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

Innovation

Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails

 Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into one self and question whether either our mindset or behaviours, for instance, have got some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favourite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed that gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blame the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?

Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have got left. We will just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to deviate the attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #lesigh

You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher anymore. Well, perhaps we may need to start realising it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies, in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviours of how we adapt to them, or fail to, what’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves. 

Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire yesterday under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same good old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hummm, not really. It’s us the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether it’s us the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?

Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us all knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realise that different people have got different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they may want to execute on, whether individually or in groups?

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have got different needs to cater for; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviours, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single one tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better and how nowadays it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?

It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that could cater for distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposalThat’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e. *cough* email *cough*) and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st century thinking. 

At the moment, my current favourite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas van der Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at this year’s KM World conference in Washington DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect at the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater for, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that not a single tool in any organisation would feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of whatever the collective.

The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment as well when we will all stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along till today and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.

Work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Don’t you think?

 

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

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes at sunset

 

Over the last few weeks I have been asked several times about how are things moving further along with my experiment in Twitter around #0Following and since it has been a bit over a year ago when I last published an article explaining what that experiment was all about and what I was learning from it at the time, I think it’s probably a good time to do a bit of a follow-up today and explain what has happened in between. Of course, over the last few months there have been tons of things I have learned from that experiment itself, on top of what I wrote about in that specific blog entry, but there is one in particular that I enjoy the most and that is the fact that it is no longer an experiment per se, but essentially how I get the most out of Twitter itself nowadays: still heavily involved with #0Following by relying on Public Lists, but this time around with an additional twist. Let’s see it…

Indeed, while re-reading through ‘Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment’ I realised that everything I had written in that article is still pretty much accurate and rather relevant, a year later, going from the initial reasons as to why I got things started with it in the first place, to evaluating plenty of the things I have learned throughout that experiment now becoming a new reality ever since, in terms of how I get to use Twitter on a daily basis. So in case you may have missed it and if you are keen on reading further along how it all started and what kind of impact it has had so far in yours truly, that article would still be a really good start on this particular topic. 

However, there has been a good number of new different things I have learned that I would want to include in this follow-up blog post, perhaps as an opportunity to reflect myself on how Twitter has managed to change some of my habits as well as myself, but also to share some additional insights with everyone out there who may be interested in pursuing a similar experiment and find out, beforehand, what to expect and maybe evaluate whether they should be jumping the shark, just like I did, or maybe not, just yet. 

So I thought that for this particular follow-up I will go ahead and share a number of different new items I have learned about over the course of time, with a short blurb describing them as well, of course, and see where we will end up. One thing I can share with you all is that once I have seen the light of a much smarter way of using Twitter through public lists alone it’s rather tough to go back to anything else for that matter, so I haven’t. Now, mind you, this system of #0Following works for me, and not necessarily for all of you out there. So this blog post is not intended, at all, as an opportunity for me to convince you all about how you should use Twitter from here onwards. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity for me to showcase how else can Twitter be used for, eventually, and to judge for yourselves whether it’s a system that could work for you all or not. Nothing else. I know I am benefiting from it tremendously, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would have the same effect with you, unless, of course, you give it a try for a good few weeks and then decide to stick around with it, if at all. For now, it’s just my overall user experience of how I get to use Twitter on a daily basis, so please do take this article with a pinch of salt or two as well. So, let’s go ahead and do it! 

Here’s what else I have learned about my Twitter #0Following experiment for the last year or so:  

  1. Open Direct Messages: By far, it’s one of my favourite capabilities from Twitter, as it allows everyone out there with a Twitter ID to reach out to me, via a direct message, without having to worry whether we follow each other or not. It just works, pretty much like some other traditional tools we have been using for decades, like *cough* email *cough*. So that need to follow someone so that they can send you a direct message is no longer there. It’s a window of opportunity into starting off a conversation without having to worry too much about additional quirks. It’s even easier than using email itself, because in order for me to send you one I would need to know your email address, whereas with Twitter I just need to know your name. From there onwards I can reach out and get the conversations going, whether through the public timelines or privately, through direct messages. Just fire away!
  2. I still use my main three public lists: Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From. What has changed over the course of the last few months though is that I have become more ruthless with that task known as Twitter Hygiene, so ever now and then, roughly about once a month, to be more precise, I go through each of the lists and I do a very thorough and exhaustive exercise of questioning (to myself) whether a certain contact should stay in that particular list or not, or whether I may need to move it out due to the lack of interactions over the course of time.

    Yes, those three lists, as you may have noticed already, have got a proximity rule in terms of importance to me, in the exact same order I have mentioned above. So, over time, there is always a chance I may decide to move folks from one list to another, or drop them altogether!, if I sense they don’t fit there well anymore. It comes and goes, as I am pretty sure it happens with all of you who as well may be using Twitter extensively. For me though that housekeeping activity has become a regular habit and I like it a lot as it helps me make sense of why I add people at all to those lists in the first place and I keep questioning myself time and time again to ensure those lists as worth the effort following further along for my own learning activities. 

  3. Which brings me into the next item; something that I noticed was not happening much before is that now that I’m adding people into those public lists I do get to check out every single new follower I may get as an opportunity for me to try to figure out where I can place them, whether in any of the three already existing public lists or maybe on a private one. This is something I have found really interesting as part of this initiative, because when asking people about where I should place them, whether Collaborators, Cooperators or People I Learn From, to help me better understand where our potential conversations may well take us, the usual response I get is this one: silence! 

    Ouch! Not very helpful. So I, eventually, decided to create a new private list (accessible only to me) that I call Weak Ties where I add those folks. Then I usually spend about a month observing, watching, reading, learning about what they tweet about and at that point if I don’t know exactly where I could place them in the 3 public lists I just drop them out altogether and never come back. That list has gotten pretty big over the course of months with over 200 people at the moment, but, like I said, it’s some kind of temporary home for those folks I just can’t figure out where to place them from the start. Yes, I know, it would help me tremendously if next time I ask that question again I would get an answer, but it doesn’t happen often enough, unfortunately. Yes, I can understand how some people may be a bit shy initially, but then again why follow someone on Twitter if you are not very willing to converse. Just to lurk around? Hummm … maybe we need to re-discover the power of a tweet to reach out and connect, don’t you think?

  4. People keep subscribing themselves to those public lists: This is perhaps one of the most rewarding things I have learned from this experiment the entire time, more than anything else, because, just like I mentioned back then, it gives me the perfect opportunity to expose my several timelines and allow others to benefit from those folks tweeting along, just as much as I do myself, which is pretty neat if you come to think about the effort and energy put together to curate those lists accordingly. Right at this moment, there are over 50 people subscribed to any of those three given public lists, and I am sure, as I get to tweak them further, there will be more folks coming along. Best perk of it all? It’s that it allows me to also be open to other people’s public lists and subscribe to them accordingly as another social gesture of gratitude for their time AND attention.
     
