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


Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Winter

Over three years ago I wrote a blog entry over here about Twitter under the provocative heading: ‘Twitter is where conversations go to die’. It was a cathartic article I needed to get out of my system in order to re-find my love with that social networking tool. I wasn’t enjoying it much back in those days. Three years later, here I am again, writing about it, once more, but this time around with a different twist. I still love Twitter, as I wrote just recently. I use it every single day of the week, it’s my favourite personal learning network by far, but I am starting to question the value of connections over there. Why? Well, no-one seems to care anymore, apparently.

I have been on Twitter since early 2007 and I keep remembering fondly the time when people would eagerly connect with one another; when they would share lots of interesting tidbits just for the sake of adding further value into the network(s) and the overall conversation; when they would converse with one another and learn from each other (even from total strangers); when people didn’t have double agendas nor were just they tooting their own horn by blasting out marketing messages whole day long repeatedly. Over and over again, all over the place and time, because, you know, you need to get your message out, or so we are told. Essentially, yes, I am still missing the days when Twitter was The Pulse of the Planet: The Global Conversation. The place to be.

Still is today, in my opinion, but all of the things we cherished and loved about Twitter seemed to have been long gone and lost, and, probably, not returning back any time soon. Unless we do something about it. Twitter, on its own, it’s just one of the many hundreds of different digital tools within the Social Web. It’s our smart use of the tool that makes the difference, like in pretty much anything technology related. Always. So when you know it is no longer working out for you there are a few things you can do:

  1. Let inertia run its course and stick around just because everyone else is still in there anyway and continue on the path to get bored to death over time.
  2. Move on to the next shiny object where you think everyone else is hanging out usually (Nowadays, it’s Facebook, apparently #Meh)
  3. Or do something about it, break the chain, challenge the status quo and redefine a completely new user experience. See if it works and, if it does, stick around with it. Move on. 

About a month and a half ago I decided to go for #3 and see whether it would work or not. Indeed, over 6 weeks ago I decided to run #elsuahackstwitter. An experiment where I’d be challenging not only how I make good use of Twitter, but those around me as well. I decided to unfollow everyone. Yes, everyone. No exceptions. From one day to another. And instead of relying on a combination of Twitter Lists and my home timeline, which is what I have been doing for years already, I decided to be brave enough and see whether I could survive just with Twitter Lists and following zero people and witness, first hand, whether the conversations moved elsewhere. Or not. Eventually, I wanted to see how disruptive such bold move would be like on how we use Twitter today.

Why Did I Do It Then?

Essentially, I wanted to challenge our basic perception of how we use Twitter nowadays and whether it would make sense without it or not. Everyone has got followers and their own following, but what happens when your following is no longer there? When you decide to stop following everyone and question the purpose of that connection in the first place? Is it still worth it, is it just a vanity metric, is it an influence metric you can make good use of? Why do we follow people on Twitter in the first place? To show off anticipating reciprocation, perhaps because of what they share across or maybe because of the conversations they host? I had to run the experiment and see what the fuss was all about.

What if Twitter decided to drop off the count of both followers and following? Would you still make use of it, like you are doing today? Imagine if Twitter decided get rid of that vanity metric, so that we would focus more on the conversations themselves, i.e. on topics, hashtags, events, etc., etc., do you think you would still be making use of Twitter and enjoy the overall experience as much as you are doing nowadays? Or maybe not much really. That’s exactly what I wanted to try out, whether I could live without that ego centric metric we all seem to be very keen on nurturing to prove and validate our own so-called influence and take my Twitter experience on to a different level. That’s how #elsuahackstwitter got started over a month and a half ago and I must confess, after a few weeks have gone by, I am quite enjoying the results and the overall experience. Although not too sure about what everyone else would think for that matter!

What Has Actually Happened?

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, I can tell you. An emotional journey of sorts, testing how far I could tame my own ego, that one of others, my reactions, their reactions, our two-way conversations and see whether after all that I would still be able to survive and not want to come back to the old model of following and be followed.

Six weeks later things are back to normal. In fact, after the initial frenzy of interactions with a bunch of folks who wanted to know why I was doing such thing the craze started to fade away to the point where I am back to where I was before, but with zero following. Perhaps vast majority of people who still follow me on Twitter didn’t even notice a single bit the crack I tried to provoke in the system 😉 as plenty of people keep saying, you know, that no-one reads Twitter anymore anyway. It’s just the place where we go to broadcast our messages and toot our very own horn without hearing others’ opinions, thoughts and experiences, so why bother, right?

The thing is that, on its own, it’s transformed entirely the way not only I see Twitter as my own personal learning network, but also how I use it on a regular basis and, although I can’t tell for others, it’s helped me find a new way of making it more personal, more conversational, more topic driven (while still keeping in touch with people), in short, overall more engaging and much less stressful altogether. And that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve with this experiment of #elsuahackstwitter.

In order for me to be able to conduct this experiment successfully though I had to continue running a parallel one I eventually got started with a while ago already and with some very good results altogether. I had to open my Twitter Direct Messages to everyone. Yes, that is right, if I was going to stop following everyone sending a direct message without opening them up first would have been a challenge. So before I got things started with that I opened DMs to everyone and played with it over the course of a few weeks to see whether I would be constantly abused by this new capability with lots of spam from whoever.

