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

Innovation

Work Stream #3 – Public Speaking and the Exposure Economy

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the winterNow that work streams #1 and #2 are out there, available to everyone interested who may be reading this blog, it’s a good time to talk about what has been, perhaps, one of the most profound transformations I have gone through myself when transitioning from big corporate world (while I was a salaried employee at IBM for 17 years) into the so-called gig economy of freelancing as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation. Of all of the different work streams I have been involved with, and working on in the last three years, it’s perhaps the only one that, so far, has provided the most surprising of unexpected results I could never possibly anticipate, specially, since it’s turned out to be completely different than what I initially expected and you will see why shortly. Of course, I’m talking about public speaking, and inherently, about the exposure economy.

While I was at IBM, and over the course of the years, I was given the unique and rather exciting opportunity to speak at several hundreds of events, either as keynotes, breakout sessions, webinars, workshops, masterclasses, remote presentations, and what not, reaching to the point in 2008 where I got to travel 33 weeks out of the 52 to speak at a certain event whatever it was. I knew, back then, that was just too much, I just couldn’t scale as a human being and still have a life, so I decided to start cutting down, gradually, on my public speaking engagements in order to try to cope with it all in an easier, but equally effective manner. Nonetheless, the public speaking continued at a comfortable pace of between 40 to 50 different speaking engagements per year and I surely enjoyed that, because it gave me a huge opportunity to be able to carry out my daily job as a Social Business Lead Enabler from a completely different and unexpected perspective: the outside world. 

Little did I know though that was all going to come to a standstill, shortly afterwards, as I was making my way into becoming an independent freelancer, beginning of 2014, more than anything else, because, all of a sudden, I was subject to be confronted with an ugly truth that seems to haunt down freelancers all over the place nowadays and that is, if anything, as ugly as it can get: the exposure economy.

That’s where the real personal transformation journey began for me, because, out of the blue, pun intended, you realise, back then, you were just a tag, in my case, the IBM tag, which was always really nice to have around at any kind of Social Business or Digital Transformation event or gathering, because, you know, IBM was there as well, never mind who may have been speaking on her behalf or what ideas, insights and experiences would be coming across. That might not be important, the tag is, though. 

Once you realise you have, inadvertently, shaken off your shoulders such tag(s), that’s where the fun begins, because right then you will be part of that so-called exposure economy where, if you get the potential invite to speak at whatever the event, the first phrase that will penetrate your brain like a painful needle is this one: ‘Will you be able to speak for free? You know, it’ll be good for your exposure (as a starting freelancer)’ [never mind your 20+ years of extended work in the IT industry. Those never existed in the first place, apparently]. Or this other one: ‘We currently don’t have any budget left to pay the speakers, so we were wondering whether you could speak for free’. Does it sound familiar? I bet it does, sadly. 

Public speaking is broken. Very broken. The moment you are inviting a potential speaker to present at your event and kindly ask them whether they can speak for free, therefore making them become part of that exposure economy, that’s the moment where you know conference events are totally screwed up. Abusing the trust, the good will, the time, the effort and energy of those potential speakers you kindly invite to be present at your event is the very last thing you’d want to do to your business as an events organiser. It’s aiming for the cheap, so you can profit while they won’t! And we all know that cheap comes at a huge price, i.e. your own reputation as a business, more than anything else, because you are sending out a very loud and clear message you are enslaving those who you would want to wow and inspire your audience with their own ideas and in-depth knowledge and experiences in a particular subject matter. What kind of business message does it send out there about you? Not a really good one, I am afraid, on all grounds, specially, in this Social Age. 

All along, for the last 20 years in total, I have always been very grateful to the company (IBM) that gave me the unique and unprecedented opportunity to cultivate, nurture and develop my own expertise around the subject matters I truly love and that I am very passionate about. It’s a luxury that’s helped build who I am today, but I knew that, one day, once I’d need to shake off that brand tag, upon moving on to other adventures, things would be completely different, because it would be only me, my ideas and work experiences, that people might, remotely, be interested in learning more about, or not, should I get invited to speak at a conference event. 

And, initially, on my first year as a freelancer, those kind invites to speak at conferences kept coming through like crazy! I could hardly keep up with them to the point where, more often than not, I ended up with multiple conflicts and had to suggest people from my closest networks to fill in for me, something that, over time, has become one of my favourite work related activities in this networked, hyperconnected world. However, towards the end of the year I realised about how each and everyone of those invites was coming up with its own price tag: me / us speaking for free, you know, just to get exposure as we begin our journey as freelancer(s). 

It’s tiring. It’s very tiring and rather exhausting, indeed, to see how broken conference events are nowadays trying to enslave some public speakers, just because they think they would get away with it, aiming for the cheap, abusing people’s good will and good intentions, just so that they could profit themselves, at one’s expense, not matter what, thinking that it’s our own problem then to find some other kinds of revenue, in the mean time, that would allow us to keep on paying for our bills, while they have got you as one of their top-notch speakers for such an exclusive event, or so we are told.