  5. The number of followers hasn’t changed much in over a year tanking in, pretty much, at 12,250 followers, confirming, once again, no-one ever reads Twitter anymore, nor checks it on a regular basis, because vast majority of people still haven’t unfollowed me accordingly after I unfollowed them. Either they may not have noticed, or they can’t be bothered, or both. What I find really really interesting from this statistical item is that those folks who I have followed before the longest time (in the years!) are the ones who are still there, while the more recent followers, as soon as they find out I don’t reciprocate, they just unfollow again and move on. Twitter has been there for over 10 years and it looks like some good old habits never die, do they? The power of knowing or the power of not knowing influenced both by our ability to be patient enough to stick around or not and see what we may have to offer each other. 

    I know some folks have suggested in the past that just like I decided to unfollow everyone, I should also make my Twitter account private, so those 12,250 people would drop out altogether as well and could start clean as well. I thought about it for a while and then I realise it wasn’t really going to work very well because the moment I make my Twitter account private, that’s the moment I am locking myself out, because in order for me to receive DMs I’d need to follow those folks back again and I would need to approve their following once more, becoming rather impractical over time. So at this point I just leave it down to people to unfollow as they may see fit. What has been really refreshing to see though is how the number of public lists I used to be part of has increased nicely month after month resulting in plenty of other folks giving it a try as well and see how it would work, although some of them haven’t jumped into the next level of unfollowing everyone, which is just fine. One step at a time, I suppose. 

  6. Conversations are ever so much more relevant and meaningful: indeed, because, in a way, I’m forcing a hard stop when I trigger conversations starters based on what people tweet that may have piqued my interest. It’s a pretty intriguing phenomenon, because, if anything, it confirms how little people use Twitter nowadays to engage in conversations vs. just broadcasting further along their own marketing messages, before they move on to the next thing, whatever that may well be. I keep getting told, as a result, they find that dialogue rather engaging, but shocking at the same time since it’s been months, if not years!, when they last exchanged a round of tweets with someone else, which I guess is just the reaffirmation I needed to justify why I got things started with this experiment in the first place.

    Conversations are our most powerful tools we have got at our disposal and when talking about nurturing and cultivating our social networks through conversations it just can’t get any better than that. Ask yourself, as a Twitter user, when was the last time you had a great conversation through Twitter longer than 5 tweets with someone else? For me, 3 days ago, and that’s because I have been offline during that time enjoying the long bank holiday weekend that just finished.

  7. One of the activities I have noticed that has increased tremendously over time with my use of Twitter using publics lists has been that one of active listening to what people tweet. I could spend entire days where I won’t share a single tweet across, and yet I would get to read every single tweet that comes through any of those publics lists. It’s fascinating being part of those global conversations, but without you speaking up, just watching and observing how people behave and say the things they say, listening with intent, learning something new, reflecting further along on what just happened, and, as a result, reuse it accordingly for additional conversations at a later time.

    Right now, it’s one of my favourite Twitter activities: resist the urge to raise my voice with just another tweet and instead listen to what people have to say and venture into figuring out why people tweet what they tweet during those times of the day. It’s a fun exercise, I tell you, if anything, because it also helps you tame your own insatiable beast always rather keen on oversharing everything with everyone specially about topics you think you know better than everyone else! I tell you, I can highly recommend it. I’d say I’m spending probably a lot more time nowadays just listening than engaging myself in some kind of Twitterrhea as much as I used to.

  8. That’s also probably part of the reason why curation has become a huge thing for yours truly. The fact I’m reading a whole lot more tweets than ever before allows me to find tons of pretty interesting articles, blog posts, reports, white papers and whatever other kind of publication from those I follow through lists that I then share across in a private Slack space I have set up specifically for that purpose: acting as my Personal Knowledge Hub of interesting links and tweets I have bumped into over time that I would want to either re-read again or reuse elsewhere at a later time.

    We are coming close to the end of the year and I have already over 19,000 items accumulated. That may explain as well why plenty of the blog posts I have written in the last few months have got such overall rich linking activity, compared to previous years. And that’s something I am enjoying quite a bit, as it allows me to explore plenty of content I wasn’t even aware of from before, even if people don’t check for pingbacks / trackbacks anymore (Oh, boy, I miss those good old days of blogging conversations back and forth, and you?). 

  9. Because I now have an opportunity to read more tweets from people I add into my lists, it allows me to connect the dots much more effectively, so over time I have become a huge fan of Group Direct Messages to introduce people I am interested in learning more from and apply what is known as ‘closing of triangles’. Essentially, when I read tweets from a couple of people who are sharing similar stuff, but who may not know each other, I’m a whole lot more proactive nowadays in wanting to make those connections, i.e. connect the dots, as I have mentioned above, and get them together. As a result of such activity we get involved in rather intense (private) conversations of really excited and passionate people who are interested in similar topics and who would want to learn plenty more about them through that dialogue! As an opportunity to use Twitter this way, that is, a learning and networking tool, it’s just brilliant! 
  10. No spam, even with open DMs: This is really refreshing, and quite a relief, frankly. If I judge by the huge amount of spam I used to get in the past from Twitter, never mind from other media tools, this is one of the things I am most grateful about. Here’s an example: when was the last time you followed someone and right away, within a matter of minutes, you get an auto-direct message from them asking you to either follow them in other media tools or perhaps check their Web sites. Hallo? Sounds familiar? Well, I bet it does! That doesn’t happen when you add people into lists heh

    And that’s just an example, amongst several others. Somehow, ever since I started using lists exclusively I seem to have gone under the spam radar to the point of not seeing anything coming through at all. Nice

  11. Resisting the urge to automation: Nowadays, you may have noticed how vast majority of folks who are using Twitter, specially, power users, have jumped the shark making use of automation to publish tweets at specific times within their own schedules, or share retweets of their own content to resurface again into everyone’s timelines, or just simply automate certain social gestures so that it helps them maintain a certain presence even though they may not be there anymore. I am pretty sure you may have experienced such automatisation of how people use Twitter, or perhaps you may be doing some of that yourself.

    The thing is that with #0Following there isn’t a single chance for me to automate my Twitter presence, and I quite enjoy that. You only get me, with all of my own perfections and imperfections, but still me, the human being. No machines involved. It’s my opportunity to keep Twitter human, social, even more so when bots seem to have taken it by storm to the point where they are even more active than we are. In a way, if you come to think about it, there is a great chance than when you tweet along you may be interacting with bots and you may not know it, nor realise it, till it’s perhaps too late.

    The thing I have learned with this particular initiative is that sometimes it is good not to be there, to show you are human and that you don’t live in Twitter 24x7x365, because there might be other much more important things to do than showing you are there, even when we all know you aren’t. For me, at least, it is down to when I tweet, I am there, it’s the real thing, no automation, just myself, and somehow I quite like that living in the moment feeling, even within Twitter. Now, wouldn’t it be great if Twitter would have an indicator of automated tweets, or an early sign you are about to engage with a bot just before that tweet goes out? 