And the results from that other bold move have been, if anything, rather surprising, because contrary to the perception from everyone else out there, I haven’t been spammed to the point where I’d be needing to turn it off. Currently, I am getting about 1 DM per week unsolicited from anyone whom I typically don’t even know. Very doable, if you ask me. And now that we no longer have the 140 character limitation for those DMs even all the better! I can now send DMs to folks without having to use multiple 1/N messages to get the overall message across. And it’s also working very well. Oh, don’t worry, I haven’t even come close to the 10k character we are allowed to share across in a direct message on Twitter so far, and I doubt I’d ever come close to it. 

What Have I Learned?

So, with all of that said, let’s do a quick recap of the overall experiment I have been running with #elsuahackstwitter:

  1. I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter and instead rely on three Public Twitter Lists (I will blog about them in a follow-up entry to explain what they are and why I picked up the names for them that I did)
  2. I opened up my Twitter Direct Messages, so everyone of the potential 300+ million Twitter users could send me a DM, if they so wish to.
  3. I love the now expanded 10k limit for direct messages and for a good simple reason: I am still doing #noemail every single day, I deleted my Facebook account over 5 years ago, I deleted my LinkedIn profile nearly 18 months ago, I am currently going through a hate relationship with Google Plus (As I have recently talked about), so I was running out of options to exchange messages longer than 140 characters. Yes, I know, I am weird, but who isn’t, right? heh

Anyway, over the course of the first few weeks, I took plenty of copious notes (on the side) about what I was learning along the way with this experiment. I have shared a good number of them already under the hashtag #elsuahackstwitter on Twitter itself. 45 in total, as of the last count, and there may well be some more coming up to round up on 50. We shall see. Since I am not too sure how long they would be there anyway, that is, on Twitter, I thought I would add them all to this blog entry as well. Each and everyone of them, why not? More than anything else to remind me of not only what I learned about it, but also how I (and others) felt about it as well.

I will probably just share a single one-liner, or two, hopefully, not too long, for each of them and, where needed, and for very specific reasons, I may be able to pick up some of them and expand them further in upcoming blog posts over the course of time to explain some more about them and why I wrote what I wrote in the moment.

So without much further ado, here is what I learned, over six weeks ago, from having unfollowed the 1220 people I was following on Twitter back in the day:

  1. People I used to follow back in the day started to follow me back again once I unfollowed them. I haven’t followed them back again, of course, so they are still in one of the three public lists I put together. I guess it highlights the power of sending signals across as social gestures :-)
  2. Number of reciprocal unfollows was rather significant in the first three weeks (About 10% of those 1220 folks). Ouch! My ego hurt and a lot! Oh, yes!, it was also part of the experiment to figure out how my own ego will react from being brutally unfollowed the moment I did as well. Very emotional at first, but, lucky enough, it’s now dead, for good.
  3. Originally, I decided to create a Public List with all of those 1220 folks. In doing so I knew it would be sending out a notification (another social gesture), where I’d be pointing to a tweet which explained what I was doing. The unexpected result: A few folks (about 25) subscribed to the Public List itself. It felt weird.
  4. I knew I could unfollow everyone with a single click using a Chrome plugin, but, instead, I decided to unfollow everyone manually, one by one. Soon enough I was immersed on a superb trip down the memory lane of the folks I used to follow from over the years (I can highly recommend it, for sure!), and whom I am still in touch with, but also others where the contact was no more. I guess it was time to unfollow for good, I suppose. Life goes on, for all of us :-)
  5. As mentioned above in #3, by creating that public list of those folks I used to follow, I was exposing my own timeline and making it public to everyone for the first time. Before, it was just too cumbersome to do so. Now people could take a sneak peek into what I am getting exposed to myself daily. And that is still happening today with the three public lists I created and that I will be talking about in a new blog entry.
  6. Ever since I started with this experiment, lots of reactions & intriguing conversations have come through. Plenty of folks seem to be rather interested in the experiment itself, what I may have learned and whether it will work, or not. That’s why during the first three weeks the engagement in Twitter was just phenomenal, till things settled back in on the fourth week and we are now, once more, back to normal.
  7. Apparently, adding people to Public Lists allows them to automate a response back to you. Who knew? Oh, yes, that deserves an Unfollow for good! That was my first reaction AND action. Pretty much like when you generate an auto DM response if I would start following someone. No, thanks! Not interested in interacting with bots, but with humans.
  8. Was it something I said? :)’ eventually came about with a smiley at the end. I knew, from other folks doing similar experiments that this reaction would come along. I was ready for it :) Like I said, folks, it’s never been personal. At least, from me. It’s about finding a way to redefine how I use certain social tools. Nothing more, nothing less. And this time around Twitter was the chosen one. Not you, as individuals. 
  9. This is perhaps one of my favourite highlights from the whole experiment, the fact that I got exposed to a whole bunch of great memories while going through each unfollow manually. Remembering the when, the how, the why, the what for, the good fun. It’s amazing what 8 years of building your networks through Twitter can do to your brain. A highly recommended exercise for real!
  10. Apart from the initial rush of reactions from different people, there were a whole bunch of other folks who decided to use other social gestures to acknowledge what I was doing. Indeed, lots of those additional responses came by as Favourites from the original tweet to share a gesture of awareness, perhaps, even consent to the experiment. I surely loved the succinct method of engagement, as it confirmed the signal ‘Hi there, I know what you are doing, go ahead and enjoy it. It sounds interesting…’
  11. The word ‘friend’ also came up. And it was coming from a good friend of mine, too! ‘Yeah, you know, but we were friends all along, right? Right?’ Oh dear. No exceptions! 😀 (Yes, we will still be friends, as I know plenty of other places, whether offline and online, where I can find you, don’t worry!)
  12. First issue I bumped into, I still haven’t figured out just yet, is how to handle Private Twitter handles as Lists can’t follow their tweets :-( Apparently, you need to follow them, they need to approve your request and off you go, but with lists following people with private accounts is a dead end. So long, folks! Sad. Very sad, indeed. But, like I said, this was an exercise of no exceptions. Unfollow everyone.
  13. Something interesting I learned about setting up the right expectations, so things wouldn’t come up as a surprise: Creating a Public List to alert folks was a hit! A keeper! People were informed ahead of time of what I was about to start and became aware what was going on, without having to get asked multiple times what was going on …
  14. Some folks indicated they didn’t like being ‘an experiment’, after all. This was probably triggered by the name of the initial Public List I used: ‘Unfollowing Experiment‘. Lesson learned for next time around: avoid using the word ‘experiment‘ at all costs!
  15. Another favourite highlight and key learning is how, all along, it’s been a rather emotional experience for me, but also for some of the folks I used to follow. Somehow it feels like detaching one self from something, or someone. Will it come back after a while? I don’t know, but, originally, this was part of the experiment in terms of finding out for myself how much of my own ego was driving those Twitter interactions in the first place vs. everything else. It felt like being an orphan at first, for real! But then again you get to shake off that ego and move on to better things, i.e. the conversations. And I can now confirm that six weeks later, that emotional detach is no longer there. 
  16. Your Twitter home timeline becomes, all of a sudden, a weird thing on its own where only your own tweets will show along with recommendations to follow people who are already following you to entice you to build the network, again. One sided, really. Twitter needs to start getting their act together on Lists as it’s perhaps its most powerful, yet often ignored, capability. There is just so much potential that we haven’t discovered just yet about Lists…
  17. To my surprise and pure delight, there are already a number of people who are already doing exactly this very same thing of working with Twitter lists and zero following: Stephen Downes, a.k.a. @downes (See https://twitter.com/Downes/status/628575174309318656), Simon Calder, a.k.a. @simoncalder, as examples, etc., confirming that nowadays it’s very hard to be the very first one at doing something you think it’s new. There will always be someone way ahead of you, no matter what. And you know what is the best part? Well, it looks like for those folks it’s working out really well. Who knew?
  18. At the beginning, I was worried that several other systems I use on a regular basis to make the most out of Twitter would break, but so far I haven’t noticed any real impact from Nuzzle, Twitter’s email digest and bunch of other Twitter Tools, as they are based on my followers and not my following, apparently. Good news! Phew!
  19. If you are wondering about the number of new followers and whether it has started to decrease a little bit or not, I can definitely confirm your new followers count will drop off dramatically. As an example, overall, in the last six weeks I have had 236 new followers and 269 unfollows. It looks like if people notice you are not following anyone, you are not interested in conversing with anyone anymore and therefore only care about tooting your horn. Beep, wrong assumption. A quick check of the timeline, the Mentions and conversation threads will confirm whether you’re there for the broadcast or the engaging dialogue and overall conversation. I am much more interested in the latter, even if I decide not to follow anyone for that matter. The conversations will still flow along, if you care to dive in, that is… It just requires nowadays a bit more effort. That’s all. 
  20. An unintended (social) gesture I am re-discovering due to the experiment: using Favourites much more discretionarily as an opportunity to highlight ‘I’m here, listening, I haven’t gone away that far’. Eventually, showing I still care about what you tweet, no matter whether I’m following you or not. See where breaking off the mold was coming from? Who knew that Favourites could be used for that?
  21. Interestingly enough, plenty of people view Following as a personal touch, as a ‘connection’, even if they have never exchanged a single tweet with you! How weird is that? Seriously. When did it happen we all became just numbers in a counter?!?! Really sorry, but that’s not what, to me, makes up for a ‘connection’, if we have never exchanged a single tweet! Conversations are the new connections, I am afraid. That simple.
  22. Here is something that I wasn’t expecting either, and that I am finding fascinating to no end: those folks I know & have followed for a long long time haven’t said a single thing throughout all of these weeks about this experiment. Silence = consent? I don’t know. We are still conversing as much as we used to, although they all probably think I’m weirder than originally thought! Bless them for sticking around all along! :)
  23. Oh, and the so-called ‘Celebrities’ (those people with thousands of followers and following), as usual, will still keep ignoring you, just as ever, whether you follow them or not. It’s not their game. Their game is to keep bloating away their followers and following numbers even if they cannot longer even grasp what’s going on around them. But here is a little secret: they will never admit to it, but, they, too, make heavy use of Twitter Lists. It’s how they keep ignoring vast majority of what goes around while they focus on rather small niches. Off they go … Pretending is their currency, apparently. Not ours. 
  24. In case you are wondering what Twitter tools I am using to handle my Lists, so far the one that rules them all, at least, for me, is Tweetbot (On the Mac) or Tweetbot v2 & v3 (on my iPad & iPhone, respectively). You can make a single list your new home timeline and then work with the others as additional ‘sections / columns’ with the overall UI and quite like that approach, specially, when travelling on my iPhone. It’s like, all of a sudden, I have gone from a single timeline to three of them: one for each public list. I have said this many many times in the past, but it’s worth repeating: I love fragmentation. Helps me make better sense of the world around me, including Twitter, for that matter.
  25. It’s probably hard to believe, but using Public Lists makes conversations more organised and focused, therefore much more productive, and effective and overall much more engaging. To the point where two or three weeks into the experiment I started to question why go back then? One of the biggest issues with Twitter’s Following timeline is that it’s got a limit, imposed by the system, whereas with lists I am the one who sets the limit, helping me decide what goes and what doesn’t, what I read and what I don’t. Finally, the Personal Learning Network is defined by the end-user, not by the system.
  26. Roughly on the 4th day, after a few hectic days of full throttle, non stop, conversations, peace and quiet, finally, came back. Very much needed and appreciated, so I could catch up my breath and come back to business as usual :) Here is the thing though, if you are going to start doing something similar, set aside plenty of time, because you will be spending that time having plenty of conversations to explain, and somehow justify, why you are doing that and what you expect to get out of it. Get ready! Be prepared for the adrenaline rush and constant beeps.
  27. Oh, remember the good old days when we used to blog on a more or less regular basis and we didn’t care much about vanity metrics, but about conversations and ideas we shared across? That’s what I want back. After all, Twitter is all about microblogging, right? It was never framed as micro-following (or be followed), so why keep bothering with it eventually?
  28. By focusing so much more on conversations nowadays, it means I have to get my own act together and become more effective in terms of what content I get to share. It’s no longer oversharing for the sake of oversharing, but sharing with intent, with a purpose, that one of starting a conversation, of sparking an idea through dialogue, not just sharing across to demonstrate my presence. It’s the main reason why I never cared about being on Twitter constantly, or automating my interactions, or just simply pretending I was constantly living there. Back then, I wasn’t, and I am not going to start now either!
  29. Another intriguing highlight from this experiment so far is how it is making me question more and more by the day whether I’m valued because of what I know and share across through conversations and interesting links or who I am: one more number in a follower / following list? Somehow, I keep wanting to fight the notion I am just another number. No, I am not. I am a human being with an eagerness to learn through dialogue, through conversation. Curiosity will never be replaced by a number. Not today, not ever.
  30. For the record, and perhaps I’m writing this down once and for all, emotional blackmail will never work on yours truly. Ever. The ‘Why did you unfollow me after all of this time we have been together? I would have never done that to you’ is never going to work, specially, if a couple of days later you end up being the one unfollowing me as punishment. I’d rather prefer to quit Twitter altogether (or whatever other social tool) and move on. Please, please, don’t play that game. It never ends well. That is not how you should build your social capital and your networks, regardless of the digital tool you make use of. 
  31. Moving on to the next highlight, but still, perhaps, somewhat related: What’s more valuable eventually from our ‘relationship’? A conversation where we both learn something new, or, at least, give it try, or my following you? If the latter, really? I mean, seriously? Convince me otherwise, please. Again, we are not numbers, we are people, human beings, thriving in dialogue and always keen on wanting to learn more and more by the day. 
  32. It’s been, if anything, a liberating experience altogether, because of tweets like this one:
  33. Or this other one: 