I know that this blog post may well sound a bit too harsh and somewhat negative, and perhaps I’m burying myself with it being banned from all conference events that may be hosted out there from now onwards, as organisers get to read through it, but it’s far from my intention to sound negative about conferences, in general. On the contrary, it’s my outlier and rebellious nature, once again, coming out wanting to protest about something we all know is totally broken, even conference organisers themselves acknowledge how broken they are, yet very little gets done about address AND fixing the core issues, mostly around trust. It’s never been a two-way engagement where everyone benefits, yet, like I said, we just don’t seem to want to do much about it and fight. Well, I am! I need to. I have to. For my own sanity. Even if it means I’d have to sacrifice myself in the process by no longer being able to participate from one of my favourite work related activities by far: learning from different audiences about what gets you excited day in day out and become a better person as a result of it.

Late last year, I took one of my most difficult decisions ever in my 20 years of working experience in the IT industry that, at some point in time, I may regret for good, but either way, here it goes: late last year, indeed, I decided, I would no longer speak for free at any given conference event. I’ll not enslave myself to the cheap, to the free, in return of exposure, just because it’s good for my reputation. No, thanks! I want a fairer deal. I want a system that’s totally broken to heal itself with, or without, our collective help, because every time we, freelancers, agree to speak for free at events, we are perpetuating our very own slavery to the zero-sum game where we are always on the losing end. Always. No exceptions.

Oh, and that perception that we might be just too expensive for a particular conference event, as speakers, is totally false, let me all tell you, very far from reality, I can guarantee you that, based on my first hand experiences when I get asked what my fees are for public speaking and people respond back very much surprised ‘Really?’ Yes, really. That’s why we need to very much fix such a broken system of perceptions, perspectives, needs and wants, and, essentially, trustworthy good will. But we need to start somewhere. And, for me, this would be it: stop sustaining a sickening system that only benefits a few. And you are not one of them… That simple. 


 

Phew! With all of that said, and now that’s, finally, out of my chest, while our collective struggle to fix a broken system continues…, I guess those of you who may still be reading further along this blog post, might be interested in finding out, perhaps, what may well be some of the different topics and themes I do enjoy talking about at conference events. Well, just in case your curiosity kicks in, there are quite a few and all of them have got a lot to do with what I have been doing myself for nearly two decades and counting around Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Change Management, Online Communities (And Community Building) and Social Business (And Digital Transformation), without, forgetting, of course, A Life Without eMail, which has become one of my favourite topics over the last 8 years and still going strong … 

If you are still reading thus far and would want to know about some of the different conference events I have spoken at and what topics did I cover, here’s a selection of some of my favourite presentations and video recordings, so you can have a glimpse of what you might expect should you decide to reach out and inquire further whether we could work together for your conference event in equal, fair terms for both parties. I can guarantee you it will be worth it, if not judge for yourselves: 

 


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with for public speaking at conference events, and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer, but believe me you may be surprised to find out what it’d entail altogether, so get in touch! 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Work Stream #2 – Remote Working in Social Business Is Dead!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Risco Blanco

After I quit IBM nearly three years ago, one of the first things I really wanted to do, before anything else, was to spend an entire month doing lots of thinking trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, as I was embarking on my next adventure as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of client work, but at the same time I decided to put together a number of other different work streams, just in case, to see which ones would click and focus on those from there onwards. And what happened next, over the course of last couple of years, is something that, to me, has been totally unexpected and mind-blowing altogether, to the point where I haven’t been able to figure it out just yet, nor do I comprehend it entirely, to be frank, what’s been going on all of these years, unless we may have been deceiving ourselves all along and we just didn’t know it: remote working does not exist! Get on with it! It’s dead! 

Ha! I know what some of you may well be thinking out there right now when I said all of the above, I have just jumped the shark and gone crazy altogether. Is remote working dead? Really? No way! I bet a few of you are remote knowledge Web workers, or digital nomads, or, perhaps, folks who have got the luxury of being capable of working remotely, wherever you are, every now and then, while you combine commuting to the office and you are looking at me as if I am totally insane! ‘Of course, remote working is very much alive and kicking! No doubt!’, you may be screaming out loud! And you are probably right since you might have been doing it yourselves already for over a decade, if not more, I am pretty sure!

So why have I said remote working does not exist in today’s business world then? At least, in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation, which, if you ask me, I find it a bit too ironic altogether, if you know what I mean. Well, because here I am, nearly three years on as an independent adviser, and I am still waiting for my first gig of remote work around the world of Social Business with a particular client, wherever they may well be. It just hasn’t happened, not even a conversation. Not even part of the client work contracts I’ve been doing so far, unless I first work co-located with the client for whatever the initially specified time frame, before we can move on to remote work. Who knew?, apparently, working face to face with people still is a thing. A huge thing. And a critical one, too, apparently, because unless you are willing to work on site the chances of working remotely alone are pretty slim. And here’s where the irony kicks in because with all of these social, emerging digital tools we keep advocating for about how work is no longer a physical space, but more of a mental state, and yet we still have got to commute to the office to show our work with our mere presence. Isn’t that a sign of how little people still are trusted n their respective workplaces based on the work AND results they provide, regardless of wherever they may well be? Hummm …Maybe. Just maybe.