  12. No bullying, trolling or hate speech, specially, involving a certain footballer, come through anymore. Before, when I used to follow people and had open DMs, I used to have some of the least interesting, colourful, foul tweets one can imagine, to the point where I ended up in a frenzy of blocking people like never before. It was crazy! I don’t know what happened though afterwards, but ever since I starting using just public lists all of that vitriol is now gone. For good! In fact, I can’t remember a single tweet exchange in over 14 months that involved any kind of behaviour associated with bullying, trolling, hate speech and what not. Oh, boy, judging from all the news items you keep reading on this topic, isn’t that rather comforting or what? Knowing you are heading back to Twitter and all of that foul discourse is missing entirely from the different timelines you may be interested in at that point in time. W00t!
  13. Despite 14 months since I have embarked on this no longer an experiment but initiative as to why I use Twitter the way I use it today with public lists, I still find I need to justify and explain to people myself why I still do it, as almost everyone out there is rather surprised and intrigued about why I have been doing it for so long, beyond proving the point it can be done, to how I can be such an active AND interactive twitterer when I don’t follow anyone back.

    That’s why I added in my Twitter bio a link to the blog post explaining the experiment in detail. That seems to have stopped people questioning or wondering why I’m doing this. I know now I should have included it right from the very beginning and it would have saved me tons of typing across the board here and there. All good now though, I have learned from that experience if I ever embark on a new experiment or initiative a link in my Twitter bio to explain things further along will always be helpful. Alas, you will run out of characters pretty soon! Yikes! Anyway, don’t think there will be many new changes coming along in this regard from yours truly, so it may take a while before I need to updated it again. 

  14. More self-aware of how I use Likes (❤️) not just to like stuff, but love stuff that comes through my Twitter Lists, which is terrific, because it helps me amplify certain social gestures along the flair of caring for what people have got to say and share a token of my gratitude to compensate for that tweet exchange or interesting insight or relevant links shared across. The fact that Like then gets retweeted into my timeline is just an additional perk I appreciate quite a lot, if anything, because some times people find it a bit surprising altogether the kinds of things I ❤️.
  15. I mentioned on the original blog post how my favourite Twitter client to work with lists only was Tweetbot, either on iOS or Mac. Over a year later, that’s still the case. In fact, I am now in v4 of Tweetbot for iOS and I still think it’s the most powerful Twitter client for mobile out there in the market. And on the Mac, the desktop app is just as good! Another reason why I treasure Tweetbot a great deal is that it doesn’t have all of the new distracting capabilities from Twitter that don’t add up much overall into the value add of the whole microblogging concept, which is pretty neat, because it just helps me focus on the conversations themselves and ignore everything else. 

    Ohhh, and did I tell you about its wonderful Mute button capability? That one that allows you to mute, within the app itself, not only bullying people trolling you around, but their tweets, as well as hashtags, certain keywords and other Twitter services put in place? Gosh, I love that mute button, I tell you. It’s one of my favourite features by far! Seriously, if you are looking for a client that would help you tame the noise of unwanted people and their tweets, including Twitter services and hashtags, Tweetbot is as good as it gets, for real!
     

  16. (Web) Celebrities’ nonsense: Many months have now gone by and I still get a bit ticked off when people with thousands of followers and them following many other thousands more keep following, unfollowing, following and unfollowing you (and on and on and on) hoping to trick you to become another number to count for in their vanity metrics. My goodness! What a nuisance!

    I am really sorry to write this, but I have started to develop that healthy habit of blocking those people and keeping them away from my timeline. If all you are looking for is my attention, I’m not going to give you such luxury. You will blocked the moment you engage in such ill behaviour. Besides all of that, I still find it really hard to believe they do anything else other than broadcasting their own marketing mumbo-jumbo about how cool they are for hanging out with the cool kids versus engaging with the @lonelyboy15s in different conversations. Time is precious AND is a finite resource, so I lost the ability to tolerate such behaviour of only caring about you and your numbers. No, thanks! Like I said, you will be blocked!
     

  17. That also means that, over time, I have become something I never expected that would happen in this day and age of me, me, me where vanity seems to have killed the social media star. Indeed, ever since I started up this experiment that then turned itself into how I use Twitter on a daily basis, I have found out I’m easily ignored out by everyone else, helping me go by days and days unnoticed, as if I didn’t exist and while I know plenty of people would feel uncomfortable with that feeling I’m loving it. Why? Well, a simple word really to explain it all: freedom. No attachments. No exceptions. No expectations.

    I know that this may sound a bit too cold from my side, but, believe me, it isn’t. It’s just a confirmation that the most intimate conversations / dialogue have now moved on into niche networks, typically closed. I guess that’s what happens when we continue to live in a constant state of surveillance (and approval) created by everyone else. That’s why we have a tendency to find new, comforting havens where we can hang out at ease without having to pretend or watch what we say out there. Remember groupware back in the good old days? Does it ring a bell why there is just such a massive uptake for messaging or chatting apps or apps like Snap with a rather unique proposition around sharing private, ephemeral content? Yes, I know, it’s the Web we are building today, although it’s not much different than what it was 20 years ago as far as our habits and behaviours are concerned, except, perhaps, it’s a different cycle altogether proving we may not have learned much in the last two decades, and counting … 

  18. An act of rebellion at its best! Something I didn’t think I needed back in the day when I got things started, but that over time it’s transformed itself into an opportunity for me to become, once again, an outlier, the weird one, the rebellious one (with or without a cause!) highlighting how there may well be other more effective and engaging ways of connecting, learning, collaborating and sharing our knowledge with others, but that we may not have discovered just yet. Pretty much like I did with #noemail, or when deleting my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, or when I decided to return back to blogging at the risk of spending a lot less time in media tools and see what would happen, while everyone else is heavily involved with becoming the new media
  19. Refusing to become the media: Yes, while everyone is attempting to become the new media, as mentioned above, that is, the centre of attention with those 15 minutes of Internet fame, I keep running away from it like the plague. You know, I have been online on the Internet since early 1997 and over the course of those two decades I have learned many things, but one in particular got stuck in my head very very early on in the day and I still get to practise it every day: never ever talk online about politics, religion or sports. 

    And guess what’s happening in Twitter nowadays? Yes, I know, I once said that Twitter is the ‘Pulse of the Planet’ and, as such, it’s becoming indispensable, but then again if you look into what Twitter was, say, 5 or 10 years ago, you would notice how all of those three themes I have just mentioned above have taken over everything that made Twitter a shiny new star of what was possible to make this world a better place for everyone. And much to our collective regret, Twitter has become nowadays the shining star to showcase our many various different dysfunctions as a global society. 

