From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez

Language matters. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself about how important it is to build a narrative you would feel rather comfortable with when interacting with other people, whether your peers, your customers, your business partners, even your competitors. It’s something that has been in my mind over the course of time in terms of how we get work done more effectively through these digital technologies. You see? I cringe a little bit every time that someone mentions the word “drive” (Specially, when you are not in a car!), or “adoption” or the combination of both: driving the adoption (of Social Business). So whenever someone invites me to help inspire a new narrative within their organisation(s), as they embark themselves on the so-called Social Business and Digital Transformation journeys, it’s an opportunity that I just don’t let go that easily. Why? Well, because having a good, representative narrative on what matters to you and your business is no longer down to some fancy words, but more down to actions. Essentially, walking the talk, leading by example.

That’s why when the European Commission invited me last week to go to Brussels, and spend a couple of hours with a representative group of middle managers, to help them understand the role they would need to play, when embracing digital technologies, adjusting accordingly their management and leadership capabilities to the new reality, I just took the opportunity to demonstrate how important having the right narrative would well be for their own efforts to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. Regardless of the organisation or the management layer.

So, instead of driving the adoption of middle managers from the European Commission, we talked about business purposes and how social technologies could act as a rather valuable and unprecedented enabler towards achieving a certain number of goals. We talked about the need to move away from adoption and into adaptation, understanding that they are the group that, beyond early adapters, everyone else is looking up to when embracing these emerging social tools while at work. 

You see? While most people out there would consider that middle managers are the main hurdle or obstacle towards the successful adaptation of businesses to this new way of hyperconnected, networked, smarter work, through social networks, here I am thinking, instead, they are your best ally beyond the first and second wave of “early adapters”. Most people may not realise about this, but middle managers are the social bridges within organisations. They are well connected to people down the trenches, while, at the same time, they keep close ties with those on the top. They essentially talk to both groups. They understand the needs and wants from both groups. They know, very well, how to get the most out of each of them, and if they have traditionally been perceived as rather static, hierarchical and overall disengaged, is because they have always been perceived as the main problem, when they are eventually the solution.

Middle managers are that specific group of practitioners, because, yes, they are also practitioners, just like you and me, that have been caught right in between this digital revolution of social technologies just as disengaged as everyone else. So when looking into a business purpose or problem to tackle with the emergence of Social Business employee disengagement is just as good for them as for everyone else. Remember, currently 87% of today’s knowledge workforce, according to Gallup’s recent research, is disengaged at work. So if you have got a group of 100 middle managers, that means that about 13% of them are the ones executing on the work they have, because they feel motivated enough to make it happen. The rest will just continue to struggle along generating perhaps even more disengagement amongst the rest of the workforce. And that is the main business problem we are currently facing and why we need to keep inspiring a next generation of leaders, not just senior or executive leaders, for that matter, who are willing to change their own narrative and understand that effective leadership in this so-called Social Era is not about empowering people around you, it’s about enabling those around you.

It’s about helping them understand how, as a leader, you will be offering your own help and support to provoke that transformation. How the time for command and control, or micro-managing your employees is a thing of the past. How to become an effective leader you would need to acquire a new set of skills and capabilities that would help you transform yourself from being just another middle manager doing their (disengaged) work into the new kind of Open Leadership that’s very much needed to help re-engage a knowledge workforce that right now is on the brink of collapsing on its own. 

That’s why words no longer mean anything on their own. That’s why actions do mean everything. That’s why leading by example, walking the talk, exhibiting those new leadership capabilities and competencies would help you, as a (middle / senior) leader, understand the new dynamic of what it is like thriving in social networks, being part of the pack, one of the nodes, one that can act as the main catalyst to connect the dots across the organisation understanding that the days for the good old strict and rigid hierarchy are well numbered and how it is time to transition into a hybrid approach of combining both hierarchy and wirearchy to then eventually transition into a wirearchy inspired organisation. 

A lot has been written in the past about the critical role that middle managers play when embarking on the Social Business Transformation journey. However, they also have got business problems of their own that they would need to solve first, as my good friend, and fellow CAWW member, Simon Terry quoted just recently: “Middle managers like to complain about being squeezed by pressures from above and below. Their organisations love to blame them for all the ills in the place”. Perhaps it’s now a good time to understand that we should probably stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in an organisation and, instead, help enable them to understand their new critical role in the leadership ladder to become the social bridges to effectively make change happen. 