  34. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have realised I am now much more conscious and aware of my own use of social gestures, like Likes / Favourites, Add to Lists, Mentions, etc. etc. More engaging altogether. It helps me bring forward, time and time again, a specific purpose of what I want to get out of Twitter by not being in there just for the sake of it, but always try to add some additional value others may as well benefit from, not just myself. That, to me, is where the magic happens.
  35. This is definitely one of my favourite highlights from the whole lot. By having moved my interactions into Lists, Twitter has turned itself to be pretty much like Slack where a List becomes a channel. No vanity metrics, just conversations, just learning, just work. How many people do you follow, or follow you, in Slack? Exactly what I mean! Just perfect!
  36. Earlier on in this blog entry I mentioned what an emotional experience it has been altogether. One other thing I can add though is that it helped me learn, probably the hard way, how to let go of my ego from the vanity metric and think of Twitter as just another collaboration, conversation and learning tool, pretty much like Slack, blogs, face to face, etc. where vanity metrics are just non-existent. After letting my ego go, and be torn down to pieces, I feel I’m, finally, getting the better of me out there as I keep using Twitter more purposefully and with plenty more intent, that one of adding value to the overall dialogue without expecting anything in between. If it comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. Time for me to work harder on it. 
  37. Six weeks have now passed and after having adjusted to that new flow of timelines, to having let go of my ego forgetting about the vanity metrics and, frankly, after enjoying the overall Twitter user experience ever so much more, my initial gut feeling is there is a great chance I’m going to stick around with the exclusive use of Lists, although next step would be to create 3 different public lists and group people in there, so they can see how I see them based on perceptions of our interactions. Six weeks later, those public lists are already up and running, even though it was quite a challenge to come up with names that would be both relevant and non offending at the same time and, judging from the reactions from people, it looks like the choice of words was just right: Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From (In an upcoming blog post I will detail further how each of them is positioned against one another to build up my new Twitter timeline(s)) from scratch.
  38. I am getting close to the end of highlights and key things learned with this experiment and I think I am starting to come to terms with the fact that perhaps what I really wanted to do, all along, was to, eventually, disrupt not just my use of Twitter, but also everyone else’s of those whom I followed and see how we would all react collectively about something we might have never experienced ourselves, and see if it would have something to bring forward on to the table. For instance, a big question that keeps coming up in my mind is the following: imagine if Twitter would not have followers / following and not even show it, would you still use it daily? And if so, what’s stopping us from jumping forward and destroy Twitter’s elitism of super power users that keeps deterring new comers from jumping in and participating further along? We must make an effort in helping democratise the tool again by engaging in conversations and topics of interest vs. being purely driven pretty much by our very own bloated egos than anything else. 
  39. There have been tons of different reactions from folks over the course of last few weeks, so it’d be difficult to try to summarise them all. However, there is one in particular that pretty much nails it for me in terms of what I am trying to do. It comes from my very good friend Anne Marie McEwan (a.k.a. @smartco) who tweeted back in the day: ‘You are just paying attention to people in a different way’. And that is exactly right! Now, how many people can, actually, say that? When was the last time you read your entire timeline of wonderful tweets, insights, thoughts and ideas coming through? Yes, I know, I know, it’s just the river of news and we dip in and out as we may see fit, but, seriously, when was the last time you did that vs. just tooting your own horn and move on to the next thing;-)? And then we still wonder as to why people don’t read our tweets any more. Probably if we would make the effort to read theirs and engage accordingly, we may get some of that back as well… Who knows … 
  40. Here is another key learning that took me a while to digest and make some sense out of it: using Lists forces me to be more human, more conversational, focusing on people and what they share rather than just interactions, transactions, even, of tweets flying by. Somehow, the world of Twitter has stopped for me from pouring away like a firehose, to then re-gain a certain pause where I’m enjoying much more what people share across and have a better way of reacting accordingly adding my two cents worth of value, where I possibly can. Boy, I can assure you, if anything, how the massive quality of the conversation has hit a higher notch of awesomeness. Food for the brain and for the soul altogether! Just brilliant!
  41. Here’s another key insight shared across that describes pretty much the shift some of us have gone through while embarking on this new exciting journey: 