    Twitter is currently mastering how dysfunctional our diverse cultures may well be, regardless of wherever you may well be in the world. And because we enjoy that morbid sense of ‘you are always wrong, while I am always right and I am going to prove it!’ Twitter itself refuses to do anything about it, because that’s where vast majority of its income comes from nowadays: our very own miserable and meandering experiences demeaning others.

    Yes, I refuse to become the new media. I refuse to think that all of these media tools are only good at overexposing our own misbehaviours, ill conducts, foul speech, hatred and what not. In the case of Twitter, for instance, it’s not the once rather tolerant, inclusive, understanding, diverse, empathic and caring Twitter I used to know, which is why you would understand now why I am ruthless nowadays in building Twitter lists that have got other purposes beyond that hate speech. It’s the connecting, the reaching out, the learning, the working together, the collaborating effectively in changing this world that still pretty much tick for me when making use of all of these social media tools and this experiment of #0Following is my attempt to do something about it.

  20. No ego: This particular item may well be the actual big shocker from the entire experiment / initiative on its own so far, because that one died, for me, back in August last year when I first got things started with relying on public lists alone versus the vanity metrics of who follows you and who do you follow, instead. And, frankly, it’s probably the best things that could have ever happened, more than anything else because,  when I use Twitter, the focus, at long last, is no longer me, me, me but the ‘we’.

    Over the course of time, I realised I was starting to care more, and become even more empathic, not only about those people who have been an integral part of the lists I use, but also about the interactions, conversations and content they were sharing across, which meant that, all of a sudden, I went slow. I paused. I reflected on how and why people have a tendency to behave the way they do online through tools like Twitter. There was no longer that frenzy of trying to keep up with stuff, instead, things slow down enough that you start reading more about what others are creating and sharing across, more than anything else as an opportunity to show your appreciation for how people in your lists use Twitter and how you would want to either amplify or augment what they are doing by contributing your two cents. That’s the power of social networks, in a nutshell, when you start caring more about them than about your self, understanding that, eventually, you become the network, the network becomes you. It is just like going back to Twitter circa 2006 – 2007. Remember those good old days? I miss them, too!

  21. And, finally, something else I have been noticing as of late that I couldn’t find an answer for, and still haven’t, just yet, to be frank, which is how this whole experiment / initiative on #0Following has now, finally, managed to burn out the potential flame of stardom I may have enjoyed from back in the day, if you know what I mean, taking me back into that wonderful place of oblivion where no-one cares anymore about you, really, either about who you are or what you do, again giving me the opportunity of enjoying a new freedom, a new clean start of deciding for myself how I would want to continue making use of social networking tools like Twitter for the next decade, as I am about to complete this one.

    It’s as if all of a sudden the pressure to conform, to try to fit in, to try to please each and everyone, to keep feeding the poachers, the leeches, the takers, the selfish who only care about them and so forth is now a thing of the past. Phew! What a relief! In a way, this whole experiment now feels pretty much like a rebirth. Of what? I don’t know yet, but somehow it’s starting to feel like I am about to embark on another exciting adventure of exploration, of playful good fun, of active learning, of apprenticeship, of self-discovery, as to what do I want to do to make sense of these social networking tools, while I keep questioning whether it’s all still worth it, or whether it’s perhaps now a good time to move on and never walk back.

    In short, if anything, this experiment has managed to, finally, make me question and challenge my own core beliefs (and my place within them) of what I once thought was going to help us all change this world to make it a better place through the use of social technologies not only just for me, or you, but for everyone else for that matter. Do I have the final answer to those questions? No, I don’t, but that’s what makes it all worth while to me, the uncertain path, the unknown journey, and what we learn about one another along the way, not necessarily the final destination, whatever that may well be…

Yes, I know, I do realise that this blog post may have come out a whole lot more intimate and rather poignant on its own than what I may have thought about at the beginning of it, but I suppose I needed it to come out, I needed to reflect about what I have been doing for the last 20 years since I first went online out there on the Internet, more than anything else as an indication of a potential new, clean start, with no baggage, no legacy, no ties, no additional explanations, no expectations, no nothing. Where to? I don’t know. 2017 will mark my 10th year anniversary using Twitter and I guess that’s what’s left for me to explore, whether it’s now a good time to move on to other things and leave everything behind, or whether it’s a good opportunity to stick around hoping things will turn out all right eventually.

They say that the Internet was born a few decades ago based on a couple of principles: trust and procrastination. Well, we might as well sit tight then and start working much harder so that none of those two break down, eventually, because, whether we realise it or not, whether we like to admit it or not, we may well be going through a time nowadays when we may need to start questioning ourselves for what do we want to do with the Open Social Web we once helped build back in the day but that, finally, got destroyed a great deal much to our regret and, most importantly, what can we do to make it happen, once again, and restore it to its fully glory. Because, you know, so far, we are failing big time, and I suspect that unless we all do something about it, no-one will. The final question that’s left out there for me to reflect upon and that keeps lingering around all over the place would be the following: are we up for the task to reclaim back the Open Social Web they once took away from us all? 

I certainly know we can, will we though?

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Building a Solid Library of Use Cases

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the winter

You may still remember how a while ago I put together over here a couple of blog posts, where I was talking extensively about the Social Business Adaptation Framework I’m currently using when working with clients in their various different change initiatives as part of their own Social Business journey. That framework is based on 5 different pillars that I consider essential for every Digital Transformation programme to be successful over the course of time and since I have already written about the first two (What’s your purpose? and Social Computing Guidelines and why you would still need them) I guess it’s now a good time to talk further along about the next pillar in the framework: Building a Solid Library of Use Cases. 

I have been advocating for social software tools (as an opportunity to explore their huge potential in terms of how they help us become more effective at what we do by becoming more open, collaborative and innovative) from as early as 2000, when I was first exposed to different instances of blogs and wikis, whether inside or outside of the firewall, along with what today would be known as social profiles. And over the course of the last 16 years, and still going strong, one of the many things I have learned, as both a passionate advocate and evangelist, about all of these (still) emergent social technologies is that in other for knowledge (Web) workers to adapt to social software, which, by the way, is not the same thing as adopt, and discover new ways of working smarter, not necessarily harder, the focus should never be put together under these social tools themselves, but more on the different behaviours and mindset of those same knowledge workers. Essentially, it’s about figuring out what kinds of new behaviours you would want to inspire across the workforce, but also what kind of mindset should be going along with those behaviours. If you have got a chance to influence both behaviours and mindset you will have a great opportunity to witness your own change initiatives succeed n the long term.

You see? Technology, all along, has always been an enabler, and just that, an enabler, nothing else, no matter what other people would tell you. It’s the one that helps us shift gears and change the way we work and live our lives, but at the end of the day tools are just tools, enablers that allow us to achieve a specific goal whether on a individual level or within a collective. What matters most at the end of the day is what kinds of behaviours do we want to inspire with these change initiatives to eventually provoke a shift of mindsets that will help stick around those relatively new efforts of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise.