How? Well, probably by exhibiting, through actions, not words anymore alone, a new kind of leadership capabilities, associated with the whole notion around both Social Business and Open Business under a new, rather specific, framework: Open Leadership. To that extent, a little while ago, I put together a presentation at Haiku Deck where I captured my interpretation of what those new leadership traits would be like putting them in context about the main business purpose behind them when embracing the emergence of social technologies at the workplace: eventually, re-engage the knowledge workforce. Yes, to me, still, and by far, our number one business problem in today’s business world, whatever the industry, whatever the sector, no matter what organisation.

Can you imagine the huge potential of transforming our work environment from having just barely a bit over 10% of the employee population doing all the hard work, where we are just about to enter the stage of mere survival, to eventually have a much much higher level of purposeful participation and overall engagement? I know how plenty of folks have been talking all along about social networking’s capabilities to democratise the workplace. To me, it goes well beyond that. It’s about that unique opportunity to democratise how we work, how we connect, collaborate and share our knowledge more effectively, so that we can get work done without all the unnecessary stress and ill-behaviours we are currently exhibiting that are managing, little by little, to destroy everything that we have been building up over the course of decades, and, to such extent, that’s the main reason why middle managers are the main enablers of that transformation journey. 

 

From Adaptation into Engagement. From being blamed from all sides for everything that goes wrong, to become the catalyst enablers helping transform not only the way we all work, but also, essentially, the corporate cultures we breathe in day in day out. After all, they always had the authority to act. Now they just need to show what Open Leadership truly means in the connected workplace and demonstrate it accordingly, not only by their words alone, but also by their own actions, too! 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus

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Let The Next Adventure Begin – The With Whom (#CAWW)

And, finally, the last blog post of the series of entries where I’ve been detailing what I would be doing from here onwards, as I begin my next adventure as an independent chief emergineer. Earlier on in the week I blogged about the why, then the what and now I guess it’s a good time to talk about the with whom, as part of that mantra of “use systems too boost your odds, passion to get energy and luck to change the game“. In short, the system of we! That’s why it’s a great pleasure and true honour for me to announce I’m now part, as a charter member, of the Change Agents Worldwide network with a simple and rather clear mission: change the way we work!

That’s right! In a now more than ever hyperconnected, networked and complex systems driven working environment I pretty soon came to the conclusion, as I went solo and independent, that my odds to make a bigger difference out there would have been more notorious by being part of a network of rather talented, passionate, engaged, inspiring and rather thought-provoking knowledge (Web) workers, with whom, if anything, you sense you aren’t anymore the smartest person in the room, the network is.

And being able to tap into that unprecedented brain power to share ideas openly, to learn from one another, to collaborate by sharing your knowledge in a rather open and transparent manner, to innovate, to co-create, to continue walking the talk on redefining the workplace of the future and, for that matter, the future of work, I felt it was just too much of an enticing opportunity to ignore that I haven’t just been capable of getting rid of from my mind over the course of the last few weeks. Of course, without a single doubt, I had to join Change Agents Worldwide (@chagww).

I know, I know. At this point in time I am pretty certain most of you folks out there would be wondering what Change Agents Worldwide are all about, after all, right? Well, here’s one of the elevator pitches we are using I quite enjoy as it describes, pretty nicely, what we are all about:


Remember when I just mentioned above being part of a network of folks who walk the talk, leading by example, on redefining the workplace of the future? Well, that’d be it, in all of its splendour. Perhaps this other definition may help some more as well. A bit more wordy though, but worth while sharing across:

“We built our network based on the principles driving the evolving Web. We believe in transparency, sharing, collaboration, authenticity, and trust. Operationally, we function as a cooperative. Value is realised by every node in the network. As the network grows, the benefits to our client grow exponentially”.

You can probably notice how excited I am for being part of such an amazing network of incredibly knowledgeable and generous people all around. To me, though, the beauty and mind-boggling privilege of joining #CAWW is something bigger, more massive than whatever I could have anticipated for. From here onwards I’m going to be working together AND networking with … friends, in the true sense of the word “friends”. That’s right, plenty of the folks from the #CAWW network are people who I already know for over 10 years, way before Social Networking for Business or Social Business were the new buzzwords. The breath and extensive knowledge they all have got around areas like Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, SNA, ONA, Org. Change, Org. Design,  Management / Leadership Consultancy, Corporate Communications, Digital Workplace Transformation, Social Computing, Social Business, Social Learning, and a rather long etc. of skills, experiences and knowhow make me feel like my learning curve all of a sudden has gone sky through the roof!