Now, like I said before, I haven’t been able to figure out just yet why that happens, specially, in the field of Social Business & Digital Transformation, where advocates and digital nomads like myself have been pontificating and praising the perks of working remotely and becoming even more effective with the smarter use of the digital tools at our disposal for well over a decade, if not longer! ’Telecommuting is the future of work’, we have been saying for a good few years already, right? Yet, it hasn’t happened and there doesn’t seem to be an indication that’s going to happen any time soon. So time to shift gears, I suppose. Time to re-focus… 

I always thought how for my work stream #2 I would be focusing on remote work around Social Business & Digital Transformation, but when I started to realise that something else was coming up, on a rather regular basis, instead of remote work, I figured it would probably be much better to apply one of my favourite enhanced skills as a freelancer that I have learned to master over time: adjust and adapt accordingly to the new conditions. And those new conditions are what nowadays have become my #2 work stream: hosting face to face workshops.

Indeed, whether it’s happening at conference events (Usually, the day before or the day after the event), or at on-site client events around a particular theme, over the course of the last couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to put together a number of different rather interactive workshops to always deliver them face to face, in small groups, of between 10 to 25 people at a time, where over the course of either 90 minutes, 3 hours (half a day), 6 hours (one full day) or 12 hours (two full days) we get to cover a particular topic that ranges from some light touches to full in-depth discussions, knowledge exchanges and learning experiences. 

I can imagine how you may now be wondering what those themes may well be for that workshop portfolio I have been capable of building up over time with clients, or at different conference events, and how I may keep refining them all depending on the specific feedback from the participants themselves or the needs and wants of potential new audiences. So I thought it would probably be a good idea to link to some of the different workshops I have hosted in the last couple of years, so you get a chance to see what kinds of themes have been getting the most traction so far, in case you may be interested as well to find out more. So without much further ado, here you have got an initial list of them I’m going to keep updating over the course of time with new additions, further information details, upcoming public workshops, etc. etc. 

  • The Top 5 Pillars of Social Business Adoption / Adaptation): In this particular workshop we get to cover the Social Business Adaptation Framework I’ve built over the years and that I’m currently using with clients who are about to begin their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys and which is based on these 5 different blocks: a) Business imperatives; b) Governance; c) Use Cases; d) Networks and Communities of Champions / Ambassadors and, finally, e) Education & Enablement.
     
  • From Adoption to Adaptation, From Enablement into Engagement: Pretty much the very same kind of workshop in terms of covering the Social Business Adaptation Framework as the one referenced above, but in this case with IBM Connections as the Enterprise Social Networking platform to use as a practical, hands-on example of getting things started with your own Enterprise Social Networking platform. This is a workshop I have been able to provide to clients using other different ESNs as well, so you may be wondering why I am picking IBM Connections to quote this instance. Well, more than anything else because I have been a power user of Connections way before it even became a product back in 2007 (I was, for instance, a very heavy power user of its grandfather ‘Fringe’ back in early 2001) and I have got tons of extended experience with it. In fact, when I work with clients within the EU it’s my preferred method of collaborating offline with IBM Connections Cloud, as I have mentioned and blogged about a fair bit on a recent blog post.
     
  • Leadership in a Connected Enterprise – From Hierarchy to Wirearchy: I am a wirearchist. I had the true honour and immense privilege of co-authoring a book on it, and for well over a decade, when I was first exposed to the concept of Wirearchy (coined by my good friend Jon Husband nearly two decades ago) I realised we are fully immersed on that transition from the traditional command and control, top down hierarchy into a much more flexible, lenient, porous, pervasive, open, collaborative, connected way of organising and getting work done through social networks and (online) communities. Yet, I don’t feel we are truly prepared for it just yet, specially, (senior) management, judging from what we are seeing in this day and age. It’s a tough transition, you know, to go from being right at the centre of where everything happens and where everyone listens and obeys to what you have got to say and command without having a say about it to just be a node in the network who needs to earn every single day the merit of your peers, i.e. other nodes, while you keep demonstrating and showcasing your thought leadership skills, including, of course, the traits and qualities for which everyone thinks you are a leader. A connected leader.

    So with that premise, I decided to put together a workshop to help identify the number #2 business problem most organisations have got today, while I also help identify the huge opportunity and potential behind it to demonstrate with practical hints and tips and good practices, if anything, the different traits that the connected leaders of the 21st century need to exhibit if they would want to thrive in a work environment they no longer control, nor command, i.e. their own social networks, to work smarter, that is, more effectively, but not necessarily harder.  
     

  • Working Smarter with Less Email: Yes, as you can see, I’m still a huge advocate of #NoeMail. I keep practicing it every single day for the last 8 and a half years and counting. Going #NoeMail back then totally transformed the way I work AND live nowadays and while I realise I haven’t posted an update on how things are going for a really long while (Stay tuned, please, for an upcoming blog entry where I will try to summarise what’s been going on in the last few months!,) you may be pleased to know that more and more businesses are starting to question today their own addiction and overall (ab)use of their email practices at work, and for plenty of good reasons!, so I have developed a workshop that amalgamates all of those experiences and good practices for going #noemail that I have acquired over time and have packed them in either a 3 hour or 6 hour workshop with a guarantee methodology to help you reduce your email volume by 80% in just 5 weeks. Yes, you are reading it right, a guaranteed methodology, that I’ve used with a few clients already who have embarked as well on their own #noemail journey.

