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

Knowledge Management

The Trials and Tribulations of Freelance Work

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter

Ever since I went independent, nearly two years ago, a recurring theme has been coming up in plenty of conversations I have been having, whether offline or online, with a good number of people going from former colleagues, to family members and friends, to several acquaintances. It’s a topic I have been interested in myself for a good while, although I never thought I would be experiencing it first hand, but, since I have been doing it for a while, I guess it’s time to start talking, more in length, about freelance work and how it is shaping up the nature of today’s work. After all, you know, people keep claiming it’s the future of work itself.


After having worked at IBM for over 17 years, and deciding it was time to move on into the next big adventure, whatever that may well be, little did I know I would end up doing what I am currently working on today. Like with everyone else, potentially, it crossed my mind a few times to become a freelancer, why not, right?, but I was never too sure. I guess that was the toll I had to pay for having an extensive corporate life, according to today’s standards. I gave it a lot of thought though whether I wanted to work for another major corporation, or just stick around with a small, nationwide business (even within the IT industry), or perhaps even work at a startup (You are never too old for that, right?). I, eventually, decided to go from one extreme to the other and see what it would feel like. See whether I would be able to make it in the long run. Or not.

After all, switching from the largest, most complex, IT firm in the world to running your own business as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation can be quite something and, now that I am nearly two years down the road with it, I can surely confirm that it can be a lifetime changing experience. For the better, of course. And since I keep getting asked about it time and time again I guess it’s now a good time to start blogging about it and share some first hand experiences on what it is like having a new single boss to respond to: your customers.

I know, and fully realise, that this new series of blog posts I am kicking off today perhaps doesn’t have much to do with the usual themes and topics I have blogged over here for nearly 10 years, but I suppose I’m also getting a bit weary of having to answer the very same questions from multiple people over and over again with the same information, so I figured it may actually work out all right. We shall see. Either way, if you, faithful reader, feel like the time for you to move on has arrived, as I introduce this new series of articles around freelance work, please do go ahead and do so. No hard feelings. Life changes, constantly, and so do we, whether we like it or not. Best we can do is to adapt accordingly and where possible. The choice is ours. Always has and it will always be. Thank you for spending your precious time sticking around for that long… 

This is also part of the reason why I decided to open up this new series of blog entries around what it is like the trials and tribulations of a freelancer, more than anything else in the hope that some of those experiences, insights, know-how, hints & tips and practical advice may help out other freelancers, as well as others who may have already started hearing the internal voice that their time in big corporate life is now, finally, coming to an end (hopefully, a happy one, too!) and it’s time to move on to something else, whatever it may well be. 

Oh, in case you are wondering, this doesn’t necessarily mean I will stop writing over here about subjects that are pretty dear to my heart, like Social / Open Business, Digital Transformation, Knowledge Management, Online Communities, Learning, Productivity, social networks, social networking and social software in general. Quite the contrary. I am hoping to be able to add further up into each and everyone of those not only from that corporate point of view of 17 years at IBM having worked with hundreds of customers over time, but also add on a fresh new perspective of what it is like being an Open / Social Business as a freelancer and describe in full length how work has shifted into networks and (online) communities to a point of no return any time soon.

It’s a fascinating journey, it already has been for certain, seeing how there are plenty of differences, but also lots of similarities, in terms of how we, knowledge (Web) workers, operate whether working as salaried employees or just by ourselves, going solo. The thing I am hoping will be an immediate outcome from this new series as well, and that may also benefit others, is how I’ll keep walking the talk on what I have preached for a good number of years now about the many benefits from working out loud, even as a freelancer, as I plan to write about how I work by exposing plenty of my work routines, tools and processes I use, etc. etc. 