In order to influence such shift of both behaviours and mindset, social tools per se are not going to help much, so if your enablement efforts have been about educating people on how to make good extensive use of Enterprise Social Networking tools focusing on just features and capabilities there is a great chance that, if you ask knowledge workers about how things are moving along, the number #1 answer you may receive can probably be summarised with a single keyword: overwhelming. To no end, too, for that matter! And they would be right, because, more than anything else, if there is anything that all of these ESNs have got in common is that they are quite substantially different from what so far has been the king of both communications and collaboration in the enterprise. Of course, I am talking about email. It’s just too easy to fire up an email and share it across with your colleagues, but when you need to figure out how you are going to use a specific capability within your ESN things might get a bit more complicated. On purpose. Why? Well, because of fragmentation, which is a really good thing on its own, but I will talk about that and what I meant with it at a later time.

That’s why, when thinking about developing your enablement strategy within your Social Business journey, you should focus not necessarily on the smart use of your recently deployed ESNs, but focus on something much more sustainable instead and with a higher chance of creating the right impact from the start: people’s business practices. Put your emphasis on helping improve how people work, remove the potential friction(s) that may be out there, and provide an opportunity for people to own their own discovery of those new ways of working. Remember, it’s not about empowering your employees and fellow colleagues, but about enabling them effectively to think AND do different. That’s why the third pillar of the Social Business Adaptation Framework I keep using all the time has always been about building a solid library of use cases.

Now, there are multiple ways of how you could get started building such library, and I will be sharing a few of them with you today in this blog entry as well, but perhaps the most effective one that has always worked for me and in multiple ways has been something so relatively simple, yet so effective, it’s just mind-blowing: ask the people themselves! Exactly, talk to your employees and fellow knowledge workers and ask them ‘how do you get your work done?’, ‘what are some of your favourite business practices you used today?’, ‘what use cases do you think could do with a bit of an improvement?’, and perhaps one of my favourite questions of them all: ‘what are some of your main key business pain points?’ Or, finally, the killer one: ‘how can I help you become more effective at what you do?’

And listen … And listen again … And listen to all of the responses they may give you, because over the course of time you will be getting started with that solid library of use cases, or business practices, based on what they tell you. And this is something that will be rather critical, because doing that, establishing a very powerful two-way conversation right from the start, will send out a very clear message to everyone that you are there to help them out, but they still own it, they are an integral part of the change and transformation process and this will become key to your change initiatives’ success, because if you get them on board early in the game, and you help them answer the most poignant question of them all around social business (What’s in it for me?) there is a great chance that your work will fly on from there onwards! But again, focus on this rather important task, far too often both ignored and neglected: listen to your fellow knowledge workers. They know way better than you do about how they work. 

Over the course of the last few years, while exercising that art of listening with customers, I have been able to collect and curate a list of 70 different use cases and business practices, and it’s been, all along, quite a fascinating journey on its own, because it has enabled me to learn, through first-hand experience, about how people actually work and, more importantly, how I could help them become more effective in getting their work done, specially, by eliminating or, at least, mitigating, the various different business pain points they have may have been experiencing over the years.

However, when working with a client I never start with the full blown 70 use cases themselves. In fact, my advice, depending on how much time, how many resources, how many people in your team or how much funding you may well have, has always been about start small and build from there. So I, typically, start with a list of the top 15 most impactful business practices and use cases I have been working on with clients over time, but sometimes even those are just too many! Thus we go smaller and in this case I usually make use of this wonderful whitepaper put together by IBM under the heading ‘Patterns for the Social and Digital Enterprise’, which can also be found at this other link, in case the .PDF may not work. The whitepaper itself helps set the stage on what those six patterns included in it could translate into business practices and use cases with the one around Expertise and Knowledge as being one of my favourite ones, of course.

But sometimes even executing on those 6 different patterns can be too much to get things started. So we go smaller again and at this stage I usually focus around the Top 3 most relevant and applicable business practices and use cases to most organisations I have worked with from over the years. They are perhaps the top 3 most impactful use cases I can think of, that, when executing them, knowledge workers would be off to a rather interesting and enticing journey of discovery of new ways of getting work done, but also of connecting and collaborating with their fellow colleagues, out there in the open and accessible to everyone else to benefit from. Now, I know that, over time, I will be able to talk more extensively about each of them and what they would imply for both knowledge workers and the organisation, but, for now, I thought I would perhaps list the three of them and share across a short paragraph as to why they are worth while exploring further along. So let’s go and see each of them briefly:

  • Working Out Loud: Originally coined by Bryce Williams in 2010 and with roots pretty close to Wave Winer’s Narrate Your Work along with Observable Work (#owork), working out loud has become incredibly popular nowadays thanks much to the superb piece of work done by John Stepper and a few other folks who keep advocating about perhaps one of the most profound shifts in how we behave at the workplace embracing the open source principle of default to open versus whatever else was there in the past by making extensive use of open collaborative principles and social software tools. If you are interested in the whole topic, I can strongly recommend you take a look and read through the wonderful book John himself has put together with tons of practical hints and tips, guidance and know-how that will keep you busy for a good while.Like I said, I will be talking plenty more over the course of the next few weeks about working out loud principles, techniques, practices, lessons learned and what not, but in you are willing to learn plenty more take a look into this blog post about the celebration of the upcoming Working Out Loud Week taking place this November. It’s lots of great fun and tons to learn more about this particular business practice and use case. I can assure you that.
  • (Social) File Sharing: Without a single doubt, I keep advocating and advising clients I work with that if they would want to see a significant impact of their ESN adaptation and change initiatives with a single use case where they can already measure the impact from day one, specially, in terms of both individual and team productivity, the use case of (social) file sharing is as good as it gets.Imagine this scenario for a minute, take your own organisation, once your ESN is fully deployed, up and running and everything, you entice and encourage knowledge workers to move all of the attachments they keep sharing via email into the (social) file sharing space you may be using, whether as part of an ESN or whether you are using Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, One Drive, etc. etc. And see what happens over the course of the first few days, weeks and months. No more struggles with mail quotas (the well known mail-jail annoyance), no more duplicates, no more power struggles of who owns what document and for what purpose, no more who has got confidential access here and there to which documents, no more who was supposed to do what update to what file and for what reason, and, eventually, no more precious, critical knowledge getting lost into thin air once mail boxes get deleted. And so on and so forth… I could keep talking about this topic for years. Actually, I have.
  • Asking Questions Openly:  And, finally, one of my favourite business practices and use cases that I keep advocating for in terms of helping knowledge workers transition from the good old mantra of ‘knowledge is power’ to ‘knowledge shared is power’. There are folks out there, in which I’d include myself as well, who keep advocating that one of the first, most primal methods of instigating a Knowledge Management System within an organisation is through implementing a system that would facilitate Questions and Answers out there in the open. Yes, I know, this is not new! We have been having newsgroups and forums for well over 50 years when they were operating via mainframes, yet, if you ask around the number one option people resort to when asking a question is, of course, still email.Ouch!, I know! The thing is that the main reason why that happens is not necessarily just because it’s easier to fire up that email to your colleagues to ask the question away, but it’s a much more fundamental one. It’s a cultural one. It’s an opportunity to protect your own turf, to hide the fact you don’t know it all and can continue to be the expert everyone thinks you are, so when you may be asking a relatively simple, or silly question, it’s hidden from everyone and only one or two parties will find out through that private exchange. So you are safe. For now. The rest of the organisation is doomed though, because, right there, that exchange is dead to everyone else. Like it never existed, nor took place.