    Not to worry, I’ll be blogging plenty more about all of this over time, including the stories of some of those clients, so you can see how if there is a will, there is a way. Always.

And that’s pretty much it, in terms of describing a little bit what my #2 current work stream is at the moment and how, regardless of what my initial intentions were around remote work for Social Business, I had to learn, and rather quick!, that the moment you get things started, whatever those may well be, one has got to, again, learn and really fast, how to adjust and adapt accordingly before one becomes obsolete. And iterate again and again and again, till it clicks.

It’s that constant pursuit of ‘living (work) life in perpetual beta’. That’s how I roll nowadays, and you?

Mind you, I still believe it is very much possible to work remotely around Social Business and Digital Transformation (After all, I have been doing it myself since early 2003, while I was at IBM), specially, if we all start believing plenty more what we have been preaching and advocating for all along: work, in the Social / Digital Era, is no longer a physical space, but a mental state. So, perhaps, it’s a good time now, a decade on, to, finally, start putting our actions behind our fancy words around digital transformation, don’t you think?

Prove me wrong.


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with in this kind of change and transformation work around Social Business by hosting face to face workshops with clients or at conference events, and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Why Do Social When You Can Live Social?

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

One of my favourite activities at the moment, after having resumed my blogging mojo just recently, is to currently revisit a number of different blog articles I have put together over the course of time in this blog to check whether they are still relevant or not, in this day and age, in terms of exploring how further along we may have gone into that so-called Digital Transformation journey, if at all, and so far the results haven’t been too comforting, nor reassuring, for that matter, since a good number of those articles seem to be still incredibly relevant. Yes, I know what you are all thinking right now, that it’s a good thing for you in terms of what you saw coming back in the day, but then again I think it’s just another indication of how we are all, pretty much, just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of the change and transformation we would all want to witness AND experience. Let’s start with some of the basics, for instance: where, or when, (and why?!?!) did we go from Live Social to Do Social? 

My good friend, Jane Bozarth, author of the wonderfully inspiring book ’Show Your Work’, which I can highly recommend as a splendid summer read, put together a rather thought-provoking article a couple of weeks back that reminded me about how little we have progressed, if at all, in the last decade or so, around our very own Social Business efforts. In ‘It’s Not About ‘Doing’ Social’ she exemplifies a couple of instances that relate to how most businesses try to embark themselves nowadays into that so-called Digital Transformation journey and how one of them would be more successful than the other and for obvious reasons. Mostly, the one that’s least manufactured, structured, over-engineered, institutionalised (or industrialised for that matter) and governed by command and control, top down hierarchical decisions. Yet, it seems most change efforts out there around Social keep reinventing themselves as just another IT project for which we’ve been given two years to show, prove and demonstrate results. Yikes! 

I’m not going to spoil for you the two scenarios Jane describes quite accurately in her blog post, on the contrary, I’d encourage all to go ahead and read through them to see where your own adaptation efforts around Social Business have been happening at your workplace. It’s a rather eye-opening exercise, I tell you. However, what I’d really like to point out, and perhaps quote over here as well, is the brilliantly captured conclusion as to why one of the scenarios keeps failing big time. Like I said, to quote her: 

So it’s not about “doing social.” It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.

While reading through it, I just couldn’t help but nodding my head in violent agreement with her reflections as to how spot on she is. It reminded about a couple of blog posts I put together over here myself over 4 years ago that pretty much touched on those very same points Jane has been highlighting as to what’s stopping us all from moving forward with our very own adaptation efforts around Social. Have a look into ‘Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?’ and ’The Fallacy of Social Networking’ to see what I mean. 

At one point in time, not sure when, why or how, we seem to have decided to do social (at work) vs. living social. And I suspect that’s where we got it all wrong, because you can do as much social as you probably wish, or can, and still pretty much bring forward with you plenty of the dysfunctional behaviours and mindset that keep troubling organisations to date. It’s like we have just switched masks by putting on a new one, hoping that all business problems will disappear and new markets will be created. Well, not likely. Remember? Putting more lipstick on the pig, it will still be a pig! 🐷

Yes, indeed, as you may have guessed it, Social Business & Digital Transformation efforts aren’t just another IT project with a rather reduced budget put in place hoping it will stick around for employees to fully embrace it, because, you know, they won’t have a choice anyway. Otherwise, it will be just another IT project going in the gutter. The thing is that employees *do* have a choice, they always had it, they have it now and will have in the near future. And that choice is all about the mindset and behaviours they would want to exhibit as they adapt to a new working reality with all of these social tools available at their disposal. It’s their choice as well to showcase how dysfunctional the organisations they work in really are, not necessarily to demonstrate how broken they may well be, since they all know it already, but to perhaps highlight an opportunity to want to do something about it and fix that dysfunctional corporate culture. It’s their choice.

That’s why, all along, I have always advocated about the subtle differences between doing social vs. living social. And, eventually, be more inclined towards living social as a philosophical movement that can inspire yourself, and others, for that matter, to embark on that equally exciting and exhilarating personal transformation journey where we become more open, transparent, collaborative, caring and empathic about the work we all do. Why I’ve always been such a huge fan of Open Business vs. Social Business more than anything else, because long long time ago I realised you just can’t change people, nor organisations for that matter!