  42. Ohhh, and did I tell you how much people do appreciate being put in Lists whose names AND descriptions mean a whole lot more than just vague concepts, or over hyped buzzwords and lots of mumbo jumbo (i.e. gurus, ninjas, #socbiz, experts, etc. etc. )? Show them how you care and there is a great chance that they will be caring back in return. Just saying … :)
  43. Moving to Lists, if anything, has resulted in helping me focus so much more on Learning by Topic & than Learning by Following XYZ. Learning becomes more intentional and resourceful, as one idea sparks another, then another, and another one, and, before you know it, you are down a wonderfully spiral of no return that may help you achieve something you just didn’t expect all along from the beginning. Oh, yes, the magic wonders of serendipity, in case you are wondering out loud, are still pretty much intact, or, if anything, enhanced tremendously.
  44. Now, with all of this said, there is a bit of uncertainty, a rather mysterious one, but one of wonder and edginess. Why? Well, you no longer know for certain who is following you or not, who adds you into Lists or who isn’t, because people can very well add you to their public lists, or, to their private ones, which makes it even more interesting, as it results in embracing uncertainty by which the focus is the overall learning experience itself: Can I learn something from what you share when we both hit the conversation without knowing each other who is who and how we might be connected? I quite like that unexpected effect of conversations you never know where they will take you till you bump into them and dive right in. 
  45. And, finally, one final insight, which is perhaps the most rewarding so far, from what I can tell. In that exercise of becoming more observant of how people get to use Twitter around you, one can’t but notice, how, with learning by doing, after a short while, people start doing their own thing with lists, sort their following, conference speakers, attendees, folks they usually hang out with, etc. into lists. Proving, if anything, that walking the talk when trying to influence a change of sorts in other folks, actually, works! Each and every single time. How cool is that?!?

And here we are, coming close to the end of a rather long blog post that pretty much tries to explain what I have been up to last 6 weeks of running an experiment on Twitter that has certainly helped me gain new perspectives in terms of how I view certain social networking tools. Perhaps there is just one last question waiting for an answer at this point in time, I bet, from all of you: Will I go back and start following people on Twitter or will I stick around in this brave new world of human relationships and conversations rather than pure metrics and numbers? 

Well, if I judge by how much my own perception of Twitter, and how I make use of it on a daily basis (Remember, it’s still my number #1 social networking tool out there on the Social Web), has shifted for the better since I first got started with this experiment, I guess I can now conclude with these few words to try to answer that question: Yes, the Unfollowing Experiment is no longer an experiment. It’s my new reality. It’s how I plan to continue making use of Twitter from here onwards, more than anything because it helps me, tremendously, to up the game in working out loud, and therefore become more effective at what I do, and even more so than ever before (I will explain what I mean with this in a follow-up post) and, essentially, because it’s helped me understand how social networking is a whole lot more profound and soul feeding than just a meagre, worthless vanity metric. Twitter may well be the place where connections go to die. To me, Twitter is where a bloody good conversation (or two) just begins … 

Want to join me? 