Life(-long learning) in perpetual beta FTW!!

And the excitement gets bigger and bigger, by the minute, when, early next week, I’ll be meeting up about a dozen of them, face to face, in Paris, at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit. Check out the overall agenda for Day One and Day Two (Along with the Masterclass Workshops) to get a quick glimpse of the massive brain share that will be taking place over the course of the next few days with everyone involved in Social Business flocking to what’s, by far, one of the best events in Europe around this very same topic… It’s going to be a fun event, I can tell you!

I bet at this point in time you may be wondering what are the various different names of that lovely global network of Change Agents, right? I tell you, if you have been in the space of Social Business and Social Networking for a good while you probably know already vast majority of them. But, as an additional teaser, allow me to share over here first a couple of testimonials from themselves about their own experiences of being a member of the CAWW network. Let’s start with my good friend Harold Jarche:

Change Agents Worldwide is a new type of consultancy, which functions as a transparent cooperative. It includes solo change agents (like me) and enterprise change agents who are trying to bring about change in their respective workplaces. This is a network of progressive and passionate professionals, who really want to bring about substantive change in how work gets done.

How about the always inspiring Kevin Jones:

Imagine a company without managers or employees but a ton of leadership. One that has a physical address only because, by law, it needs one while it uses the world as its playground. Where the status quo does not exist. Nor does a hierarchy or a vacation policy. Where teams who work together may have never met, but their collective ideas and expertise melt together to create the most innovative solutions to business’ most vexing problems. We have recruited the best minds in a mere matter of a few months. Their experience is vast. The collective knowledge and wisdom frightening.

Or, perhaps, these few words from the only and only Marcia Conner:

Without a doubt the smartest, most insightful, on-the-ball group of people I have ever worked with–and by ‘working with’ I mean ‘learning from, and at a distance no less’ because most everything any one of them says or writes or does is nourishing to my soul. Together and individually we’re all committed to creating a better world, where organizations can have dramatically better outcomes because they value the capabilities of people. We’re just getting started, but it’s a long time in the making, so many of us working on our own on this for years, dreaming of finding people who we can work on this with together … because it’s time!

I could go on sharing some more additional testimonials (You could read them all over here in this link, if you would want to), but I guess you are all dying to know who the entire CAWW network of members are, right? So, here we go, then. Without much further ado, and in no particular order, this is the network of people who have made it possible, for me, the system of we!: 

Susan Scrupski 

Jon Husband

Christoph

Ernst Decsey

Patti Anklam

Marcia Conner

Kevin Jones

Harold Jarche

Lois Kelly

Sharon Richardson

Ayelet Baron

John Stepper

Thierry de Baillon

Carrie Basham Young

Peter Vander Auwera

Jane McConnell

Clark Quinn

Catherine Shinners

Charles Jennings

Jim Worth

Ian Thorpe

Harald Schirmer

Simon Terry

Bruce Galinsky

Danny DeGrave

Rob Caldera

Dennis Pearce

Bryce Williams

Eric Ziegler

CheeChin Liew

Frederic Chauvin

Jonathan Anthony

Dom Burch

Rainer Gimbel

Chris Carpenter

Josh Dormont

Celine Schillinger

Heidi de Wolf

Alvaro Caballero

Richard Martin

Kari Pearlson

Paul Andersen

There is a Twitter List out there already currently being curated by Celine herself, if you would want to start following what we are all up to. After all, one of our key main areas of joint work is, eventually, working out loud and I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to share with you folks over here what we have been up to lately, including the publishing of an upcoming eBook under this rather suggestive heading: “Changing the World of Work. One Human at a Time“.

And you know what is really cool about Change Agents Worldwide? Well, that it is not a closed network, so you, too, could join us! And start walking the talk today, actively participating on what it is like being at the forefront of the future of work: The Socially Integrated “Enterprise”.

 

Let The Next Adventure Begin … Welcome to Change Agents WorldWide! (#CAWW)

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Let The Next Adventure Begin – The What Next (The System of Me)

After yesterday’s blog post, I guess today’s the one everyone has been waiting for. Myself included. For a good number of weeks, I have been having lots of conversations on the side with plenty of people, where I have been hinting what I will be doing next and while, all along, I have been trying to disguise my excitement about the next adventure(s), and what the future may hold from here onwards, it’s now the time for me to unleash what I will be working on from here onwards. A system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.