Change is personal, one individual at a time, and for their reasons, not your own, so the only thing we can all do is to provide the necessary conditions for that change, hopefully, in small increments, to take place as a personal decision from each and every knowledge Web worker out there, which means that everything we’ve been doing at work around adaptation to social tools over the last few years, including change management, needs to change, pun intended!, and pronto! There are tons of really good work to be done and this past decade has just helped us understand why we need to shift gears from doing social to living social. Default to open as an opportunity to help organisations understand the new dynamics of organising, AND getting work done more effectively, via social networks and communities and not just through the traditional, hierarchical, top down archaic structures.

Time to up the game, all of us, collectively, because, remember, after all, it’s our individual choice to help define how we get to spend more than one third of our lifetime (i.e. at work), and reframe, accordingly, what work should be like for us all, not just a few, don’t you think? 

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The Home You Never Left

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Winter

There are plenty of times when you have got that strong, unstoppable urge to spend more time in someone else’s home rather than in your own, either as an opportunity to want to learn something new, whatever that may well be, meet new people or perhaps because you may need a change of some kind, maybe even some new fresh air, who knows, to really appreciate what you may have had all along till it is then gone. It’s pretty much like when you grew up with that determination to leave your parents’ home as soon as you could possibly make it, to then realise, a few years later, how perhaps you shouldn’t have left in such a rush in the first place to understand what you have had all along: a home. Your home.

That’s pretty much how I feel at this very moment, as I get to write this blog post, upon reflecting on when was it the last time I have blogged over here, nearly 8 months ago!, thinking I may well have been away from home for far too long, spending plenty of time perhaps where I shouldn’t have, to then realise it may well be a good time now, if at all, to come back again and make an effort to stick around for a while, pretty much like when you return back home after an extended absence thinking the last thing you may want to do is leave again. At least, not yet.

I fully realise that this blog post may well be too cryptic on its own, it’s not intended to be, frankly, but in a way it’s something I needed to finally write down somewhere and what a better place than my own online home from over the last 11 years and counting: my own personal blog. That place that’s always waiting out there for you, like the good parents anxiously awaiting for the return of their prodigal son; that place that once you arrive it makes you feel like you are right at home, comfy, with no attachments, nor strings, where you don’t have to pretend to be who you are not, and you can be just you, the authentic you. No masks. No bullshit.

That’s what I have been missing all along since the last time I wrote a blog post over here. That online space where I could be me, without having to pretend to be someone else, or to play a different role, or to put on that dreaded mask I just don’t feel too comfortable with in the first place as once you have it on, before you realise it, you cannot longer take it off.

That online space, that is, your blog, where you no longer feel like you are being butchered left and right by multiple social spaces that only care about how much data and information I can keep feeding them with without asking for pretty much anything in return. As if I ever had a choice in that silly game of us being the product.

I’m tired of being targeted, of the constant surveillance state of our very moves throughout those social tools and apps, of the silly algorithms being put together by people who just don’t have a single clue of who you are, what you do or what you care for, not that they would care anyway, in the first place, but that have promised to improve our overall user experience, when in reality they keep destroying it big time to no avail, nor say from our part. I’m tired of reading on a daily basis multiple articles about how certain social tools keep improving the way they surveil and capture our data and knowledge, our relationships and our connections to a great detail and how everyone seems to be celebrating it all with much anticipation as an opportunity to be on the crest of the wave, when, in reality, they have already been swallowed by the savaging digital capitalism wave(s) themselves we once thought would change the world, and, in reality, just keep on perpetuating a dying status quo that doesn’t seem to be too keen on wanting to become extinct in the first place. Quite the opposite, It’s as alive and kicking as ever. And we only ought to blame us all for that to have happened in the short course of a bit over a decade. Just yesterday, if it were. 

I’m exhausted about the sickening polarisation, the despiteful vitriol, the useless hatred, the time-wasting and ever tiring trolling for no particular reason, nor excuse, and, above all, the bullying the Social Web has institutionalised over the course of time with those very same social spaces wanting to do very little about it themselves, because, you know, it’s morbid enough to drive huge traffic and therefore generate more revenue for the benefit of a few while rejoicing on the disgrace from everyone else who keep suffering from all of these horrendous and dysfunctional behaviours the Social Media keeps pontificating and advocating for. Well done to all of us! We truly deserve the Social Web we keep building on and on and on.

I’m utterly worn out about how we, collectively, don’t seem to want to change things, nor to put a stop to it all, to quit making heavy use of those very same social tools ensuring they die a slow, painful death for having mistreated us for years as if we were just resources to feed their hungry needs for with tons of data, to then be disposed off and find someone else to drain in the process. Somehow it feels like we haven’t learned much over the last decade or so about ‘The lost infrastructure of Social Media’ and how it’s turned itself into something completely different than what we originally envisioned in the first place. Remember Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us?

 

But then again, we are the media, indeed, and, as such, we have got a responsibility to make a smarter use of these social tools to help us connect, learn and collaborate more effectively; we have got a responsibility to *not* make use of these social tools that are only interested in the data we provide them with on a regular basis, so that they can then use it against us time and time again, if we ought to change things. We’ve all got a volume control on mob rule and, as such, we should exercise that right, instead of letting morbid, tragic and dramatic news flood our feeds while we watch and observe from the comfort of our couches, as we left the computer desks behind us. We know better. We should do better. We must do better. We should break the chain. Today. 