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Pardon the Interruption … From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez #soccnx

Prague in the SpringA couple of months back you would remember how I put together a blog post over here on an upcoming business trip I was about to embark on heading to Prague, by mid-June, to speak a couple of times at the Social Connections VI event (#soccnx). A few of you have asked me over the course of time whether there were some recordings made available of the different presentations and all along I mentioned that they would become accessible online, eventually, since they were all recorded live, while we were there. It was just a matter of time, and a bunch of hard work to make it happen. And lo and behold, here we have got them, finally, available at the Social Connections Vimeo site and they are looking very good, indeed! So, I guess, it’s now a good time to make your favourite picks and start diving into some really good content!

That’s right, depending on what your various interest areas may well be like, you would have a chance to go into the Agenda of the event, as a good refresher, even in case you may not have made it face to face, and pick the topics, breakout sessions or keynote presentations you would be most interested in and start hitting the Play button to enjoy some of the really great quality content that was shared across over the course of a couple of days.

What a privilege we all had! Prague, on the brink of summer, stunning location, amazing networking events throughout the entire conference, plenty of very knowledgeable, brilliant and amazing folks talking about some of the topics they are truly passionate about and an amazing team putting it all together to make us all feel just at home. Stunning! 

I had the true honour of speaking at the event a couple of times and I enjoyed both of them tremendously! To me, it was a little bit like a homecoming of sorts, after nearly 5 months since I went independent and left IBM to start my own new adventure(s), because I had the wonderfully unique opportunity of catching up with former colleagues and good friends, business partners and lots of amazing customers I had worked with over the course of the years (even while at IBM).

That’s what User Groups events have got. That special flair of an incredibly strong sense of community that goes beyond the borders of vendor(s), customers (and their firewalls) and business partners. It’s like one massive online social network coming together face to face to talk, converse AND learn about what they are truly passionate about, i.e. becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise with no attachments in between, like marketing and vendor speak, practitioners with their own agendas and what not. Purely an intense two day long learning experience of passionate knowledge (Web) workers wanting to make the world, their world, a better place by sharing, collaborating and innovating out in the open. 

So when the smart folks organising the overall event asked me whether I would like to be the closing keynote speaker for Day Two, I just couldn’t say “No!”, could I? Of course, I accepted such generous offer and the wonderful opportunity of picking up a topic that is dear to my heart, even though I may start sounding like a broken record, and cover it during the course of nearly one hour: Employee Engagement.

And the end-result of that presentation can now be watched through online as the recording of the keynote has just been made available a couple of weeks back under the title “From Adaptation to Engagement, Luis Suarez”. A copy of the slides can be found as well over at Haiku Deck, in case folks may well be interested… Here’s the embedded code of the recording as well, so you can watch it at your own pace. Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did delivering it: 

From Adaptation to Engagement, Luis Suarez from Social Connections on Vimeo.


Oh, and if you care to watch another recording of a fun session we did as well while at the event, you may want to take a look into Pardon the Interruption (Fast-paced Social Business Panel Discussion). In case you may not know about the innovative format from this panel session, it’s one that’s been championed by my good friend, and fellow IBMer, Louis Richardson, who introduced it at IBM’s Lotusphere event a couple of years ago and that, basically, puts on the stage a moderator and 3 other panelists who get to answer a good number of questions (Usually from the audience) around Social Business in under a minute. Fast paced, straight to the point, and lots of knowledge sharing in a single round of Q&A. 

This time around the moderator was the always insightful Stu McIntyre, then we had a client (Brian O’Neil), a vendor (Luis Benitez) and an independent advisor (yours truly). And for the rest an exhilarating, good fun, very insightful 40 minutes of experiences, know-how, and lots of knowledge sharing from three different worlds colliding with one another to become one: a Social / Open Business. 

Pardon the Interruption (Fast-paced panel discussion), Stuart McIntyre & Luis Benitez & Brian O’Neill & Luis Suarez from Social Connections on Vimeo.

Needless to say that I am back for plenty more! How come? Well, I had a wonderful time all around (As you will be able to see from both presentations, never mind the massively inspiring networking that always takes place while at such events), as well as very much worth while catching up with good friends, customers and business partners. And, just recently, they have announced Social Connections VII for mid-November this year, and taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, a city I have never been to so far and I think it’ll be a good time to check out more in depth, don’t you think? Will you be joining us as well? Hope you will. It will be good fun seeing you all there! Here’s the link to the Registration page.

Oh, and don’t leave it for tomorrow! Places fill up pretty quickly and before you realise it, BOOM! They are gone! Just like that! 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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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#LeadWithRespect Meme: a Challenge for 21st Century Management

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringI can’t remember the last time that I participated on a blog carnival or meme blog series for that matter. I guess it’s been far too long, so when my good friend Cecil Dijoux launched a meme invitation to a group of us around #LeadWithRespect : a Challenge for 21st Century Management, based on a recent blog post he published upon embarking himself on reading the book “Lead With Respect” by Freddy and Michael Ballé (Already got my Kindle copy, by the way, although I haven’t gotten started with it just yet…), I just couldn’t help diving in and see where it would take us all being part of those conversations. After all, what could possibly go even more wrong with Leadership (and Management, in general) as it is today, perhaps one of the most profound, deeply routed and unprecedented management and leadership crisis in our entire recorded human history. I guess the only way is up, right? 