It’s bound to be good fun altogether, I am sure, as, if anything, it will help me get my act together as well on something that’s been in my mind for a good while now on whether one can thrive at work as an independent knowledge (Web) worker and still have a life. Yes!, work / life integration is also going to be one of the main topics I will be talking about in terms of being able to rediscover something I may have thought I lost at one point in time: productivity, or better said, effectiveness, without having to clock in 80+ hours per week. I think I may have just had enough pretending to be a workaholic. Why should we? There must be a better way out there, don’t you think? I suppose it’s time to explore, learn and co-create together, play and iterate accordingly, and where appropriate, and keep moving on…

All in all, and to wrap up this blog post, I thought I would put together over here a list of topics I will be covering over the course of time in terms of what it is like doing freelance work and whether it is worth while doing or not through sharing plenty of first hand experiences. Here it goes: 

  • Why freelance work? What’s in it for me?
  • Practical hints & tips on how to get started, what to watch out for, initial first steps, etc.
  • What social / productivity / business tools may well be a must-have for freelancers (according to my own experience)
  • What are my daily work routines and business processes? How does client prospecting work out?
  • How do the finances of a freelancer work eventually? How to cope best with the uncertainty creeping in every now and then?
  • Is freelance work the panacea of the so-called future of work?  Why or why not?
  • What role do social networks and communities play in helping freelancers thrive? Are we really all alone by ourselves?
  • What other additional resources do I have available to freelancers we should all be aware of?
  • And, finally, work / life integration: do freelancers have a life, after all? 

I am pretty sure there are tons of other topics that will come up over time I may be able to include over here as well, accordingly, but, for now, I think this will do. I’ll be counting on you all as well to share in the comments, and your own blog posts!, what it is like for you being a freelancer or having worked with a freelancer (why not?). I am not sure about you, but I am excited about the opportunity to start writing about what it is like both life & work from the other side of the fence, and to explore together whether freelancing really is the future of work, or perhaps a new fancy, hyped, buzzword we have been told it will save us all from our current miseries (and there are far too many!), if at all.

Ready for this new, exciting journey? I surely am! 

Let’s go! Let’s do it!

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Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes (Playa del Inglés)

When I first got things started with #elsuahackstwitter, the experiment where I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter and instead move on to using, exclusively, Public Lists, I knew, right from the start, that I’d have a bit of a challenge in terms of not necessarily grouping people together, but what names would I pick up for each of those lists, so that a) they’d be rather representative and meaningful, and b) would not offend the people included in them (for whatever the reason). It wasn’t easy. It took me, eventually, a good few days to figure it out what I would go for in the long run. I knew I didn’t want to pick something vague, overhyped or just simply buzzwords du jour along the lines of gurus, ninjas, #SocBiz experts, influencers, future-of-work, digital-transformation, etc. etc. So I decided to look deeper, in retrospect, and try to define for myself the kinds of relationships I have built over the years with the people who I used to follow on Twitter and see how I would be able to group them accordingly. Finally, after a good few days of tinkering Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From were born. 

Ever since I was first exposed to Twitter Lists a good few years back, I knew they were going to be something rather special. It’s, by far, my favourite feature from Twitter from all along. An opportunity for the end-user to be, at long last, in full control of the flow of tweets going by, according to your own criteria in terms of people added to them, timelines (no longer a limit in there!), conversations, insights shared, etc. etc. vs. having to rely on the system to do it for you. I have been a huge fan of Lists. Currently, I have got 25 of them I, usually, check on a more or less regular basis. All along, though, most of them have always been, and still remain today, private, just for me. And for a good reason: I didn’t want to expose them, nor the folks grouped in each of them. 

The whole thing changed though, when I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter, and somehow I started to feel the urge of exposing, openly, where I usually spend my time on nowadays while tweeting away. Somehow I felt I needed to show the world a little bit of my Twitter world. The time of hiding is over and while the private lists are there I decided not to pay much attention to them anymore and instead focus on the public ones I created a few weeks back. Those new lists would become my new timeline(s) and, contrary to what was happening before, they are now exposed to everyone out there who may be interested, since they are publicly listed and people can subscribe to them, if they so wish to.

In a way, it’s some kind of brutal exercise around working out loud and openness, because, all of a sudden, everyone can now peek into my daily flows of tweets going back and forth and get a glimpse of what I’m exposed to, without having to even ask me, if they would want to. Yes, it’s both exciting and rather intriguing not knowing anymore what may well happen next, because one of the unexpected highlights from having run this experiment was that even though the lists are my lists some people have decided to subscribe to them as well. So, all of a sudden, I have transformed into a curator of connections, relationships, triangles to close, and good, relevant content on what matters to me. And share it with the world. 

