelling ones and the ones, where, in my opinion, I learned the most around Social Business. However, for now, and since a whole bunch of folks out there have asked me in the last few weeks a few times whether there was a recording of the session I did on online community management, or not, and whether I have shared my presentation out there on the Social Web, I thought I would close off this article sharing the links to both of those resources, since they are now available to everyone. 

Indeed, my good friend Emanuele Quintarelli invited me to be one of the speakers on the Online Community Management track to talk about “Becoming a Jedi Master – The Secret Art of Cultivating Online Communities“, where in a rather practical session I could share a whole bunch of hints and tips, use cases, lessons learned, experiences, know-how, practical good practices, etc. etc. around the subject of managing, leading, facilitating or stewarding online communities. Trying to make it very informative, pragmatical, fun, engaging, somewhat inspiring so that when folks would come back to their communities they would have plenty of ammunition they could make use of. And I think we did! 

I am saying that I think we did, because when I started putting together the piece of work for the session I didn’t attempt to, once again, reinvent the wheel. Instead, I went back to our internal and external IBM communities and asked around trying to gather our overall collective experience of having done online community building for decades, having started with the good old IBM VM Forums, back in the late 60s, and perhaps, specially, in the last 15 years with the huge boost on community building that we have witnessed throughout. The end-result then is not myself having gathered those insights alone, but through the collective piece of work of a whole bunch of brilliant community facilitators (Included on the Acknowledgements – slide #2), who have been putting together over the course of time what I would consider “Communities 101 – The Essentials“. 

Thus, with all of that said, and with a special thanks and a sincere token of eternal gratitude for having the privilege of co-leading such a wonderful group of online communitybuilders, I would love to share with you both the presentation materials that I did *not* use and the recording of the breakout session I did. Yes, indeed, it may sound weird, I mean, the fact I didn’t use any slides throughout the 30 minutes, but when you go through the recording, you will see what I mean and why I thought it was a much much better idea. Why? Because it gave me a unique opportunity that I have been enjoying tremendously on the last few conference events that I have participated in: engage directly with the audience!

Something that I will reflect on in an upcoming blog post I have got in the making, but, for now, here’s the embedded code of the slides, along with the embedded code of the video recording. Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did consolidating the slide-ware and conducting a rather interactive session from which I learned much more from the audience than whatever I could have anticipated and which perhaps marks a new beginning for yours truly on what, to me, it means being a speaker in front of an audience, but that’s another story for another day … 

 

Becoming a Jedi Master. The secret art of cultivating online communities – Luis Suarez from SocialBizForum on Vimeo.

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