    Bill French once quoted ‘email is where knowledge goes to die’ back in 1999 (Yes, you are reading it right! That’s 1999, way before social software tools came into play at the workplace), so you can imagine the kind of impact you would opening up yourself into when you inspire and entice your colleagues to work out loud and start asking questions in the open, vs. via email. A whole new world of re-discovering talent, skills, and expertise will open up and that, on its own, would confirm you’d be on the right track towards becoming that successful Socially Integrated Enterprise when the knowledge of employees is not their own anymore, but with the entire organisation. But we will talk plenty more about this one over the course of time, specially, the political implications in the corporate culture, in general. Yes, I know, it’s a biggie.

Now, I realise there may well be a good chance that despite all of what I have mentioned above you’d say that, for whatever the reasons, you may just have the time, resources, funding and team to start the adaptation work of your Social Business journey within your organisation using just one business practice or use case.  Which one would it be, you may be wondering, right? Which one would I pick myself from the 70 of them I’m currently using with customers? Well, that’s pretty easy. If I just had the resources to execute on a single use case it would be the one about working out loud. Why? Well, pretty easy as well, if you ask me.

Imagine this scenario, for instance. Imagine if all organisations would come one day to work and proclaim to the world that from that day onwards their modus operandi would be based on the following motto: default to open. Connect, share, collaborate, innovate AND learn out in the open, transparent and public to everyone. What do you think would happen?

No, don’t worry, before you start screaming at me out loud, I’m not advocating that all of a sudden we should all become 100% open and transparent on everything that we do at work. It’s not about that. It’s how low the % of openness and transparency is at this very moment, so from that very small % to a 100% there is a whole new scale of opportunity to be explored out there and that’s what I am advocating for. Finding that comfortable level of how transparent you would want to become not just to your employees and customers, but also to your business partners, and, why not?, to your competitors, as well. After all, it’s organisations that need to be transparent, not the workforce per se.

Oh, and you know what? There is also one other favourite business practie I’d put up there, in a close second place, if I were to execute on two use cases with customers versus just one. It’s the one that, to me, defines how successful over the course of time the Social Business Adaptation and Change initiatives will become once it’s in place. Which one is that? Well, finding an expert, across your organisation, who may help you solve a problem without you not knowing either the expert or who can help you track him / her down for that matter. And all of that with the lovely constraint of doing it within 5 minutes. Yes, in iust 5 minutes. Do you think it’s possible?

Of course, it is possible. It’s only a matter of how you decide, for you and your organisation, to, finally, get to operate as networks and communities.

Welcome to the Connected Enterprise!

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The State of Surveillance We, The Good People, Are Creating

 Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes at sunset

Over the weekend, the one and only, Dave Snowden, put together what I think would probably qualify as one of the top 3 blog posts you may well read during the course of 2016. Just the first paragraph will do. It is that good on its own. In fact, if there would be a way to describe what this year has been like so far (thinking we still have got three more months to go), I don’t think it would get any better than that. I am hoping my good friend Dave will forgive my liberty, but I’m just going to reproduce over here that first paragraph, so you may have a look and judge for yourselves. I can strongly encourage you all to then go and read through out his entire blog entry and sign up, if you can help. It will totally be worth your time. To quote: 

There was a wonderful, if depressing, tweet from J.K.Rowling yesterday: If we all hit ctrl-alt-del simultaneously and pray, perhaps we can force 2016 to reboot. Brexit, the rise of Trump, the failure to support the peace initiative in Colombia, support of elderly white socialists, Universities are closed in South Africa by riots arguing for education and so on. Racism and misogyny are legitimised by popularism. The Chinese curse to live in ‘interesting times’ might have been made for this year and its not over yet. It’s been called a post-fact society, a world in which reason has little or no place, people vote against their own interests and the establishment is rejected as an act of rejection, not an act of reasoned protest. Syndicalism and being part of a movement is more important that to actually change things. We live in echo chambers, augmented and enabled by social media, to prevent encounter with any uncomfortable truth. We live in a world where despair legitimises any protest and in a world of pre-victorian levels of income inequality and opportunity who can dispute the morality of those who are the victims of a system which is maintained for the elites?

WOW! I mean, just WOW!! Yes, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, mind-boggling paragraphs you will be reading in a long long time. And yet, there is one single sentence that, when referring to media tools and their current impact, it pretty much nails it for me as to why I’m no longer as comfortable and confident, as I used to be, to continue making heavy use of them to change the world we live in. Why? Well, because, if anything, we are doing everything else but change the world. In fact, we are probably making things even worse. Allow me to explain further what I mean with the sentence itself from Dave I am referring to: ‘We live in echo chambers, augmented and enabled by social media, to prevent encounter with any uncomfortable truth.’

You know, I don’t necessarily mind the need to have echo chambers per se, as I feel they may well be somewhat necessary to make us all feel somehow more comfortable, to a certain degree, with the unknown territory of the complexity domain, so that we can attempt to make some sense out of it all, collectively. However, when those echo chambers turn on their own filter bubbles to just augment the worst in all of us showcasing our very own dysfunctional behaviours, and, specially, through the impact of the so-called social media, I am no longer sure that amplified through media tools echo chambers are good to humanity, in general. Indeed, welcome to the awfulness of the social media shaming phenomenon.

Sharon Richardson, also over the weekend, reminded us all of such dreadfulness pointing us to this rather poignant TED Talk by Jon Ronson under the rather provocative title ‘How one tweet can ruin your life’, where he gets to talk about how voiceless people like you and me can now, finally, have a voice with media tools like Twitter, for instance. A new, ‘powerful and eloquent tool’ that inspires ‘a democratisation of justice’ where ‘hierarchies would level out’ and where we would be doing things better. Except that, after a while, we didn’t. At one point in time we realised ‘we want to destroy people, but not feel bad about it.’ And we did oblige accordingly. 

 

My goodness! When did we transform ourselves into ‘unpaid shaming interns of Google’? When did we decide to turn Twitter, as one example of many others, into a ‘mutual approval machine’ where we get to approve one another, even to the worst of both our individual and collective behaviours? Where did we lose our capacity for empathy? That seems to be at the heart of it all as Jon himself nicely concludes on his TED Talk referenced above: 

The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to the voiceless people, but we are now creating a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless. Let’s not do that!’