You may be wondering by now then why did I pick up those names for my main three public lists, right? CollaboratorsCooperators and People I Learn From. Well, initially, there is the reason of proximity, just like when I blogged back in the day how I work through Google Plus’ Circles with One50, Two50 and TheRest. However, that proximity nowadays is mostly down to how I view people I used to follow on Twitter in terms of working together or learning together. Long time ago I decided to stop following people just for the sake of following if it meant I didn’t learn anything in the first place. Life is just too short to have a cluttered timeline, I am afraid.

Working together, for me, can be seen in terms of two different types of interactions: collaboration and / or cooperation. My good friend, Harold Jarche, put together, just recently, as he has been blogging about this very same topic for a good while now, a new superb article explaining the main differences between one and the other. ‘Cooperation for the network era’ is a highly recommended read, for certain, as it will make you think twice about the kinds of business relationships, contacts and networks each and everyone of us has been nurturing over time. At the end of the day though, to me, it’s also all about commitment, what differentiates one from the other, that is. 

When you collaborate (closely) with someone (or a group of people), there is a commitment to get something done in a timely manner, to get a deliverable out the door, finish off that task, activity or a project and move on the next one. The proximity and closeness is a notch tighter than when you cooperate with someone, which seems to be a lot less about commitment and more about sharing, connecting and learning. To quote Harold from that same article shared above: 

Cooperation is a foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks, and it’s in networks where most of us, and our children, will be working. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate.

To then finish up with this other really nice quote that clearly differentiates what collaboration and cooperation are, and what they are not: 

Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, though they are complementary. Teams, groups, and markets collaborate. Online social networks and communities of practice cooperate. Working cooperatively requires a different mindset than merely collaborating on a defined project.

Organizations need to extend the notion of work beyond collaboration, beyond teams, and beyond the corporate fire wall. They need to make social networks, communities of practice, and narrative part of the work

Here’s something that Harold mentions on the last quote shared above that I think is rather interesting and pretty much nails it for me: ‘[…] they are complimentary […]’. Indeed, in the rather polarised world we currently live in, where it looks like we can only have a winner, a one single choice, a simple choice, yet, time and time again, reality tells us otherwise. Why can’t we have both? – I keep wondering about. Why can’t we have, in a work environment, where both collaboration and cooperation are working together nicely to achieve a certain goal, i.e. getting work done on their own terms (versus ruthlessly competing with one another)? What’s stopping us from doing that? The company firewall and bureaucratic business practices? A business and management system that haven’t changed much fundamentally in the last 150 years or perhaps even more so our very own mindset and behaviours and our inability to change even more so, if for the better?

This is, exactly, what I wanted to do in the first place when I put together these two Twitter Lists, to see if I could combine both collaboration, cooperation and mix them a bit to the point where they would become blurry and, eventually, perhaps a porous, intertwined duality. And then see what would happen next. As a result, and rather unexpectedly, I came up with a third one for another very specific activity altogether: learning. And this is how these public lists came along: 

  • Collaborators: The original description I used for this list was the following one: ’[Some] People I’ve collaborated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Remember, this list was built up from the list of people I used to follow on Twitter, not the hundreds of people I have collaborated with over last couple of decades, and the criteria was essentially to figure out who would I be able to move over here and feel comfortable about it when talking about collaboration: some of the folks I have collaborated with in the past, or now in the present, or have the gut feeling I will be in the near future. That was the exercise to be done. How close did I feel to those folks in order to collaborate with them all, where needed and accordingly, in a heartbeat. It’s my primary list, the one I check every single day and read every single tweet from and the one where I progressively move people away on to from the other lists to keep it growing over time with folks I do committed work with. 

