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

Humanise

Distributed Work in Exceptional Times

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesWe live in truly exceptional times, literally. There is not a single doubt about it. The current COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives for good to the point where we know now we will never be the same again. No matter how much we may try to hide it all in that so-called new-normal. Even our very own work routines, behaviours and mindset have changed so dramatically in the last couple of months that work itself will never be the same either, as we have all been forced to embrace and adapt to a new reality, a new way of working: distributed work.

It has been a good few weeks since I last shared over here a new blog post. And for a very good reason: pause and reflection. At the moment, and at various levels, we are all going through a state of shock phase where we are having to adjust, quite fast, to new conditions where uncertainty seems to reign all over the place, in both our personal and work lives, more than what we would have wished for, I am pretty sure. Ensuring our families and close friends are safe, that we still have the ability to provide food and shelter for our loved ones, that our children can carry on with their studies and routines while at home, that we are more or less keeping up with our relationships through physical distancing, etc. etc. are pretty much our immediate concerns. Never mind the current massive societal upheaval(s) we are all experiencing first-hand.

Then, on top of all of that, there is work. How do we carry on in this brave new world where the conditions are now completely different than before? Where we no longer have to commute to an office, we no longer hang out with our colleagues at the water cooler for that morning coffee and chatter, where we stop having all of those back to back face to face meetings, where colocated work seems to finally have become a thing of the past. How do we adapt and thrive in such a new environment as working from our very own homes in our terms?

Indeed, we live in truly extraordinary times where our entire way of living has been disrupted, perhaps forever. But, at the same time, and as we all know, with every crisis there is an opportunity. And that unique opportunity for us all at the moment is that for the first, and unprecedented, time in over 150 years, we have got the chance to redefine work as we continue to work distributedly for the next few weeks, months, or perhaps even years.

Now, what do I mean exactly with redefine work? Well, we now have an opportunity to redesign how we work through the impact of digital tools that can help us become more effective and productive, while still enjoying a much more adequate, and never so much needed and treasured, work / life integration.

I have been working distributedly myself over the course of the last 18 years through three different continents: America, Europe and Africa. If there is anything I have learned throughout those wonderful years, is how I have grown to appreciate the huge impact social, digial tools have had in my productivity AND life, while getting work done more effectively, to the point where my entire professional career has been totally shaped by it. For the better.

All of a sudden, we have all been asked to live our lives and carry on with work, as best as we possibly can, while we are all confined in our homes (and will be, most probably, for the next few weeks!). And somehow we seem to have decided, collectively, that best way to make that transition is to try to reproduce all of our work routines in the office, but digitally. So we have frantically moved everything online hoping for the best.

Well, as we are currently seeing more and more countries opening up again, and resuming their physical work routines heading back to the office, that is exactly the opportunity we are missing on at the moment. Working distributedly, which is not the same as working remotely, is all about how we redefine the way we work as we transition into networks and online communities as new operating models. We have all become nodes of a wider, hyperconnected, more complex than ever, giant cluster of networks: The Internet. Yet we keep insisting that’s how we used to work while at the office. No, we weren’t.

Working distributedly means we have new operating models in place where online communities and networks dictate how work gets done. It means we no longer have to exclusively depend on the traditional command and control, top-down hierarchy of (senior) management making decisions for us. Instead, we thrive in informal networks where we have democratised the way information and knowledge are shared across. Where our only means of surviving online is by how much we coordinate, cooperate and collaborate with one another, regardless of the tools we may use in whatever the context we may have been given.

Now, that is how we change the nature of work. That’s how we discover, embrace and adapt to new ways of working by making extensive use of a number of (social) digital tools that allow us to earn the merit of being an integral part of those networks and communities: through building trustworthy personal business relationships while working and learning together. Trying to copycat exactly what happens in an office environment is not how we rethink the role we play when we come to think about work.

When I first started working from home in 2002 I had a mobile phone (not even smart!), a laptop with Windows 95 and a regular landline that became my best friend as I was day in day out hopping from one conference call to another. Virtual e-meetings, we used to call them back then. Fast forward to 2020, and we now have got plenty of choices out there in terms of the digital technologies we can use. From traditional email and instant messaging tools, to Enterprise Social Networking platforms (like HCL Connections, Jive, Confluence, Yammer, MangoApps, Chatter, etc.), to cloud-based productivity tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.