I asked Cecil through Twitter whether we would, eventually, need to read the book before participating on the meme invitation and he confirmed that was not the case. He’s still reading it himself further along, but just wanted to get some dialogue going and seeing the list of invitees I am sensing it could be quite something! A true privilege for yours truly, for certain, to be sharing my two cents when you see such notable and well-respected names such as these folks:


Essentially, the meme invitation is all about providing some specific answers to the various “seminal leadership questions” that the book is trying to answer as well. To name:

“[…] what is it to lead with respect ? What does it mean to show respect to employees ? Are there any related practices that can be applied in different context and yet bringing encouraging results ? Is it necessary for a 21st century leader to respect her employees in order to achieve success ? What are the costs of not respecting employees ? What is the relationship between leading with respect and setting a culture of continuous improvement ?”

So I thought I would get started with the meme by perhaps sharing some quick entry points to each of those questions based on thoughts that have been in my mind for a good while now. I know there will be a lot more to write down and share along on the topic, and I am sure we will all continue to cover this area for a good while with additional blog posts. Both leadership and management are two topics that I have always found really fascinating and which I think are right at the heart of the matter as to why vast majority of today’s knowledge workers are (totally) disengaged at work. You know how it works, if both your managers and leaders are disengaged at work, which they are, and very much so!, so will the employees they manage, even to the point of their own customers. If we are to define the overall client experience around the employee experience we would first need to help identify what the new role of management / leadership should be like, because the current model, and for obvious reasons, cannot be even more broken than what it is at the moment.

By all means, this article does not intend to address nor fix all of the various different problems and business issues with management / leadership overall. This article will just attempt to share some pointers to ideas, thoughts, and experiences that could help re-define that overall role of management and where would it fit in the Social Era of the Connected Company. An Open Business.

What is it to lead with respect?

To me, it’s all about trust. There is a great chance that if you trust someone you would respect someone. And in order to do that you would need to know them, in order to know them you would need to find out what they know, what they share, who they share it with, how they feel about things, what they are truly passionate about and so forth. Eventually, what drives them and motivates them to come to work every day by essentially offering the opportunity to demonstrate their thought leadership day in day out, which is essentially why they were hired for in the first place.

That’s where management and leadership come in. Lead with respect means that we need to leave behind that paternalistic approach from management of not trusting their employees by default, no matter what, therefore not showing much respect, because they know better than those same knowledge workers. After all, remember, they are making all of the decisions for them. They take all the risks for them all the time as well. They set the overall strategy of how the business will be run, right from the trenches to all the way to the top. For those managers, their competitive advantage has always been “knowledge is power” and why they have managed to cling to it all along with no remedy, because that has always been the status quo of how things operate at work. And you just need to keep quiet. 

But we should not forget they also take their pay, their big fat bonuses, and a certain status and power that, if anything, has got the opposite effect of showing that respect and trustworthy mindset of who you work with. Understanding that if you relinquish all of your knowledge and expertise you are eventually enabling your workforce to excel even more at what they already do a decent job for. But, you see? That’s not going to happen that easily, because that’s just the beginning of the road towards respecting your employee workforce, i.e. to not only help them do their jobs more effectively, and therefore becoming the Chief Obstacle Remover, but also to treat them as what they are: people, human beings, who, after all, are looking to strike both (business) results and (personal business) relationships. That’s the moment when you, as a manager, get to lose control, if you ever had it, because, if anything, control has always been an illusion and will remain so for many decades to come. Time to wake up to reality. 

What does it mean to show respect to employees?

It essentially means that managers and leaders are finally understanding the transformation provoked by these emerging digital tools where we are transitioning from a business world run under the mantra of the scarcity of knowledge stocks into the abundance of knowledge flows (as John Hagel coined back in the day) therefore embracing the motto of “knowledge SHARED is power”, where eventually knowledge workers are now more exposed to timely information, resources AND people to make better decisions without having to go every single time through their management chain in order to do their job. Biggest ah-ha moment about showing that respect to employees is for managers to, at long last, embrace the notion that they are no longer the smartest people in the room. That out there, amongst their own employee workforce, there are bound to be dozens and dozens of really smart, talented, amazing and brilliant people who are doing excellent jobs that they were never credited for.

Once you realise you are no longer the smartest person in the room, you are just on the brink of entering that new model of self-management around social networks that Jon Husband coined back in the day as Wirearchy and that certainly defines the workplace of the future in a direction away from a hierarchical, paternalistic, command and control, micromanaging driven mentality that has caused, if anything, more harm than benefit. Showing respect to employees essentially means you realise you are also one of them. One of the nodes in the network. The challenge then becomes how well connected you may well be in the network based on the trust and respect for others you may have shown over the course of time. The transition is clear. Knowledge and expertise become redundant, if you are no longer connected to the rest of the network. And that’s where respect shines, as you will have to earn the merit from each and everyone of them every single day of every month. Every year. Forever. 