  • Cooperators: Again, reusing Harold’s definition for cooperation, this is the list of folks I cooperate with at times in different initiatives, and where the commitment may well be there some times, or not. This was the original description I used for it: ‘[Some] People I’ve cooperated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Again, following pretty much the same flow as Collaborators, except that for this one the proximity is not as close as the one for collaborators. In a way, it’s like my second tier of interactions, the networks, the communities of practice, the weak ties that sooner or later I know I will eventually be doing work together with. It’s also the list I check and read every single tweet from daily as an opportunity to help build my social capital skills with them so I can provoke committed work with at some point in time. I’ll wait for when I feel things are ready.  
  • People I Learn From: While both Collaborators and Cooperators make my primary network of contacts and business relationships (and, of course, friendships!), all along I knew there would be a third one coming, one with people I keep learning from on a daily basis from our mutual tweet exchange and that, sooner or later, I know they will all end up being either in Collaborators or Cooperators. It’s the largest of all three lists and by a large margin. It’s also the one where most of my learning happens, although it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t learn much from the other two. I still do, it’s just on a different level (i.e. I know them relatively well already…). The People I Learn From is essentially the list where I curate, nurture and foster relationships that I will then move on to one of the other two lists and become more involved with over the course of time. Mind you, I still get to read every single tweet that gets shared across. I use each and everyone of them as an opportunity to evaluate whether we are both ready to be moved up and, if so, make the move and carry on with the conversation on a higher level of involvement and intent. 

And from there onwards, I rely entirely on the magic of serendipity, that always seems to know more and way better than yours truly, to do its thing and keep redefining each and everyone of those lists. Helping me as well shaping them up accordingly over time by constantly building a trustworthy personal learning network where not only will I be able to continue learning from in the multiple areas we are all really passionate about, but also work with, whether collaboratively or cooperatively, or both!

It’s all about building the commitment, the intent, the context, and the ability to transform our daily work routines into the networked economy, because, for as long as social networks, communities and teams exist out there, we are no longer talking about the future of work, but the present of work. The continuous today. The one we can all collectively influence each and every time, because, after all, it still is our choice.

It always has been.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Social Connections VI – From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement, while #WOLWeek Kicks Off

My goodness! Can you believe it’s now a bit over 5 months since I left IBM and moved on to my next adventure as a trusted advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation? Yes, I know, me neither! It’s just gone so fast it’s been a bit of a challenge keeping up with the pace into this whole new life of being an independent freelancer. Pretty much like when I posted the last blog entry over here in this blog a couple of weeks ago, before I disappeared into a business trip to Barcelona, followed by a long weekend break in the same city, to then come back and embark on my next business trip to Zaragoza. Phew! And yet, while the journey has been incredibly good fun all along, never mind the massive learning experience, here I am preparing, non-stop, for the next business trip just around the corner: Social Connections VI. June 16th – 17th, 2014. Prague. Yes, I know, that Prague.

It’s been a pretty wild ride, all along, since I left my former employer, but it’s been even more interesting participating in a good number of different conversations with former colleagues to get exposed to different perceptions and understandings while trying to figure out where to next from there. Indeed, over the course of the last few weeks I have been taking the time to converse with plenty of former colleagues to catch up with one another on what we have been doing and what we are currently working on and it’s been a bit of a surprise how, somewhere, someplace, there seems to have been this rumour that when I left the company I left in pretty bad terms, with resentment, and without a single intention of getting back in touch with any entry point into the IBM ecosystem. Never mind its extensive network(s). 

Very sad and untrue. I am not too sure where or why that rumour started in the first place and, frankly, I am not even interested in finding out more about it. But those folks out there who know me very well, or who have been working with me for the last 17 years, or any period in between, would probably confirm how, like with any other major corporation, there are always highs and lows, of course (no-one can, nor should, deny them), but, overall, my working experience at IBM has been, if anything, a true privilege. From day one. 

Not every day do you get to work in multiple dream jobs at the same firm, while living in paradise island, with your HR manager physically located in another continent different than yours and with your project manager working in one other (different) continent altogether. And all of that with a pretty good salary, lots of prestige and reputation going the extra mile big time and for a long while, and working with some of the most talented and wonderful people around the globe. If anything, like I said, it’s been a privilege. An honour to have stuck around for that long doing some pretty amazing things realising that, at some point in time, it was a good time to look for a change, to make yourself redundant, and start your new adventure. Whatever that may well be… 


Well, that’s essentially what I have been doing myself throughout this time, but, all in all, I also realised, way back after I made the initial decision to depart ways from my former employer, that I would not be going too far away and, instead, I would be hanging around the IBM ecosystem (From the outside, that is) helping facilitate potential clients beginning their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. And while I have been doing some work along those lines already (more on that coming up soon!), there is a special event in my mind that’s going to provide me with an opportunity to explore and experiment further how I can put to good use all of those 17 years of experiences and know-how at a large corporate environment like IBM’s. If I managed to make myself redundant, because I considered that my job in the company was done, it’s time now for me to move on into the next challenge: help clients now, who may have purchased an ESN solution like IBM Connections, adapt to the new reality of the Connected Enterprise.