The choice is ours to make, yet we don’t seem to have evolved enough around work to appreciate that exuberant and luxurious digital landscape we nowadays have. We must level up the game before it’s too late and we revert back to what we all know, deep side, is fundamentally flawed, because it feels easier and more comforting than to imagine and embrace the new and uncertain: distributed work.

The important thing to remember in these times is that vast majority of organisations have already been using plenty of these digital tools already in the recent years. What we were missing till today are scalability and pace. That is, the entire workforce now working online, distributedly, through open knowledge sharing collaborative tools that, if anything, allow us to become more open and transparent in terms of how work happens with us AND around us.

And that’s a good thing, because we just don’t have to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch figuring things out thinking we need to do it all on our own. No, I’m afraid not. We just need to open up, ask around those early adopters, champions, ambassadors and digital advocates to help guide us through what’s available and how to get started, if we haven’t done so already!, before we can fly on our own. At long last,  we are about to become the distributed workforce a bunch of us envisioned back in the day when Web 2.0, then Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, started to change the nature of work in small pockets, over 16 years ago, through social tools.

It is time now for us to, finally, catch up with the times. Time to, at long last, embrace distributed work as the new-normal of how work happens. Time to thrive in these extraordinary times with digital tools as the key enablers that help us stick together, connect and collaborate more effectively. Learn more intently along the way. Time, in shrt, to, finally, shift gears, change both our culture and mindset in order to think AND do different. The time has come, at long last, and, as such, we should not waste the opportunity we’ve been given. It may not present itself again, and, if / when it does, it may already be too late.

Let’s make the most out of it then in these unprecedented and uncertain times we have the privilege to live in. Like I said earlier on, let’s not waste this opportunity, nor let it go like we have done in the past perhaps far too many times, thinking that the new-normal is pretty much like the old-normal: going back to the office.

No, it is not. Going to the office is, actually, the abnormal. It always has been (In an upcoming blog post I will explain further what I mean with it). We have just been told otherwise and we believed it. Now, it is our chance, for that matter, to change the nature of work and ourselves as thriving, productive knowledge (Web) workers. With one purpose in mind: to, finally, enter the 21st century, where distributed work is no longer the new-normal, but US all. You and me. Everyone. Together. United.

Networked.

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Transitions

Gran Canaria - Pico de las Nieves

If I were to describe with a single word the last three years since I wrote a blog post over here, that word would definitely be Transitions. You know what they say, change is hard; change is a constant, and, therefore, the only thing you can do is delay the inevitable. Change will, eventually, happen. Regardless.

That’s why after three years of silence it’s now time to resume my blogging mojo and continue to write over here, right back at my own home, as an opportunity to resume the conversations as if it were just yesterday. Yes, I know, that ‘yesterday‘ is three years ago and a lot has happened ever since, but up until now I wasn’t ready just yet to get down to work and resume my long-from writing.

About 20 years ago, when I was first getting involved with blogs and wikis, a really good friend of mine, and trusted mentor throughout the years, wisely said to me a few words that stuck in my mind ever since, as I was getting more and more heavily involved with those social software tools. He said, ‘Never write anything online when you are angry, hungry, or thirsty. It will keep haunting you forever’. Well, I guess you know now why I have been silent over here for so long.

As you may have seen, or read, on different media tools over the course of the last few monthsI have been rather angry and upset about a good number of things happening in my own personal life. Things mostly out of my control to effect some change for the better, so, over time, I had to learn how to navigate through such toxic, poignant and rather damaging environment and re-focus again on what I wanted to do next. That’s why there have been long periods of time where I have just disappeared trying to clear things in my mind while different (unfortunate) events were taking place. Not an easy task, that one of re-focusing, that is, but a much needed one to get it done with. Till today.

Transitions, indeed. That’s the word I’ve been using far too many times already to describe what I have gone through over the course of the last three years both at work and in my own personal life. You know, if you ever bump into people who tell you that they are reluctant to change, that they resist to change their own ways, behaviours or mindset for whatever reason, do me a favour, don’t believe them.

They are lying to you, and to themselves. Why? Well, we are constantly changing. The conditions under which we operate are constantly changing. The nature and complexity of both our work and personal lives are so fundamentally different today, in 2020, than just last year or a couple of years ago, that we are no longer the same person. And rightly so! It’s part not only of what we do, but also of who we are. That’s what makes change such a fascinating and thrilling endeavour altogether.