That’s essentially what I’ll be doing myself from here onwards as an opportunity to come back home, to come back to those special social spaces we once treasured and loved dearly for how they helped and allowed us to change the world as we knew it and make better people out of ourselves altogether. Each and every single time. Back in the day I deleted both my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, amongst several other social spaces, and it looks like that was one of the best things I could ever have done in the last few years. But that doesn’t seem to have been enough, at least, for now and there isn’t an indication that things will change any time soon. 

Time to regain control of our conversation(s) then and leave the silly, pretentious algorithms behind thinking they know better than us. They won’t. They can’t. It’s going to be us, knowledge Web workers of the 21st century, the ones who need to decide what kind of Social Web do we want to build and nurture over the years, not the social tools themselves dictating how us, the mindless sheep (according to them), will continue to behave. I know, and realise fully, how this may well be a bit too radical and everything, a bit of an outlier, if you wish, but then again it wouldn’t be the first, nor the second time for yours truly. I want a totally different Social Web user experience and I know that unless I do something about it for myself, no-one will. It’s in our hands to change it and I realise now that by resuming my blogging mojo it’s perhaps the perfect opportunity to reclaim back the conversations. So we better get started with it, don’t you think? 

That’s why, from here onwards, at least, for myself, there will be a whole lot more blogging and a whole lot less time spent in social tools, specially, those that seem to be only interested in me for the data I keep feeding them with and not for the conversations they can start and facilitate accordingly with me. Remember blogging? That’s exactly what it once did and why it feels good to, finally, be back home.

The home I never left… 

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Social Computing Guidelines and Why You Would Still Need Them

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A few weeks back I wrote about the first of the 5 pillars I keep using with clients, time and time again, whenever they are embarking on the so-called Digital Transformation journey. Back in that blog entry I mentioned how having the right purpose is the main trigger to get things going. From there onwards it all starts rolling out and for today I thought I would go ahead and continue with the series of articles and write about the second pillar itself, which I know is going to cause a bit of a surprise, and perhaps a bit of a stir, too, because most people are not going to believe that here we are, nearly at the end of 2015, and we still need them and pretty badly: Social Computing Guidelines.

Yes, that is right, whenever you are embarking on the Social Business journey, right after you may have figured out what the main purpose is for that transformation initiative through social / digital tools, the next big activity to look into is to have a rather robust, representative and relevant set of social computing guidelines. I know what you are thinking, here we are, already passed through 2015, and we still need guidelines? Really? Haven’t we learned much from the last 10 years or so? Well, you are probably not going to believe it, but we certainly do need them!

Initially, because when starting to make use of social tools, whether internally, or externally, you would *not* want to use or talk about rules to describe how people should behave at work, no matter how insistent senior leadership may well be when stating they want to control how people behave in this brave new world of digital tools. Narrative matters, nowadays more than whatever you would have thought of in the past, and that’s the very first thing senior management would tell you that you would need to take care of: ‘Yes, I want to have a bunch of rules, so that my employees would not be goofing off, nor misbehave and what not and instead continue to work really hard. I want to command and control what they do‘. As if that ever happened in the past, right? Bless them …

Here is the thing, if you let that happen you are just opening a can of worms you don’t want to open. Rules, control, entitlement, arrogance, (a certain) position or status, micro-management, etc. etc. don’t work well in an unstructured, almost chaotic, network driven environment where democratisation of conversations by earning the merit, the attention and the conversation of your peers is the new modus operandi. We no longer talk about rules, but guidelines. We no longer talk about imposing a certain method of operating while getting work done, but, instead, work through influencing certain behaviours to flourish and thrive over the course of time. Openness, transparency, publicy, trust, engagement don’t work well with rules. Quite the opposite. Those Social Computing Guidelines are your entrance door into modelling certain new mindset(s), behaviours and overall good business practices.

Now, let’s have a look into what it would be like not having those social guidelines in placeLet’s take, for example, Twitter. Umair Haque put together, not long ago, a superb piece of writing in which it became pretty clear, right from the start, what Twitter is all about without those social guidelines themselves. The World Wide West would not suffice to put it mildly. You haven’t seen it just yet? Take a good look into Twitter’s Trending Topics, for instance, whenever you have got a chance, and you will see the kind of vitriol that takes a whole new level of describing what both trolling and bullying is all about. It’s just as if we are using these social tools as an additional digital layer of sociopathy that de-humanises not only who we are, but also both our actions and interactions with others. No wonder senior leaders are so scared of embracing internally social / digital tools, if they think things would be pretty much the same as what happens out there in the Social Web.

See? There are many reasons why you would want to put together some Social Computing Guidelines in place, before you would run into potential trouble, but perhaps there are two of them that keep coming up time and time again in the conversations I usually have with my clients:

  • Organisations need to become comfortable with their employees making good, smart and responsible use of these social tools, so they can put together a green check on their corporate legal records, and move on…
  • And people in organisations (i.e. knowledge workers) need to become smarter in terms of how they can make the most out of social tools to collaborate more openly and share more of their knowledge across to, eventually, help them get work done effectively vs. using it as a corporate weapon of massive destruction (of one’s own digital reputation, that is).