Indeed, Dave himself also puts it rather nicely with this particular quote, along the very same line: 

’But escape we must and that escape will not come by condemnation, indulgent sarcasm or condescending humour (and that was as much confession as condemnation). If I pickup the very basic lessons of what I have taught over the years then we have to start from where things are, not from where we would have liked them to be, or think they should have remained. 

I am pretty certain you would agree with me that today’s media tools, compared to, say, 10 or 15 years ago, are not the Social Web I think we would all want to build, create, nurture and sustain over the course of time. More than anything else, because there seems to be a complete lack of both constructive feedback and healthy critical thinking, as well as adding value into the conversations by not only creating and making, which I realise is way tougher than just destructing, but also by showing empathy for others to the point where we seem, instead, to first seek that self-assurance and approval by others, usually, of our worst behaviours and within our very own echo chambers, than try to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, specially, if they are total strangers, just to see what it feels like.

Dave himself writes in that stunning blog post referenced above already what empathy is all about: ‘the ability to see things from different perspectives is creating something sustainable. That means exploring not only the ways in which we engage citizens, but also how we create meaning.’ And if we ought to lead by example, and, believe me, we surely should be leading by example, we probably have got to start here, that is, questioning what kind of smart use do we want to give to all of those media tools and figure out for ourselves, and our future generations, what kind of Social Web do we want to have and thrive in? One where we all turn into voiceless humans, once again, because of the ill-behaviours of a very few amplified and augmented by the good people or do we want to continue with that Social Revolution I blogged about three years ago and that we started over two decades ago when the first instances of social software tools came about? 

Tons to reflect upon, I am pretty certain, but perhaps this week is just the perfect one to get things started as tomorrow we get to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day. In fact, as we continue to make use of these (social) media tools, we probably should start asking ourselves this initial question, without even venturing, just yet, to have an answer for it: Is today’s Social Web the one Ada would have wanted all along for our future generations?

Something tells me that’s not the case, so the follow-up question would be then, ‘what are we doing about it?’ How do we prevent and enable those human voices from becoming voiceless once again? Something tells me that empathy will play a key role, and since empathy is actually a choice, it may well be down to us all to start questioning what do we want to get out of all of these (social) media tools in the first place. If not just for us, for Ada herself. How can we treasure and celebrate her legacy? It’s the least we owe her, don’t you think? 

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

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Resisting Change – Luddites Unite!

The London Eye, Palace of Westminster and the Thames

Who would have thought that, after 20 years in the IT industry, I am, essentially, a Luddite. No, not necessarily a technophobe, nor someone who is opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation or technology in general. No, not like that! Just what the original Luddites were all about. People who were not opposed to technology itself, but to the particular way it was being applied. Or as Eliane Glaser brilliantly wrote just recently people whose ‘protest was specifically aimed at a new class of manufacturers who were aggressively undermining wages, dismantling workers’ rights and imposing a corrosive early form of free trade. To prove it, they selectively destroyed the machines owned by factory managers who were undercutting prices, leaving the other machines intact’. 

Whoahhh! No wonder I keep musing about another rather thought-provoking sentence she put together as well in that superb article: ‘Technological change does not automatically equate with progress’. And that would probably explain why, nearly at the end of 2016, we are still so averse to any kind of (technological) change, specially, inside organisations. And for a good reason…


We all know change is hard, very hard, yet, we all acknowledge that, if anything, change is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time for us to decide how long we may be able to delay it, while we decide how we may, or may not, need to adapt to the new conditions, and if technology kicks in, all the better. However, when thinking deeper about change, and how we face it, specially, inside organisations with all of these different change initiatives around Social Business and / or Digital Transformation, there are different ways of how we can make it happen a lot more effectively than what we may have been doing in the last decade or so. And it all has to do with a simple shift of focus areas: from technology and business processes to people (i.e. culture), from document centric to people centric computing, and, finally, from replacing knowledge (Web) workers (i.e. humans) with machines (i.e. algorithms) to augmenting, not replacing, the human potential.

If you look into one of the main reasons as to why vast majority of Social Business and Digital Transformation programmes have failed over the course of the last 10 years, there is a great chance that it’s mostly due to our very own reluctance to accept that we might be replaced, over time, either by business processes or by technology via automation, or the well known algorithm. Eventually, either by business processes and / or by machines. No-one wants to see that happening, of course. No-one wants to see how Artificial Intelligence, in whatever the form or shape, kicks in eventually taking over. Never mind how we are already seeing plenty of instances, specially, in the so-called Social Web out there, about that taking place and with very little left that we can do. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be. We can do much much better than that. And it only starts with thinking that change doesn’t necessarily imply something negative, but something (very) positive, as long as we keep thinking that such change, or change initiatives, need to have the main focus on and for the people. The knowledge (Web) workers themselves, not just the business. Remember how we need to dramatically improve the overall employee experience, before we can influence the customers’? That’s where we need to start!

Professor Calestous Juma already points out the potential main reason as to why we keep failing to adapt to change fast enough in a wonderfully inspiring write-up under the rather suggestive heading ‘Why do people resist new technologies? History might provide the answer’:

Society tends to reject new technologies when they substitute for, rather than augment, our humanity’

Assisted Intelligence anyone? Well, hold on for a moment. It gets better, way better. If you keep on reading throughout the article, there is this golden gem that will pretty much help you conclude, right as we speak, whether your change programme, either if you are starting now or if you have been working on it for a good while already, will eventually succeed (by whatever the criteria you may have put in place already) or fail along the process. To quote him:

‘We eagerly embrace them when they support our desire for inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment with nature. We do so even when they are unwieldy, expensive, time-consuming to use, and constantly break down.’

Calestous continues brilliantly reflecting further along with ‘We live in exciting times where technological diversity and creativity offer limitless opportunities to expand the human potential for all, not just for certain exclusive sections of society’  to then finish off, towards the end of the article, with this incredibly inspiring reflection:

‘Resistance to new technologies is heightened when the public perceives that the benefits of new technologies will only accrue to a small section of society, while the risks are likely to be widespread.’

Is it ok now then for us all to become Luddites? And I mean, the original Luddites described in the article I already mentioned above by Elaine Glaser? Hummm … before you answer that question for yourself, take a look into this stunning article published by the one and only Howard Rheingold back in 1998 (Yes, you are reading it right … 1998!!!) under the title ‘Technology 101: What Do We Need To Know About The Future We’re Creating?‘ Go ahead and read it. It’s very much worth while the time. Don’t worry, I will be here waiting … 

 

Yes, I know, we are now all Luddites! We need to be. Either within our very own organisations or out there on the Social Web. We don’t have much of a choice for that matter anymore, if we would want to effectively embrace change and adapt to technology by augmenting the human capability versus either being replaced by it (i.e. automation) or subjected by it (i.e. the algorithm). We need to exercise our rights to question everything, to reclaim our long gone and lost critical thinking skills about what we know is just not right. We need to, eventually, at long last, wake up to the reality that ’technology is a tool we can deploy to achieve democratically agreed ideals’ and that, after all, it’s about defining, collectively, what our human choices and priorities may well be like and what progress really means. That’s when our change and transformation journeys will begin…

For everyone. That’s where inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment with nature will kick in and, if I may add further along, that’s when we will start caring.