Either way, like I was saying above, it’s great to be back! Back to my own home, to my extended brain on the Open Social Web. To that special place that it’s one’s own and no-one else’s. That place where your imagination goes wild with your thoughts and experiences, your trials and tribulations, your crazy ideas, your lessons learned from over the years, your excitement about what’s next and so forth. Blogs are still a thing, right?

I guess it’s now a good time to try to describe a little bit more in detail what I mean with transitions, in an attempt to resume my blogging mojo over here, describing what I have been up to lately. Like I said, a lot has happened since I last wrote an article over here, back in January 2017, and it’s about time to get down to work and share with you folks some of what’s been going on. At least, for those of you who may still be out there reading these few words…

Don’t worry, I am not planning on sharing much detail about lot of the things that have made me rather angry / upset over the last few months, specially, for 2019, a year that’s going to be rather tough for me to forget, so I don’t need a blog post to remind me about it every so often. Time to move on and re-focus on what we’d want to do and be next, right?

Let’s get down to it then, shall we?

When thinking about transitions about what has been going on lately with yours truly, I can think of three major areas, to begin with, I’d want to cover, at least, on this blog post. I would then try to develop further along additional articles, over the course of time, to perhaps give a bit more context and share some more about the additional learning experiences I have gone through so far. So, let’s have a look into each of them briefly and see where we will end up!

Transition at Work

The last blog post I wrote over here back in 2017 was a bit of an announcement about what I would be doing next. Back then. A bit over three years later, I am still working for panagenda, although my job role and responsibilities have shifted completely. Till early on last year, and for the last 22 years, as most of you folks may still remember, I have been working as a consultant / adviser around Social Business, Collaboration, Digital Transformation, KM, Learning, Online Communities and Data Analytics, either at a large corporate environment (My former IBM life), or as an independent, or while at panagenda. Early on last year though that all changed. Now, I am a business developer. You are … what?

A bit of a (drastic?) change, don’t you think? Most definitely. I’m still trying to get the hang out of it figuring out whether business development can be flagged as either consulting, marketing or just pure selling. Or a bit of everything in the mix! The thing is that I’m having a blast altogether. I’m learning something new every single day that goes by, which is always a good thing after being in the Collaboration space for over 23 years.

That’s where I will leave things, for now. Part of my urge to start writing again here in this blog is to share with you folks what I have learned throughout that time as a business developer and also reflect on the current state of the Digital Workplace after I moved on from big corporate life, nearly 6 years ago, and started playing in other leagues. A bit of a teaser ahead of upcoming blog posts: we are in (big) trouble! 

Transition with My Personal Life

Like I mentioned earlier on, I won’t be bothering you detailing much about what has been going on with my personal life over the course of the last three years, as in some cases it’s been pretty dire, specially, last year. However, I would say a couple of things to try to relay what’s been happening for you all to get a rough idea.

At a time when we all know the business world is totally messed up, work has been my personal saviour. While everyone has been declaring how broken the workplace is or how horrifying and depressing work has become, work has been the single item that has helped me keep my sanity intact. What does it say about everything else, right? Well, let me summarise it with one of my favourite sayings: onwards & upwards!

The other thing that’s rather remarkable in terms of this transitional period for yours truly, is that last year I seemed to have peaked at unhappiness. I kid you not. Apparently, there is a fascinating piece of research that confirms that at 47 years old unhappiness peaks.  Well, that was me last year, not necessarily because of the study itself (I wish!), but because I realised how plenty of family members and really good friends have either become (seriously) ill or, unfortunately, passed away. Never mind those others who decided to fight amongst themselves for really silly things, as if there was no tomorrow! Yikes!!

One could say that last year truly s*cked! I guess it was one of the early, first ah-ha moments, confirming death is closer than what one could have thought in previous years, decades, while growing up. And that, eventually, it will hit you the hardest when you least expect it. Your loved ones. 

That’s why during the course of 2019 there have been plenty of moments where I needed to figure out a way to move on, to persevere and be resilient enough while adapting to the new conditions of having lost dearest family members and friends, and carry on with one’s life. It’s the least one could do to treasure and appreciate their living memory and the many special moments lived together. Alas, now you know why I just couldn’t blog. No energy, no focus, helpless, waiting for things to, finally, stop. Thank goodness for 2020 where things are looking up, if they ever do, at all, and life just keeps on pushing its own way. Like I said, onwards & upwards! 