That’s why I am pretty excited to share over here in this blog additional details about my upcoming business trip to Prague (From June 15th till the 20th) to participate at the upcoming Social Connections VI event. A conference event organised by Social Business practitioners for Social Business practitioners, where it looks like this year is going to be more massive than ever with over 225 participants from across the world. Both the agenda and the speakers line-up are pretty impressive altogether. The venue one of the most stunning places I have yet to visit and speak at. And Prague. In spring time and about to enter the lovely summer. Doubt it can get better than that, don’t you think?

That means we are just one week short for the event itself to kick off and I guess it’s now a good time for me to share with you all what I will be up to while I am there. I will be attending the entire conference, of course, so there will be plenty of live tweeting (and some blogging), but I have also been invited to speak at a couple of different sessions. To name: 

You can have a look into the links shared above for more details on each of the different sessions, and why I am so excited about the opportunity to participate as a speaker on a couple of the topics I am truly passionate about from over the course of the years. From the fast-paced panel discussion where you never have enough time to elaborate a thought or two around Social Business, so being sharp and straight to the point in your answers is an additional bonus, to venturing into exploring what the future of work may well be like for Socially Integrated Enterprises. 

But that’s not all of it. The good fun continues on Wednesday, June 18th, as well, where I will have the pleasure of hosting a one day masterclass around Social Business Adoption & Enablement under the heading “From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement”. And for this one full day workshop I am truly ecstatic about the prospect of packaging up and delivering accordingly 15 years of experiences, know-how, hints & tips, good practices, use cases, community building techniques, lessons learned, show stoppers, inhibitors, benefits, and overall mindshare of what it is like embarking on that so-called Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. 

In case you may not have seen it just yet, here’s the description of the workshop quoted below: 

What if instead of “driving” adoption within your organisation, you could inspire and facilitate adaptation instead? What if you would have the means to re-define a new way of working with your fellow colleagues and peers through that very same adaptation to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? What if that methodology, good practices, extensive expertise and know-how would all be at your fingertips, so you could apply it right away? What if you knew the nuts and bolts of getting your management and senior leadership teams all involved right from the start to help facilitate the final social business transformation you have always been looking for? Are you ready?

Come and join us on this one day masterclass to find out and learn how you can get the most out of your IBM Connections deployment to begin, or continue, that transformation journey into becoming a successful Social Business.


09:00 – Welcome and Overview
09:10 – IBM Connections and the Connected Enterprise
10:00 – Use Case #1: From hierarchy to wirearchy (IBM Connections Profiles)
11:00 – Morning Break
11:30 – Use Case #2: From document centric to people centric (IBM Connections Files)
12:30 – Lunch
13:30 – Use Case #3: task centric computing (Getting Work Done through IBM Connections Activities)
14:30 – Use Case #4: Networks as the new production line (IBM Connections Communities)
15:30 – Afternoon Break
16:00 – Use Case #5: A Day in the Life … Making sense of it all in the new way of working
16:30 – Closing discussion
17:00 – Workshop ends at 17:00

Whether you are just getting started with your Social Business Adaptation Journey, or whether you are already a very well seasoned 2.0 knowledge worker, this workshop will provide you an opportunity to learn with other fellow practitioners through plenty of practical, hands-on advice, good practices, lots of hints and tips and, most importantly, all of the necessary knowledge resources available to date. It will help you as well to even break free from the email yoke: Outside of the Inbox 

As you can see, it’s going to be a pretty packed up and intense one full day workshop, but, at the same time, it’s going to help me understand whether it’s something that I can then port over to other cities, other venues, other events, even online!, and make it one of the various work streams I’m currently working on as an independent freelancer. It’s bound to be very interactive and overall very engaging, since I’m hoping to collect plenty of feedback from participants to keep improving the overall user experience for future instances. 

The good news is that if you are around those dates there is still time for you to sign up and join us. But if you can’t make it to Prague in just one week from now, don’t worry. Submit your city in the comments to this blog post and, who knows, before you know it, we may be able to host it around your neck of the woods. After all, it’s just such a small world, eh? 😀 And, while I am busy working on the last minute preparations I can guarantee you that the overall masterclass will become available online as a virtual, interactive, workshop some time soon, too!