Are there any related practices that can be applied in different context and yet bringing encouraging results?

I am sure there are plenty of them out there. In fact, it’s probably one of the hottest topics at the moment in the field of Management and Leadership in terms of redefining their role in the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century. One of my favourite books on the topic (Although there are certain ideas I still don’t buy just yet) is that one from Frederic Laloux around Reinventing Organisations which is a must-read in terms of helping identify what the future organisation would be like starting off today. 

For a good while though I have been pondering and musing about a particular framework that I think could be applied in different contexts but that would also bring up some excellent and encouraging results in terms of that transformation both leadership and management need to go through. It’s what I call the L.A.F. Framework, which essentially consists of 3 key basic elements that would help management and leadership understand their new role in the Social Era. To name: 

  • Listen: If you would ask me, nowadays we seem to be doing a rather poor job at listening to others, in fact, active listening, or listening with intent, is hard to find at this current time whether in the business world or in our society in general. However, if we would all just shut up and listen plenty more we would all realise how refreshing and liberating hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions could well be in order for us to make better decisions based on the new knowledge we would constantly get exposed to, acquire and put to good use collectively.
  • Act: This is where action comes into place, because after having done a few rounds of active listening, gathering input, networking, sharing and collaborating more effectively with our peers while getting work done, managers would have a great opportunity to show they care for their employees by acting upon the input they are receiving from them as a result of those listening activities. 
  • Feed Back: And, finally, this is where respect will come through and shine further along, because after having done that listening exercise, after having acted upon accordingly addressing those potential business opportunities or challenges, it’s now a good time to feed back to your networks on what you have done with those other previous activities in order to bring forward those encouraging results.

    This is where the vast majority of management and leadership fail rather drastically today. More than anything else because of that paternalistic sense of not having to report to anyone on what they do, never mind their own employees. After all, who are they, right? Remember, I don’t trust them. I call the shots, I make the decisions, I take the risks. They just execute my orders. Yet, feeding back to them, closing the circle, having a bloody good conversation on what you learn, what you did with it and what the impact may well be, is just probably as good as it gets in terms of leading with respect. Why? Because you are starting to fully understand that notion the L.A.F. framework just makes you an equal to everyone else. You are then part of the trusted network where magic just happens. 

 Is it necessary for a 21st century leader to respect her employees in order to achieve success ? What are the costs of not respecting employees?

I think these two questions are very much related and in a way I have already hinted what my answers would be like for both of them. A leader who doesn’t respect their employees should not, and cannot!, expect to have their employees respect them in any way possible. That may well have been the situation for a good number of decades, but it does no longer work anymore in today’s business environment. If anything, I am more and more convinced by the day that every single organisation should feel privileged to have the honour and great pleasure of employing the amazing talent they have hired in the first place. If you look into it, businesses are just renting out knowledge workers’ free time to do their work, to let their passion and motivation shine through. To delight their customers, so the least they should do is respect them and trust they would do a good job, because I can guarantee you they will. Otherwise they wouldn’t be working with you. 

I have been saying this for a very very long time. If you keep treating your people as sheep, I can vouch they would eventually behave as sheep. Now, when was the last time that a sheep respected or trusted you again? However, if you treat your employees as what you hired them for in the first place, i.e. hard working professionals truly committed and motivated for excelling at a job they are passionate about, I can guarantee you they would behave as such, they would respect you and they would honour the treat of working together with you as equals, as nodes of the same network, doing what they know best: delighting your (AND their!) clients

The reality though is that is not the case, as can be seen from recent research studies, like Gallup’s, around employee engagement, where, currently, around 13% of today’s global employee workforce is engaged at work, while the other 87% isn’t. That, put into plain English, essentially means that today’s business world, and perhaps also our society, is currently being supported by 1/10 of the total employee / citizen population and if that is not a huge, massive, business / societal problem, I don’t what is.

[I know, I know, I am a broken record on this one, and have been for a while and will continue to be for many moons to come!, but, seriously, anyone who still doesn’t see a correlation of today’s totally disengaged employee workforce with the ill-practices from management and leadership should probably have a deeper look into it, before it’s just too late]

What is the relationship between leading with respect and setting a culture of continuous improvement?

Frankly, that’s a very simple one. It always has been. Wirearchy. Again. To quote: 

A dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology

Or expressed in other words, coined as well by Jon Husband: 

is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration … taking responsibility individually and collectively rather than relying on traditional hierarchical status

If you ask me, that’s where I see both management and leadership thrive in the 21st century. Not necessarily in the traditional hierarchical, top down, command and control, paternalistic mentality of “I think, you execute, no questions allowed”, but more in the wirearchical model of (social) networks, where merit, recognition, democratic decision making, open knowledge sharing, transparency, collaboration, engagement, honesty, authenticity, autonomy, empathy, trust, respect, caring, responsibility, accountability, purpose and true meaning become the norm, more than an exception, in wanting to make a dent in this universe, beyond just merely getting your work done.

Yes, indeed, you, as the new connected, respected and trusted leader(s). Thriving, as always, through networks. Your networks! 

Forget about everything else. It’s no longer worth the effort, the energy, nor the attention it’s had in the last few decades.

It’s now probably a good time to do something more meaningful and everlasting: humanise work, once and for all. 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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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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


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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