Transition with the World

And, finally, the last transition. At least, the one where I am going to leave things on this blog post for now. This particular transition with the world has also been one that had me rather upset and angry throughout the last couple of years, unleashing to its full disgust during 2019. I tell you, last year is one of those years that’s going to be rather tough to forget! Why should we, right?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into too much detail describing why I feel we are transitioning into a world that has now changed forever. I am pretty certain you know exactly what I am referring to, if you have been keeping up to date with different local and global events over such short period of time. Suffice to say though that, to me, we are on the brink of deciding whether we would want to be a Civilisation Type 1 or, on the contrary, Type 2.

It’s a choice we need to make. And the sooner we do, the better. For all of us and for our home. Hopefully, for Civilisation Type 1. I’m pretty sure you may all be thinking that this is a bit of a blog post with a negative connotation overall, but, quite the contrary. It’s an open reflection towards what has perhaps been my major key learning from last couple of years: work hard and focus on what you *can* really change. The things, the people, the conditions, the contexts, near and closest to you, and keep spreading the love around!

Like I said at the very beginning of this blog post, change is hard; change is a constant. There is no point in delaying it. Change, eventually, will happen. It’s just a matter for each and everyone of us to decide how, when and why we would want to effect change with those around us: our closest networks and communities. The ones with which we can get work done effectively!

Bring it on!


At this point in time, I guess you may be wondering whether this will be my first and last blog post for this year before I disappear again, right? Well, rest assured, folks, I’m now back!, and I do not have any intention of going silent again.

That was also one of the main lessons I learned the hard way, specially, in the last year. Most of the times you will be much more effective and impactful amplifying and augmenting your networks and online communities, through conversations, than thinking you could do it all by yourself without the need of everyone else getting involved. Alas, our networks and communities just don’t operate that way.

It is our human(e) edge.

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Unlocking Civilisation Type 1 Through An Open Mind

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Today is my last working day of 2016, before I go offline (from work) for my winter holidays till mid January next year. Somewhere in between, I don’t know just yet when, there will be a major announcement coming through that will explain what I will be doing throughout 2017 and beyond. After 20 years in the IT industry, I can share ahead of that announcement there will be a massive process coming along of unlearning and relearning for yours truly. Yes, I am incredibly excited about it, because it’s about something I haven’t done for the last 20 years, so it will be a rather interesting rebirth (of sorts) upon my return to a new workplace. But in its due time, I suppose. For today though I’ll go ahead and try to summarise what this year has felt like so far and, when doing so, there is a single word that comes to the top of my mind that would describe, pretty well, what it has been like: humanise

I know, it’s a strange word to go for, but let me try to describe it further in detail with a story connecting three different tidbits that have impacted me significantly on what I have learned throughout this year, both at work, as an independent adviser / freelancer around Social Business and Digital Transformation, as well as in my own personal life.

Throughout the year I have been exposed, pretty much like everyone else, I’m sure, to thousands of different ads and marketing campaigns on any kind of topic or product you can probably imagine and through multiple different platforms (whether on TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet, etc. etc.), but there has been one of them in particular that has wowed me so badly that every single time there has been either a local or global event with a significant impact (whether positive or negative, although mostly negative, I must confess) I end up watching it over and over again. So far this year, I could venture to state I may have watched it a couple of dozen times already and somehow I never get tired of it. Quite the opposite, I almost always end up going a bit teary and emotional altogether. 

Both the ad and marketing campaign come from Momondo, under the rather suggestive heading ’The DNA Journey’, by starting to ask yourself perhaps one of the toughest questions out there: ‘Would you dare to question who you really are?’ Hold on, don’t answer that just yet. Wait for a little bit more… Try to go through ‘Let’s open our world’ in its entirety and then ask yourself, again, that same question and see what you can come up with as an answer. Something tells me it may surprise you and quite a bit altogether!

From that campaign they put together a truly amazing and mind-blowing short video clip (a bit over 5 minutes long) that will send shivers through your spine every single time you watch it. It’s perhaps one of the most emotional clips you will watch this year, if you haven’t just yet. The closing line is maybe one of the best sentences out there to describe everything we may have gone through this year. To quote: 

An open world begins with an open mind.’ 

 

Now I understand fully why nearly 4 years ago I decided to, at long last, ditch Social Business in favour of Open Business. Now you may be able to understand a bit better why humanise is the word that would pretty much describe what 2016 has been like for yours truly.

Are we then ready to evolve into Civilisation Type 1 yet?