Before I go on and explain what I mean with that system of me, please do allow me to share a story over here that would help explain why I am choosing those words carefully in terms of what I will be doing next. You will see how, once again, serendipity has done its magic into setting up the pace of how things will happen from here onwards. It all started with IBM Connect, IBM’s premier conference event around Social Business, that takes place, in January, every year in Orlando, Florida.

This year I was scheduled to speak at three different sessions, including the rather splendid and big hit Pardon the Interruption Social Business Hot Topics (Part Deux) my good friend Louis Richardson kindly hosted again doing a superb piece of work, along with both partners in crime Luis Benitez and Matt Ridings. Alas, as you can imagine, things didn’t work out and, eventually, I couldn’t make it. Matt graciously covered for me though pretty much nailing it! Thanks for that, Matt! Nice work! So, since I couldn’t be there in the end, I turned myself into the Livestream option (along with catching up with it over the various different streams). And BOOM! There it happened.

On Day 2 of the event, on perhaps one of the most inspiring keynote sessions I can remember in years, that I am pretty certain I would be able to cover in upcoming blog posts, there was one keynote speaker that totally blew me away and, judging from the lifestream itself, the live audience, too! Scott Adams (the father of Dilbert) was on stage talking about failure and the critical role it plays in helping you succeed in the long run.

You can watch a replay of the livestream of Scott’s speech over here or hit the Play button on the embedded code below. It would be totally worth it the 30 minutes of your time, I can guarantee you that, to say the least:

Without spoiling it too much, Scott gets to talk about three main key points that I thought I would share across over here, as teasers, to entice you to watch through it in its entirety:

  1. “Goals are for losers
  2. Passion, totally overrated 
  3. Luck can be manipulated”

He gets to talk about how goals no longer cut it in today’s constant world of change. Just the sheer complexity of it all makes it almost impossible to cope with them and still make sense. Instead, he talks about trying a system. “Something you do regularly that improves your odds and makes you more valuable (ideally)”. A system where you get to build further along a lovely set of complementary skills that would accumulate over the years by putting them into practice on a regular basis so that it will keep improving those odds of becoming successful, regardless of what criteria you may want to use to define success.

He also has got a very interesting and noble approach towards replacing will-power with knowledge, towards replacing that same will-power with habit. And the examples he mentions are true golden gems most folks out there would be able to relate to.

He then gets to talk about how passion is totally overrated. How while it may get you there, that very same passion may as well be the main cause for your many failures over the course of time, and, while not neglecting it, after all, he still thinks it’s important and relevant to be passionate about what you do, he mentioned how it’s probably much more effective to not just focus on your passion, but focus on helping boost your personal energy. Essentially, become physically and mentally more alert instead. WOW! Just brilliant!

Finally, he gets to talk about luck and how it can be manipulated. How people who consider themselves “lucky” have, most probably, a wider field of perception, meaning that they would notice opportunities others wouldn’t notice. And embrace them. Essentially, you get to define and provoke your own luck, based on what you perceive and build further on over the course of time.

His major conclusion? An inspiring, rather thought-provoking and mind-blowing one liner that certainly has stuck with me ever since I heard it a few days back and that, I am sure, will define my life from here onwards and whatever the career path(s) I may get to choose:

“Use systems to boost your odds, passion to get energy, and luck to change the game”

That’s why I am very pleased and rather excited altogether to announce that after 17 years at IBM, working as a Knowledge Manager, Community Builder, Social Business Evangelist and Enabler, it’s now time for me to go independent and embrace that system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.

Yes, that’s right! After 17 long years working in the largest corporate IT environment there is out there at the moment, and having had a blast all along, it’s now time for me to embrace both the unknown and the uncertain: to become an independent, a free spirit, a solopreneur, a provocateur of sorts, a change agent, a free radical, an outrageous and true optimist hippie 2.0 aiming at wanting to change the world, for the better.