What do you care about?

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How Social Networking Tools Enable Heutagogy in Learning Organisations

Gran Canaria - Cruz Grande's surroundings

 

Imagine one day you read this quote: ‘The way we teach in our schools isn’t the way I think you create successful (and happy) adults, it’s the way you create the society we’ve had until now.’ Now imagine you swap the wordings ’teaching’ for ‘learning’ and ‘our schools’ for ‘our workplaces’. Read it out loud again, please. Slowly. Imagine if you then read this other quote at some point in time later on: ‘I don’t want to grow up and 30 years later find out that I’m an office worker unhappy in life and that hasn’t done anything to improve this world. Because that’s my main goal now: leave a positive mark here’ and ask yourself how many of your work colleagues you could name up out loud that would fit that description. Yes, I know!, I had the exact same problem. Not many! That’s why Workplace Learning is broken and why heutagogy may need to come to the rescue to save us all…

Heuta… what?, you say’ …Hang on for a minute, before I go into that topic a bit deeper, allow me to give you all some context as to why I have started this blog entry with those two quotes. Those absolutely mind-blowing and rather provocative sentences, as depressing and as exciting as they may sound, don’t come from a knowledge worker working in a particular corporation protesting about the poor state of workplace learning or learning in general. They, actually, come from a letter written to Roger Schank by a 15 year old girl in Central America protesting herself about the poor state of the education system in her own country and the very few choices she has got to change the situation herself on her own. Roger himself recently published it in his own blog for all of us to be wowed, and not in a positive sense, by the way, more than anything else, because, upon reading through it, one has got to shamefully admit that current state of education / learning is incredibly pervasive and available in most countries throughout the world, and, of course, in vast majority of organisations. Ouch! 

After publishing the letter in his own blog, which I strongly recommend you go ahead and read through it in its entirety, Roger comes forward to share a couple of uncomfortable reflections that, upon reading through them, reminded me as to why I heart, so much!, heutagogy, not only within the overall education system, but also with workplace learning inside organisations, in general. To quote: ‘We just let kids be miserable, or, we use school for its true intention: indoctrination’. Again, replace ‘kids’ for ‘knowledge workers’ and ‘school’ for ‘workplace’ and, once again, we would have the reaffirmation as to why workplace learning is currently broken within the business world.

But perhaps the most mind-boggling, and rather troubling!, quote from the entire post he shared is this other one: 

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilisation, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

That quote, you may be wondering, is from Edward Cubberly, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education, from around 1900. Yes, you are reading it right, it’s not a typo, 1900!! 116 years ago!! Whoahhh! 

My goodness! No wonder the current education system is totally broken. It’s been broken from well over a century, already! Yikes! And I’d dare extend that sentiment as well towards Workplace Learning, despite notable efforts of wanting to wake up into a new reality and see if we can still save it all. Even Roger himself already hints in that blog entry part of what the potential solution(s) may well be. To quote him: ‘Let kids learn what they want to learn in curricula design by professionals’.

This is where heutagogy kicks in beautifully, because that’s exactly what it is all about: 

Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.’ [Emphasis mine]

First time I ever got exposed to Heutagogy, as a concept, was back in March 2013, when I was invited to speak at the Welcome Heutagogy conference event in Prague, where Dr. Stewart Hase (Founder of Heutagogy himself), along with the delightful Lisa Marie Blaschke, were the keynote speakers (Links to the presentations AND recordings can be found here and here, respectively). Little did I know, back then, I have been practising it actively myself for 13 years already, and still going strong today, more than anything else because, if anything, heutagogy is all about making learning a change experience, indeed. But it’s also about placing ‘the learner at the centre of the learning process not at the end of a linear process starting with the curriculum, through the teacher, to the resources and finally ending with the learner’, as Stewart himself wrote about in this wonderfully inspiring blog post a little while ago.  

Fast forward to 2016 and this specific tweet may be particularly helpful in describing some more in depth what it is: 

That is, certainly, one of the many reasons why I heart social networks and social networking tools from all along, because thanks to them, we have been given the incredible and unique opportunity of being in charge of our very own learning, a la self-determined learning, whether at work, or elsewhere, based on a specific set of needs and wants, to the point where it’s always each and everyone of us, and not the system, deciding upon what we would want to learn more about, how we would want to learn and with whom (i.e. our networks) we would want to learn with / from. In other words, thanks to all of these social networking tools, specially, in a work context, and thanks as well to applying those heutagogy principles referenced above, we may be, at long last, working really hard towards making that successful transition from being a knowledge (Web) worker into a learning (Web) worker: 

So you can imagine how happy I was when earlier on this year, while serendipity was doing its magic and I was searching for something else, I bumped into the recording of the presentation I did back in 2013 about how I was applying heutagogy myself into my day to day work routines using social networking tools (IBM Connections back then and nowadays it would have morphed a fair bit into a combination of IBM Connections, Twitter and Slack) in the context of #NoeMail to get work done more effectively WHILE I was learning away.

The mind-blowing thing is, upon watching myself deliver that very interactive presentation, I realised that pretty much what I said back then it still applies to how I learn AND work nowadays, even though I’m no longer a salaried employee and don’t work in major corporation, confirming, therefore, if anything, that a combination of both heutagogy and social networking tools have managed to convert me into a lifelong learner with a completely different mindset of work, one where you realise your knowledge, and what you learn further along with it, is no longer just yours, but from the communities and networks you spend the vast majority of your time with, which is just too funny and perhaps a tad ironic because that’s, essentially, the main reason why, even today, I am still even so keen on sharing openly my own knowledge. Indeed, to learn even more! 


PS. By the way, in case you folks may be interested in going through the recording of the presentation I did back at the Welcome Heutagogy event in Prague, I have taken the liberty of embedding the video clip over here in this blog entry, so you can watch it right away, as you may see fit. It’s about 35 minutes long, plus Q&A, and in it I describe, through my first hand user experience, what A Day in the Life of Luis Suarez using IBM Connections was like to learn AND get work done more effectively through my own social networks and online communities, still today two of the most powerful enablers for the adaptation of emerging social technologies in the workplace without having to rely too much on email per se, which, if you ask me, it’s a good thing altogether, don’t you think?

Welcome Heutagogy – Luis Suarez from HR Kavárna by LMC on Vimeo.

Hope you enjoy the presentation, just as much as I did back then, and I still do today, as a self-empowered lifelong learner through applying heutagogy’s principles and making extensive use of social networking tools 😀👍🏻

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