That was my very first reaction when I first watched the short video clip I have embedded above around The DNA Journey. Why? Well, because while going through the clip I got reminded of this other video from Big Think by Dr. Michio Kaku where he tries to answer the following question: ‘Will Mankind Destroy Itself?’ Interestingly enough, that clip is from 2011 and yet, unless you have been hiding in a cave throughout 2016, it looks like as if it was shot just yesterday.

 

Flabbergasting and gobsmacking in equal terms, I tell you, but, don’t worry, Dr. Kaku’s discourse is not necessarily negative, nor pesimistic on its own. Quite the opposite. It poses a very interesting reflection with plenty of thought-provoking insights as to whether we, humans, are somewhat ready to make the transition from Civilisation Type 0 to Type 1 and in a world where we seem to have reverted back to Type 0, it’s probably a good time now to start questioning whether we, citizens of this world, are ready and willing to participate, getting actively involved, leaving behind both apathy and complacency, to change this world as we know it today.

 

 

Take out the word ‘US’ out of that tweet and insert whatever other country acronym and it would apply just perfectly all right.

I do keep wondering, seriously, as to whether we would be able to evolve accordingly into Civilisation Type 1, specially, after the many dramatic events happening this year, or whether, instead, we will be that generation that will contemplate, muse and witness the planetary suicide Dr. Kaku hints in the clip I embedded above as well. Will we be ready to engage in such an enduring test though to revert course and head on for Type 1? I just don’t know. I hope we do. Seriously, for our very own good as a species on this planet.

Maybe, it’s down to all of us. Maybe it’s all down to being human, after all, and about re-humanising ourselves, once again, through, funny and ironic enough, the various, different digital tools that have definitely transformed, for good, the way and how we communicate with one another not only on a local basis, but on a global, planetary one as well, pretty much like Gutenberg’s printing press did 576 years ago. It’s that kind of revolution we are after, folks, we should not forget about that. And while I realise this blog post may not have much to do with either work nor our personal lives, I actually think it does and big time. It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s what we fight for, it’s what we learn that makes us better at what we do already and if I were to describe what it is like it’s about being human, about accepting our very own vulnerabilities and learn to adapt and live with them with grace so that, eventually, they will make us all stronger as a result. 

This is why, as a moderate optimist, I would love to close off today’s blog entry with a song. A song that’s become my favourite tune for this year, and, probably, within my Top 10 from all times, because, if anything, it pretty well describes what 2016 has been like: new dark times, BUT with plenty of light in the horizon, inspired by understanding not only both our limits and vulnerability, but also what we are all good at to overcome those: caring more (for one another), becoming more empathic and, overall, more human.

Again.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy, Healthy and rather Prosperous New Year to you all! 

#carpediem

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Never Underestimate Your Innate Ability to Network Through Conversation

 Barcelona - View from Montjuic's Castle

Summer is over. ‘Back to work. Back to blogging!’ Those were the first few words that came to my mind earlier on today, after having returned, over the weekend, from a short holiday break in Barcelona, Spain. It is still one of my all time favourite cities in the world and for a good number of reasons that I may be able to explain over the course of time, but this time around it taught me something that I guess I have been taking it for granted for the last two decades and that’s to never underestimate our innate ability to network through conversation, whether at work or in our personal lives. At all times. After all, we are social, human beings, and, whether we like it or not, we are destined to become the masters of networking through conversation.

I knew I wanted to take a good holiday break away from what seems to have been one of the weirdest years I can remember in terms of work streams, so over the course of last few weeks I have been secretly planning to spend a few days completely disconnected from the world, pick up a favourite city of mine (Barcelona, in this case), turn it into a culinary trip of some sort and enjoy the ride as much as I possibly could being completely disconnected from everything and everyone. I decided, on purpose, to keep a low profile about it all and don’t mention a single thing on the various media tools where I usually hang out. I just went quiet for a while without sharing anything out there, not even here in this blog. I suppose I just wanted to be away from it all for a short while to remind me what it felt like. And, of course, I failed. 

I failed because serendipity kept insisting on doing its own wonderful magic day in day out. I pretty much failed not necessarily from having shared different tidbits online in some of those media tools, which I haven’t, but because I just couldn’t be away from what still remains one of my favourite activities, whether work related or not, which is networking. Even if for the sake of just doing it: that is, learning from other people through conversations while networking away. It was just fantastic! Literally. 