See? This week is #WOLWeek (Working Out Loud Week). And my good friends Jonathan Anthony, Austen Hunter and Simon Terry, along with a whole bunch of people and the rest of the folks at Change Agents Worldwide (@chagww), have already kicked things off with numerous blog posts, tweets, plus sings, etc. etc. so I guess I have already started with my own share of working out loud practices by letting you all know folks what I will be spending my time on, and a large chunk of it, for sure, for the rest of the week: Social Connections VI and the Masterclass “From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement”. 

Hope you will have a chance to join us, whether at Social Connections VI, or the Masterclass I will be hosting on June 18th in Prague following the #soccnx event itself, or, eventually participating further along into #WOLWeek. All in all, it’s bound to be good couple of weeks of fun, learning, knowledge sharing, and, why not, visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At least, you shouldn’t miss on that, right? 😀 


PS. Ohhh, and before I forget remember that, as I mentioned on my last blog entry over here, all of my #WOL (Working Out Loud) activities will also happen over in my Google Plus profile from here onwards … 


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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The Future of Collaboration Lies in Human Resources AND Management’s Hands

A few weeks ago I put together the attached article for CMSWire where I tried to reflect on what I feel is the number #1 challenge for today’s corporations in terms of embracing a much more open, transparent, knowledge sharing culture through the emergence of social technologies behind the firewall. Indeed, Human Resources is right in the eye of the hurricane in terms of trying to figure out whether it stands, that is, whether it would want to continue sustaining a rather sick, corrupted and disturbing system of mismanaging resources commanded by senior management or whether it would finally want to transform itself into what it should have been in the first place: (facilitating) Human Relationships.

Here we are, 2014 and still wondering what the future of collaboration is — as if we didn’t know already.

Despite all efforts to trump it or get rid of it altogether in favour of other noble concepts like cooperation, the hard truth is that collaboration has always been here. And it will continue to be here for many years to come. It’s a human trait. It’s our capability of getting work done together. Effectively.

So why is it that even today we are still questioning its inherent value within the business world? Is it because of technology? Or certain business processes? Maybe it’s the people after all? In reality, it’s none of these. It’s because of Human Resources and its inability to get it right by empowering knowledge workers to excel at what they already do: collaborate sharing their knowledge more openly and transparently.

We human beings cannot deny helping others when in need. It’s in our genes. It’s part of our DNA, always has been. Yet, in a business environment, knowledge workers typically keep hoarding and protecting their own knowledge as an opportunity to not relinquish their own power (i.e., that very same knowledge), thinking that the less knowledge they share, the more indispensable they become.

But it’s not really all that. It’s because all along, knowledge workers have been encouraged to compete with one another versus helping, caring or collaborating with one another. It’s easier to manage individuals than to facilitate communities and/or networks working together towards a common set of objectives. And that changes the entire game, because when both technology and business processes are no longer a barrier, there is still a bigger hurdle: incentives.

An End to Unhealthy Competition

That, to me, is the biggest challenge of the future of collaboration. And HR is at the forefront of determining whether collaboration will keep flourishing with the emergence of social technologies or whether it will bury it for good. I am not saying that to be an effective collaborator you need to be incentivized. I am saying that for collaboration to be effective within the workplace HR needs to fast forward into the 21st century and understand that the only effect of recognizing the performance of the individual versus the group is to evoke unhealthy competition.

We have had that for decades. And it’s probably the main reason why we are still questioning collaboration today and its inherent value. Yet we all understand we can’t get work done anymore by ourselves. We will always need the help and support of others, and this is where political games, managing up, bullying or even extortion (to a certain degree), amongst several other issues, keep playing a key role in terms of how and why we do not collaborate as effectively as we could and should. And because it’s happening inside the firewall, the vast majority of knowledge workers don’t notice. Or care. HR is at a critical crossroads in terms of figuring out how it’s going to transform itself to recognize people for doing their work collaboratively. And while that takes place there is an even greater pressure out there that’s going to help accelerate that shift: your customers.