That’s why whenever I work with clients I firstly asked them: ‘What’s your purpose?’ and, right after they have shared across the why, the what’s in it for them, I usually ask them whether they have thought about putting together a certain number of social guidelines to help their employees, and the overall organisation, prepare for the journey. And, if not, why not? Having a conversation about potential social media bloopers and evaluating, initially, the potential (negative) impact they can have within an organisation helps understand why those guidelines may well be needed, after all. From there onwards, ‘how do we get started with them?‘ usually comes up and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working on them.

The good thing is when trying to get things started we are never starting from scratch. There are tons of really good resources out there already, as well as dozens of examples, of other businesses and organisations that have graciously shared their own as an opportunity to contribute into the overall #SocBiz community effort. Take a look into the Social Media Governance Web site, for instance, where you will find hundreds of those same examples I just mentioned above. Even just go into Google and search for ‘Social Computing Guidelines‘ and you will find (first link on the top!) the one that has been perused over and over again over the years: IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines.

Back in May 2005, yes, that’s not a typo, IBM decided to ask a bunch of very brave and rather prolific IBM bloggers to come together over the course of a couple of weeks, and using a wiki, put together an initial ‘Blogging Policy & Guidelines‘ that will then need to be cross-checked with both corporate communications and the legal teams to ensure things were all right and then publicise them both internally and externally. After a couple of weeks of frantic co-editing, updating, adding, removing, revising and working together the guidelines were done and presented to both of those teams. Not a single update was needed and IBM’s Blogging Policy & Guidelines were born. May 2005.

That was, right there, IBM’s opportunity to, instead of blocking the use of social tools, send out a pretty loud and clear message to its employees, customers, business partners and competitors that, if anything, IBM wasn’t going to block access to them at all, but, instead, fully support and embrace them altogether. And IBM’s official journey to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise had just begun. Two years later, pretty much the same group of bloggers, as well as everyone else already using, internally and externally, those social tools, came together again to revise them and update them accordingly with guidelines about new tools, trends, and what not. And IBM’s official Social Computing Guidelines were born. During that time none of us, i.e. that group of bloggers, would know such guidelines would become an industry standard, but they, eventually, did. If anything, reaffirming the power of co-creation, through a wiki, of a bunch of enthusiasts, advocates and overall 2.0 practitioners.

10 years later I keep thinking the main reason why those different guidelines (not rules!) were a success, both for IBM, as well as other companies that decided to adapt them to their needs and embrace them accordingly, was because of two different factors that were taken into consideration right from the start:

  • Match those guidelines to the corporate culture of the organisation, to send out there a very clear message to everyone that these social tools are business tools, and, as such, there is a certain netiquette that needs to be respected, complied with and abide to. It’s how you do business, people to people.

  • Put yourself in the shoes of those (back then new) 2.0 practitioners and ask them how they would want to make a smarter use of those digital tools in a business context. Then invite them to tell you what directives they would feel comfortable with and embrace those. Helping define a level of comfort for those 2.0 practitioners in a co-creative manner they would want to go ahead with is just the beginning of sending out a clear message, from there onwards, that you, as an organisation, do care as much as they do. Why? Well, you trust them to do the right thing. And they will.

With those two underlying principles in mind, and with all of the resources already mentioned above, it’s now a good time to get things going and decide whether you would want to open up the process of creating those social computing guidelines, as IBM did back in the day, or whether you would want to have a representative team, as much as possible, to work on them. Either way, let’s start!

Here are though, some additional thoughts you may want to take into consideration as well when beginning to work in those social guidelines that may prove to be both helpful and relevant:

  • Align them to current, existing business conduct guidelines, corporate values, code of conduct, etc. that you may be using already to set the tone and their overall purpose. In a nutshell, it’s still work.
  • Keep them simple and straight to the point. You would not want them to be longer than a single page people can go ahead and quickly print & have it ready at their desk for when in doubt. Don’t over engineer nor add too much corporate speak into them. You don’t need it, neither do they.
  • Use plenty of common sense. If you see those guidelines don’t have much of that, start again. Till they make good business sense both to the organisation and to those 2.0 practitioners.
  • When in doubt, ask those social computing champions, ambassadors, evangelists (or whatever other naming convention you may be using) to give you advice. They live daily this brave new world of social networking for business. Use that to your advantage and let them help you accordingly, where you may need it.
  • Think about your customers, because, more than anything else, you need to remember the final frontier is not that people should use internal social tools and that’s it. It’s way bigger than that. They need to be able to use, in a smarter manner, external ones to interact, collaborate, connect and share with your customers and business partners.
  • Don’t spend too much time in them; get them out of the way as soon as you can and publish them out there for everyone to use. Observe and learn how people would behave through them and if you would need to adjust, correct, update them and iterate again, do it. Better adjusting on the way than having to wait for 6 months or a year for your legal team to come around telling you it’s ok. Keep the pace up.
  • Ensure confidential content is properly addressed in the guidelines. There is a chance everyone would already know what to do with it, but better to still have it down in writing, in case people might forget. You know, just in case.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected; there is a great chance once you get started with this process you would be entering unknown territory and that’s a good thing. Learning to act accordingly while on the move will probably dictate whether the guidelines will be a success or not. Adjust and adapt accordingly.
  • Finally, once the guidelines are done, publicise them externally, communicate about them, bring them up at every single place you can imagine. The more you communicate about them, the better. You would want to have every single employee wanting to use social tools be well aware of them even way before they dive right into it.