Oh, and I won’t be alone, in case you are wondering…

That was the much needed change that I guess my inner self was looking forward to over the course of the last couple of years, where hint after hint, you start seeing it coming and, in the end, there is nothing else that you can do other than embrace the change and try to make the most out of it; and while I certainly looked into other potential opportunities of working in other large corporate environments, I thought this time around was probably going to be the best timing to go ahead and rediscover myself to find out who I really am, what I really want to do, how I can help others become better at what they do already and, eventually, change the world.

See? The true spirit of that free hippie 2.0 kicking in again.

But “how are you going to do that?” I am pretty sure that’s what’s going on in your head at the moment while you keep reading this article, right? Well, that’s where the system of me idea kicks in. Instead of focusing on a single goal and work really hard towards achieving it, as part of that new adventure of going solo, I am going to try to keep as many options open as I possibly can, and let that focus, purpose and meaning I mentioned earlier on, in another post, decide which one(s) would be a failure I can learn from, move on and stick around with the one(s) that will help me progress further in my life-long learning experience(s) with that new round of complimentary skills.

In a way, you could think about this next stage on my (work) life as an opportunity to rediscover myself, reflect on what I have learned and applied over the course of the last 17 years and see if there would be an opportunity to apply them in a completely different environment from that one of the big corporate world: that is, the freelance economy. A recent article under the suggestive heading of “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, pretty much nails it for me on what I feel, rather strongly, is the workplace of the future, if there ever was a brilliant one, that would be it. And, somehow, in whatever form or shape, I quite enjoy both the challenge and the opportunity of being part of it.

Now, I do know, and fully realise, that it’s not going to be an easy ride. I don’t expect it to be. Quite the contrary. It’s going to be full of uncertainty, facing the unknown in most cases, and experiencing plenty of new scenarios that I never thought, in the recent past, I would had the bravery and courage to face, like the prospect of no longer having a secure job or a fixed monthly income at a time when, where I live, in the Canary Islands, Spain, the unemployment rate is over 33% of the total active working population. Yet, somehow, I feel it’s also a good time for me to see if I can put to the test all of those acquired skills over the course of the years and put them to good use as an independent freelancer. I bet it will be quite an interesting self-discovery experience altogether as well, don’t you think?

So, at this point in time, and perhaps to close off this longish article for now, you may be wondering what are going to be the main focus areas I will be working on from here onwards as an independent freelancer, solopreneur or autónomo (Spanish), right? Well, like I mentioned above, and in order to unleash the system of elsua to help increase the odds of opportunity and success, here are some of the areas I will be working on:

  • Social / Computing Business and Open Business evangelism
  • Social Business Strategy and Digital Transformation Consultancy
  • Social Business Enablement and Adoption / Adaptation (Including IBM Connections)
  • Knowledge Management, Learning and Org. Change Management (Org. Design)
  • Online Community Building and Facilitation
  • Digital / Executive Coaching
  • International public speaking
  • Freelance writing
  • English teaching (See? I am still an English teacher with a passion for teaching and learning and that’s not going away any time soon!)

And, finally, Life Without eMail. Of course, I couldn’t let this one slip out, just like that, right? After all, it’s what most people still know me for out there and have been thinking that if I have managed to successfully survive in the largest email driven IT firm in the world over the course of the last 6 years, it’s now time to enter a new phase, a new challenge altogether: live a life without email as an independent freelancer / solopreneur. And see whether I am capable of pulling it off or not, moving all of my interactions into social networking tools. At least, as many as I possibly can, just like I have been doing for the last few years in the corporate world.

I know most of you folks may be thinking that there are perhaps too many different options out there that I will be working on from here onwards and everything and that, maybe, I will be spreading too thin, but all along I have been thinking that this whole new experience is pretty much going to be shaped not only by what I do and learn along the way, but also by how I would be interacting, conversing and learning with my networks across the board. Because, if there is anything that I have learned over the course of the last 15 years that I have been involved with social networking is that you are never going solo. There is an entire network of people who care, who surely know and understand what you are good at, and what not, and, as such, they would become your helping hand and invaluable source of feedback to keep you on track of how you are helping that very same network become successful at what they already do.

After all, we are living in a Network Era and there is no turning point back. And do you know what’s the one single ah-ha moment that I will be enjoying the most from this brave new world of (hyper)connectedness and conversations that I am about to enter from here onwards? Well, that, all along, and over the course of the last 17 years, I have been preparing myself to become a freelancer for life, always nurturing my networks, no matter what.

And I won’t be alone…

Let the next adventure begin! Unleashing the system of we!

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