That’s why, while catching up with my digital feeds, I was a bit surprised about bumping into this article by Joe Myers under the rather thought provoking title ‘How to overcome your aversion to networking’. My goodness! Where did we go wrong? What happened? Have we forgotten how we are wired to learn through conversation(s)? Or how the future operating system for humanity is conversation? When did we decide to have meetings vs. conversations? Ouch! 

Joe’s article is a pretty good read, indeed, with tons of savvy advice and great pointers to other interesting articles around the whole notion of exploring the many benefits of networking through conversation, but I suspect we may need to go way deeper on this one. We may eventually need to remind ourselves what makes us unique in this world, whether at work or in our personal lives, and it’s not necessarily the unprecedented opportunity to use technology to connect with other people, a la world of zero distance, but more to remind us all we ought to remain human through the conversations we facilitate, as our main opportunity to thrive on in that everlasting journey of lifelong learning.

Leandro Herrero calls it ‘Reclaiming Conversations in an Alone Together world’, but I think my favourite quote on the topic of conversation(s) and being human would still be the one from David Weinberger from the Cluetrain Manifesto (again!): 

To have a conversation, you have to be comfortable being human – acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, being eager to learn from someone else and to build new ideas together.

You can only have a conversation if you’re not afraid of being wrong. Otherwise, you’re not conversing, you’re just declaiming, speechifying, or reading what’s on the PowerPoints. To converse, you have to be willing to be wrong in front of another person.

Conversations occur between equals. The time your boss’s boss asked you at a meeting about your project’s deadline was not a conversation. The time you sat with your boss for an hour in the Polynesian-themed bar while on a business trip and you really talked, got past the corporate bullshit, told each other the truth about the dangers ahead, and ended up talking about your kids – that maybe was a conversation’.

There is a lot we can all, collectively, do to design for effective conversations, but then again we can just let serendipity do its magic, open up, be prepared, expose our very own different vulnerabilities, acknowledge we don’t know it all, become comfortable with the uncomfortable (i.e. not knowing where to next) and let the conversations shine through that honesty and authenticity we seem to have left behind somehow pretending we are all just perfect and know-it-alls as we transitioned from all of these social tools into just media tools. We aren’t. The conversations themselves are the ones that help us bridge through our very own imperfections to become better at what we do. After all, as the unmatched and thoroughly missed Jay Cross once wrote:

Conversation is the most powerful learning technology ever invented

Indeed! We just need to, once and for all, come to terms with the fact that, most of the times, we don’t need any other technology tool(s) to replace what we have been really good at for thousands of years already: Learning is (still) conversation and I am really glad Barcelona has taught me that over the course of last few days by providing me with plenty of unique opportunities to network, connect with and learn from other people. And best part of it all? It’s that for the first time in a long while I managed to enjoy all of that without using my mobile phone a single time!

Just talk to people. Whenever and wherever! And enjoy the almost lost art of a really good conversation … No interruptions, no distractions, no multitasking, just network, connect and learn. 

Feeding thy soul.

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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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What’s Your Purpose?

Gran Canaria in the Winter

Apparently, ‘two thirds of digital transformation projects fail’. I know that headline may well be both a bit too provocative and rather pessimistic at best, but I guess we can’t deny there are far too many reasons out there as to why that may be happening, as Dion Hinchcliffe himself wrote, quite nicely, over 6 years ago, in a rather insightful article titled: ’14 Reasons Why Enterprise 2.0 Projects Fail’. Even today. When looking into it with a bit more detail though, one can find that perhaps, right at the heart of the matter, one of the most powerful reasons as to why that happens is because most organisations haven’t been able to answer properly the one question that matters: ‘What’s your purpose?’

When talking about Social Business Adaptation (not the same as Adoption, by the way), there are 5 different pillars, over the years, I have considered essential for any successful Digital Transformation programme (not a project either, by the way); and since I mentioned earlier on, in another blog post, that I’d start sharing plenty of the methodologies, strategies, processes and tools I use for my work as an independent adviser, I thought I would get things started with the one single question that, to me, triggers those transformation efforts: figure out the why first, before you dive in to the how.

Throughout all of these years of having been involved in Social Business Adaptation (both while at IBM and nowadays as a freelancer) I have been exposed to a good number of different purposes as to why both people AND organisations embark on that so-called Digital Transformation journey. And time and time again there have been a number of them that typically fall sort of the expectations towards the second year that they have been put in place. Three of them in particular come to the top of the list and I thought I would share them over here in the hopes that, if you bump into them, you may have an early warning, and some pointers, on what you may need to do to shift things a fair bit in a different direction perhaps. On the other hand, there are also plenty of other great purposes for which people/organisations have pretty much nailed their efforts into becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise. So we will talk about those other three as well in a few minutes (Yes, I know, I like to see things in threes and multiples of threes :-D).