From there onwards, let the fun begin!

It’d then be a good time to move into pillar #3 of the Social Business and Digital Transformation Journey, where, in an upcoming blog entry, I will be talking about Building a Solid Library of Use Cases to help your 2.0 practitioners dive right into how they can get work done more effectively by working smarter, not necessarily harder. By making good use of the social / digital tools at their disposal, focusing on the tasks and activities at hand to help, in the long run, entice a new set of behaviours and mindset and, overall, good business practices to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. But that would be the topic for another blog entry coming up next! 😀

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10th Year Blogiversary – The Unfinished Journey of Blogging and Why It Matters

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Remember the good old days when people were writing about the death of blogging thanks to social media tools? When they wrote, rather prolifically, about how Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn’s Pulse, Facebook’s Notes, Medium and a whole bunch of other platforms were just going to kill our own ability to have a personal Web Journal of sorts where we would be able to host our own thoughts, have conversations, learn and overall  build, over time, strong online communities about topics we were all passionate about and that we would keep on writing about for years to come? Well, 21 years later, blogging is still alive and kicking, thank you very much! And on October 10th, 2015, I just made it through my 10th year blogiversary for http://elsua.net. Who knew… The Death of Blogging? Hummm, I don’t think so!

Thing is this is not the first time I write about this very same topic, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last one either. It’s also not the first time I share across the many benefits as to why blogging still rules in the social / digital tools extensive landscape. But what I find the most baffling from it all is while a few people keep claiming that it’s now a dead medium for online publishing and personal journaling several other dozens more keep talking, and writing extensively, about the many perks behind having your own blog, whether it’s a corporate blog or not. The articles with dozens and dozens of tips can get quite overwhelming, but then again I keep getting dragged into reading through all of those listicles, because, you know, we are always going to be drawn upon them, whether we like it or not, so we better try to enjoy them and move on, don’t you think? Phew! That linking exercise I just did above to curated blog posts I have enjoyed in the last few months alone! has just been exhausting!  Oh, don’t worry, I don’t expect you to go through all of them. It’ was just an opportunity for me to highlight how blogging is alive and kicking if just a sample of the articles linked above contained hundreds of different blogging tips, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced blogger. Mind you, if you are starting your own blog, or think you could go and learn some new tricks, put some time aside to go through some of those. I can recommend reading through them to learn a new trick or two. I did. 

Anyway, see how silly the whole argument about the death of blogging really is? Here we are, 2015, and we are still talking about it. Yet, we keep on blogging. Regardless. And that’s a good thing, more than anything else because, if anything, blogging should be about just that: you writing along as an extension of your brain, of your thoughts and ideas you would want to share out there with the world. Just because you want to, not because of whatever other people may tell you otherwise. It’s about a unique opportunity, we all keep taking for granted, it seems, about having a voice (your voice!) and an opinion on a particular subject at your own place, that you care about and / or are really passionate about. Blogging, essentially, writing, is all about you. You are what you write. It’s a personal craft that takes years to master, if at all, and nothing, nor anyone, should be able to take that away from you. Ever. Don’t let them.

See? Writing in your blog on a more or regular basis can be both therapeutic and rather healthy, but perhaps, most importantly, cathartic and while you are all going to tell me you keep on writing on multiple different venues, i.e. social tools, with exactly that very same flair writing in the long from in your own blog where you reflect deeper on a particular topic of interest can well be a rather intimate and overall engaging activity of you yourself and your idea(s), before you allow the world to get a glimpse of them and do something about it.

David Weinberger (@dweinberger) put it brilliantly in this particular article under the thought-provoking title ‘Why Blogging Still Matters’: 

But, we thought, the most important challenge blogging posed was to the idea of the self in self-expression. Blogging was more about connecting with others than about expressing ourselves. Truth, we thought, was more likely to live in webs of ideas and responses than in the mouth of any one individual braying from soapbox, whether that soapbox was The New York Times or a blogger read by five people. By linking and commenting, we were consciously building a social space for voices in conversation.

 To then continue with this other rather relevant quote: 

We bloggers are still there, connecting, learning from one another, and speaking in our own flawed human voices’.

And that’s where I am myself, after 10 years of blogging in this blog, and although I have been blogging for nearly 13 years now in total plenty of other blogs I have had in the past have come and gone, whether on Intranets or not; and whether using various other different platforms for online publishing the thing is http://elsua.net still remains that special place I always call Home. A place, over the course of the years, I can always return to and be just my self

‘[…] a place for the sound of the individual’s own flawed voice in open conversation with others, building something bigger than itself.’

Thank you very much for sticking around throughout all of these years, faithful readers of this blog, and for allowing me to show and share with you my special place, my blog, my home. Thank you for being an integral part of quite an amazing, yet unfinished, journey!

Welcome on board! 

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