A Challenge, An Opportunity

With the emergence of social networking tools the good old concept of the firewall is becoming thinner and more porous than ever, because more and more customers are demanding (and rightly so!) to participate actively on the collaboration AND co-creation process with other knowledge workers. And all of that corporate kabuki around internal politics, the constant stabbing between teams, the always awkward hoarding of one’s knowledge are now becoming — at long last — a thing of the past.

Why? Because it’s all exposed beyond the limits of the firewall not only to their clients and business partners, but, more importantly, to their potential competitors. And eventually knowledge workers understand that in order for them to be more successful to meet and address their customers’ needs, open knowledge sharing and collaboration is a must. No longer a nice-thing-to-have but an imperative to getting work done.

It’s that massive tidal wave of co-creation with your customers and business partners in the external world that’s demolishing HR’s stronghold position in terms of how they evoke bad behaviours that, if anything, keep slowing businesses down. It’s no longer the IT department, or sales, or marketing, but HR that needs to be at the forefront of the Social Business transformation journey. HR needs to understand that collaboration is at the epicenter of this journey and this requires a new method and business principles, perhaps a new business ethos, of how evaluation of overall performance and business outcomes would be delivered and recognized by those networks of true hard working professionals.

An interesting emerging (or worrying) trend — for HR especially — is that if it fails to inspire a work ethos of “How can I help you today?” (versus the good old standby “What do you want?”), knowledge workers will start looking for opportunities to move on to greener pastures, the ones where they can focus on providing business value to their customers rather than fighting an obsolete, corrupted system, sponsored by HR, that fosters unhealthy competition that takes focus away from what our goals and mission should be in the first place: delighting our clients with not just better products, but better conversations, too!

It’s a fascinating challenge for HR to embrace. While everyone else keeps watching out for how social technologies and business processes can help collaboration flourish and move forward from its current impasse, I will focus on what I feel is the future of collaboration itself: the tremendous transformation that Human Resources needs to go through to become, once and for all, Human Relationships, because that’s where collaboration begins …

The people.

As usual, the comments have been absolutely a delightful and rather thought-provoking read and worth while going through them (if you haven’t done so just yet). One of them in particular, caught my attention to highlight an issue that perhaps has gone by unnoticed for far too long. The comment was shared by Mike Kennedy and it reads as follows: 

It’s not HR that’s the problem – they’re implementers, like IT. It’s the LOBs that consolidate power and make it hard to collaborate and share knowledge. Irrespective of function, the culture needs to change first or collaboration will never work regardless of process and technology. Its always been and forever will be about the people.

Right there, Mike, perhaps without not knowing, nor realising about it, may have highlighted what’s the main issue why HR still behaves as HR = Human Resources (20th century) vs. Human Relationships (21st century) and why they seem to be perceived as always coming late to the party around the Social Business Transformation Journey. I thought though it’s perhaps a good time to bring up something that has been in my mind for over the course of the last 2 to 3 years in terms of thinking further along why the adaptation to Social Business has been perceived relatively slow at times, or either inefficient or ineffective

It’s a culture issue. Yes, I know what you are all thinking about… it’s always a culture issue, isn’t it? It’s the perfect scapegoat altogether. Blame it always on the culture, since it’s the most difficult one to quantify, embrace and live through. But hang on for a minute, what would happen if that culture issue would be just championed by a single group? A group that has always been rather comforting in terms of supporting, sponsoring and “getting out of the way” when  helping knowledge (Web) workers adjust to the new reality of social collaboration? The whole game changes, doesn’t it?

Mike’s comments reminded me of a recent interview I did for the smart folks organising the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris where I reflected on the following question posted across: “What are the biggest challenges the projects are facing at the moment?” This was my answer: 

“While I know that this may sound as a cliché, throughout my over 15 years of experience with social networking for business, I have always believed it’s all down to a single aspect: corporate culture. And in this case from one particular group: Management / Leadership. They are starting to become, if not already, the main obstacle towards the realisation of the full social business transformation, because the traditional hierarchy and status quo of how things get done at work *do* certainly understand and comprehend what social networks can do for business, yet, they neglect not only supporting and sponsoring the effort, but also their active involvement in the process, mainly because they think the moment they do, they would lose their power, i.e. overall control of the information to make business decisions. Management needs to understand that this is no longer about command and control, managing your employee workforce to make the decisions for them, but it’s about how you lead them, as a servant leader, to make proper business decisions with the information freely available through networks by providing proper counselling and support vs. becoming the main obstacle. The rather high rates of actively disengaged employees would certainly confirm that challenge as the most critical one for the successful adoption of the social business philosophy and mantras.”