Why Digital Transformation Projects Fail?

I am pretty sure that, by now, your head may be spinning around a fair bit coming up with a good number of different reasons as to why you think Digital Transformation programmes keep failing over and over again over the last few years. To me, it’s all down to figuring out what your purpose is. Why do you want to do what you are about to do? What is it that you expect to happen, once you get started with the Social Business journey? And what are, potentially, some of the expectations you would want to meet up at some point in time?

Now, this is not, at all, at this point in time, about trying to figure out the ROI of Social Business. We already had that conversation a while ago and it didn’t take us anywhere. Total waste of time, really. In fact, if you look around, today, you would hardly see anyone trying to question the return on investment from your digital transformation efforts anymore. It’s just not happening. It’s 2015, it’s considered a given. Why? Well, mainly, because we no longer have a choice (never had, actually!). I mean, look at the alternative(s) of not diving in to the Digital Transformation journey. It’s ugly and it will become uglier over the course of time even more so if we keep ignoring the inevitable: change. 

With all of that said, you may be wondering what are the main three purposes I bump into, every now and then, that are bound to create more trouble than help out with those transformation efforts. I am sure you all have your own favourites and I would love to read about them in the comments, but, for me, here are the Top 3 Reasons as to why digital transformation programmes fail, based on what their main purpose may well be:

  • Cost savings: Bean counters, and everyone else, dealing with the financials of your organisation would love you lots if this is the main purpose of why you would want to start the Social Business journey. Yet, the reality would be quite different. Justifying the existence of a Digital Transformation programme within your organisation as an opportunity to cut / save costs and become more efficient as a result is bound to fail on the second year of life of the initiative. Why? Well, mainly, because there will always be something out there that would help you cut costs, specially, in the technology space, and that means the moment you find something else to help you cut costs there goes your Social Business effort. Down the drain. To no avail. Efficiency has never been a good friend of Change and Transformation programmes. What you are after is effectiveness. Big difference.
  • Competitors driving your agenda: ‘My competitors are all going through this Digital Transformation programme already. We are late into the game!’. That’s typically another popular reason as to why people figure their purpose is just to play catch up with their competition. Don’t worry, you are already late, if you are just getting started now. Why worry then? What you may want to do is shake off that strong feeling that your competitors are driving your agenda, whatever that may will be, and perhaps re-focus on what you really want to do as a business, which, last time around we checked was no other endeavour than delighting your clients through an excelling employee experience. Focus on that. You will be much better off, believe me.Take a look, for instance, into IT vendors, specially, in the Social Software / Collaboration space. There are plenty of them that will always tell you that they are doing much much better than the competition, so they will flood you with all sorts of information, brochures and marketing speak on features and capabilities on a certain product, etc. etc., almost as if it were a whitewash of sorts, to then match themselves against their competitors for you to see how good they are, when, eventually, they keep failing on meeting up with a clear premise: what business problems are they trying to solve for you? Then there are other vendors that just focus on helping the competitioncompeting accordingly, and they are doing just fine, because that’s their main focus, both the employee AND the customer. Seriously, if the products you are trying to sell your customers are wonderful and meet their needs, you don’t need to worry about the competition. There isn’t any. Go the extra mile.
  • Change for the sake of changing: It’s not a good idea. It’s never been. On the contrary, it would just show that you are not ready for the change itself, nor the (digital) transformation process. Whether we like it or not, we just can’t change organisations, nor can we change people, for that matter; we can only provide the (right) conditions for knowledge workers to be self-empowered to come forward and change themselves leaving it all up to them. So thinking that we need to change because we don’t have a choice anymore will only create even more trouble. If only, it would work out as adding another layer of (social) tools and think we have changed. When we have only put but more lipstick on the pig. Still a pig.Yes, I can see the urge from most organisations to want to hang out with the cool kids who have already gotten started with their own transformation journey. I realise how plenty of businesses would want to jump the shark and join those very same cool kids on the open Social Web, interacting with their customers, business partners, even their competitors, but then again still operating, pretty much, as v1.0 on the inside. Frankly, to be 2.0 on the outside, requires that you may well be 2.0 on the inside, because otherwise you are off to a massive wake-up call when things go messy. And they will.