That’s why, as we move forward into 2014, I am starting to strongly believe it may well be a good time to begin upping the game in terms of the so-called involvement and true leadership from (senior) management in helping facilitate the adaptation to Social Business and social networking tools for that matter, both inside and outside of the firewall. I am sure time and time again most of you folks working in both Adoption & Enablement of Social Business keep being confronted with the one of the main show stoppers from practitioners telling you that they totally get it, but their (senior) management don’t and therefore need to be educated to get them on board. Otherwise the whole effort stagnates or ends up on a complete stop.

Really? In 2014? Still? I mean, 20 years after the first instances of both blogs and wikis becoming available on the Web and we still need to justify the inability for (senior) management to get on board leading by example on their own social business transformation (even as a personal journey), arguing that they just don’t get it and therefore need to be coached, mentored and educated on the topic? I am sorry, but things don’t work out like that anymore. Their time is running out and pretty quick, if not already!

You see?, as a (senior) manager / executive, who is leading whatever the business and has been doing that for a while, We are going to start questioning your skills and ability to both manage and lead your firm if you are not leading by example on helping your business transform into becoming a successful social / open business. Oh, and please, don’t use the excuse of ghost writing. It lacks authenticity, uniqueness, engagement and honesty.

We don’t want to talk to your hand. We want you to finally understand and embrace the power of open, transparent, engaging conversations through social networking tools, where knowledge flows, both inside and outside of the firewall, with your employees, your customers and business partners (Oh, and don’t forget about your competitors!), and where you get to sense and feel the pulse of your organisation and the ecosystem around it in terms of what’s happening, and what is not! happening, so you can act together accordingly helping solve plenty of the potential business problems you may well have, like a bleeding and rather discouraging percentage (13%) of actively engaged employees, which on its own would probably be a good enough reason to start considering whether social networking tools could help improve the way they collaborate and share their knowledge out in the open. With, or without you.

There is a great chance that both social and open business would eventually help you and your company address those poignant business issues and pain points, like re-engaging your knowledge workforce or retaining your talent, as they continue to flock massively away on to greener pastures, and, eventually, get back on track. Remember that this is not about you. It’s never been about you. This is mostly about the kind of (business) world (and society) you would want to leave behind when you are long gone not just for your children, but for your children’s children. Your legacy.

But at the same time, it’s also probably a good opportunity now for you to stop thinking that HR should continue to be at your service vs. that one of serving the employees you have hired as hard working professionals in the first place. You know, the ones you took the trouble to court and entice over months and months of multiple interviews offering whatever perks to then be hired and join the company because they were, at one point, incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and truly committed to the mission of wanting to change the world for a better place. Through your business.

Something went wrong along the way though and I am starting to believe that it’s got to do more with your ability to put HR to your service vs. the service of the knowledge (Web) workers currently employed by your firm and, that, eventually, is the current business problem (senior) management would need to start addressing AND fixing pretty soon, because at the current pace we are going we may have run out of time already. Remember, only 13% of your total employee workforce is actively engaged at work. That’s a piece of data that you probably shouldn’t ignore for much longer anymore. 

Please, please, don’t get us to question your management and leadership skills by neglecting nor embracing social networking for business. Instead, join us, show us the way, lead by example, walk the talk, start challenging the status quo that got you there in the first place and look behind to those who are continuing to follow you through thick and thin and help them understand how if they would want to see the future of collaboration shine through, both inside and outside of the firewall, thanks to social networks, you would need to become the new leading shining stars. With them. For them.

After all, the future of work (not just collaboration) is the future of Leadership. And it’s up to all of us to define it, live through it and make the most out of it

Work is a human task. Leadership is the work of mobilising others to action. Leadership is how we help people to realise their human potential. Much of our network and collaboration technology is just an infrastructure for the work and leadership required. The network can magnify the culture of the organisation, but we need the right leadership models for managers to realise the potential of a network era of work”.

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