The Journey of Becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise 

Like I said earlier on, I am pretty sure there are tons of other reasons as to why organisations have decided to embark on the so-called Digital Transformation journey, that may well not have worked out as planned, while trying to answer as well the key question ’What’s your purpose?’ I bet you all know, or have, quite a few and I would certainly love to hear them in the comments, if you would have a minute to share them with the rest of us, but for now, let’s go ahead and focus on the Top 3 Reasons as to why digital transformation programmes are a wonderful success within (some) organisations:

  • Transform how the entire organisation works: Through a co-creative process, where no-one and everyone owns it, the social business and digital transformation journey is mostly focused on transforming how the entire business works. The focus moves on from being on either technology and business processes and, instead, it’s all about the people, about self-empowering them to become more accountable and responsible for what they do, how they work, connect, collaborate, share their knowledge more in the open, transparently, and, eventually, get work done in a much more democratic, egalitarian, wirearchical, engaged manner. The change process begins when the organisation realises they need to relinquish control, become less risk averse, more open and transparent, to then re-gain it back through how they nurture and build healthy networks and communities as the new operating model. The wake-up call? That these conditions of operating through social networks are not going to go away any time soon, so we better adapt to them and act accordingly. Or we are in trouble. Big trouble.
  • Address business pain points: Perhaps the toughest of reasons. I mean, no-one wants to air out, even internally, what doesn’t work, whether it’s related to technology, processes or people. We all want to keep drinking the kool-aid, to control the message, to continue distrusting our peers, because, after all, we never did, so why start now, right? Alas, it doesn’t work out that well in reality, so if you take those business pain points and turn them into business opportunities through both some bravery and courage admitting not all things are working all right, there is a great chance you will find the right purpose to correct your due course.And if you are brave, again, one more time, to involve your entire workforce to help you not only surface what doesn’t work, but also try to provide different solutions to each and everyone of those issues, there is a great chance that you will be on the mend sooner than you think. Both the change and transformation processes will kick off by themselves, without even needing to have a certain strategy. Biggest leap of faith to come across? Understand we are not the experts we all think we are; we are all weak, vulnerable, constantly making mistakes (and learning from them!), and it’s our relying on building those strong networks across the organisation that will only help us, collectively, address those pain points and venture to suggest some potential solutions. And initiate that process of self-healing that’s so very much needed in each and every single business today, in each and every single individual knowledge (Web) worker.
  • Finally, identify new business opportunities: Indeed, create new markets. I know, I know, easier said than done, but what’s stopping us? What’s stopping us from thinking we can, collectively, change the (business) world for the better? The realisation that it’s going to be impossible? Or perhaps the itch that we can’t attempt to realise the impossible, because, you know, it’s the impossible, after all. How could we? That’s exactly why we need to venture into creating those new markets. New frontiers and I’m not necessarily just talking about technology in general. Think about the world we would all want to live in, say, 15 to 30 years from now. 2030 and 2045. What’s the world going to look like? Most importantly, what’s your dent in this universe for which you would want to be remembered when you are gone. How would you like your offspring to remember you? As those folks who had the chance to change the world and failed because they were not courageous enough to explore and create new markets? Or those folks who didn’t have a clue about what they wanted to do down the line, but there was a very clear premise in the air: leave behind a better (business) world than they themselves experienced throughout their (working) lifetime. And perhaps start working towards achieving that goal. Why not?

My goodness! Talking about having a meaningful and rather impactful purpose for us all! How does that sound to you folks in the long run? Please do tell me you are, with me, in the second group. Please do tell me that, when you are pondering to embark on this so-called Digital Transformation journey within your own business you are thinking about potentially answering ‘What’s your purpose’ with this particular mindset: what kind of world do I want to leave behind me / us when we are all long gone? Something tells me that if we shift focus on that short term purpose, gains, and think more into the near future, into the long run, we would all be so much better of, collectively. Not just for our own mere survival, but for all of those who come after us pushing harder, stronger, higher than whatever we all attempted to do in the past.

Yes, exactly, ‘What’s Your Purpose?’ starts with you asking yourself every single morning, when you come to work, what you would want to achieve that day to make this world a better place. After all, it’s our chance to make a dent in this universe while we change and transform not only the way we work, but also the way we live our lives. Not just for ourselves, but for them, whomever they may well be …

Signing off, sincerely, your #hippie2.0.

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