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

Knowledge Management

Digital Transformation – It’s Just The Beginning

Gran Canaria - Playa del InglésOne of the interesting things that I have been exposed to over the course of time, specially, as more and more knowledge workers embark on their own journey of using social networking tools in a business context is how there seems to be this notion that we are almost done with that digital transformation. Meaning that those who have been using these social technologies for a while now feel like their work is done and dealt with in terms of that very same digital transformation. To them, it feels like it is time to move on and everything, in order not to stagnate or lag behind. The reality though is much different. We are just at the beginning of it all. We are just getting started. 

Over the course of the last few months there have been multiple tipping points at work in our attempt to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise that kind of made me feel like as if my job as a Social / Open Business evangelist is now done and dealt with and it’s probably a good time now to start making the move into something else. One of those tipping points is of particular importance and relevance, since it comes all the way from the top (Finally, after over a decade of exposure to social networking tools) and I am hoping that I may be able to talk about it soon enough, but the intriguing thing is that while I was reflecting on that fact, that is, on whether my job as a Social Computing evangelist was now complete, my network(s), eventually, had other thoughts for me. You know what they say, networks will always outsmart you left and right no matter how much you think you know about your own subject matter expertise, skills and experience, so best thing you can do is listen to what they have to tell you. And learn

That’s essentially what I have been doing over the last few days, while I have been going through that week of denial of the Social Web that I talked about yesterday. It’s been an interesting journey for yours truly all along through that long week of struggle and plenty of moments of weakness, because as I got to question everything that I have believed in over the course of the years on the impact and key role of social networking tools to change the way we work, interact and make business, one feels like once you reach through enough tipping points you are on your way out on to better things, hopefully. But then again your network(s) will always remind you as to whether it’s the right time for you to make a move or to stick around for a little while longer. After all, they know plenty more about you than you think you do about yourself. 

And that’s what happened last week when fellow colleague Ruchi Bhatia pointed me in the direction of this absolutely brilliant short video clip that clearly describes where we are at the moment in that journey of the digital transformation. It’s a bit over 3 minutes long, but worth while going through it all the way. Specially, if you would also want to witness the power of storytelling coming together nicely.

The video clip features a short interview from my good friend Andy McAfee who tells a very inspiring, insightful and powerful story about the inventor of chess and how that correlates to our very own digital transformation that we have been experiencing for a little while now. It’s one of those videos that you would want to watch every now and then, as a social business evangelist, to remind you where we have been, where we are now and where we would need to be in terms of realising that full transformation of the business world in the near future, never mind our very own societies. 

If, as a social business evangelist, you feel that your job is done, because you sense that everyone gets it, and it’s time for you to move on to the next thing, whether it may well be Mobile, Big Data, Social Analytics, Cloud Computing or whatever else, that video clip will certainly help you adjust your mindset accordingly, just like it did for me. Why? Well, not going to spoil it for you folks, you will have to watch through it, but, essentially, because of a single key message that Andy himself shared on that short interview and which is a brilliant reminder to inspire you back out of your potential moments of weakness, get that extra boost of energy and enthusiasm and re-focus on what really matters: we are just at the beginning.

 

And more shockingly, we haven’t even seen anything yet. Andy, once again, setting the record straight on helping us re-find that purpose, that meaning that keeps pushing us forward: start leading your very own digital transformation

Today.

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Google Plus – Who Owns the Filter Bubble?

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas in the SpringFor a good couple of years I have been a huge fan, and big advocate, of what I think is one of the most empowering and refreshing social networking tools out there: Google Plus. Yes, I know I may have well been one of the very few, but all along I have always felt that in terms of features, capabilities, blending of online and offline interactions and, above all, the deeper level of engagement in conversations is what made G+ special. Very special. Till a couple of days ago, where I discovered, by pure chance, which is how these things happen usually, I suppose, how it has been hiding away the best part of that social networking tool: the conversations themselves. Remember the filter bubble?

From the very beginning, I read in one of the review blog posts around Google Plus how the Home Stream (All) doesn’t really display all of the various different posts that your networks get to share. It only displays a fraction that the system itself identifies based on whatever the algorithm. Now, I can imagine how plenty of people may not feel very comfortable with the fire hose of updates coming through, so they may actually appreciate, quite a bit, having Google figuring it all out how it would work for most people. Alas, not for me. I would want to see every single post that comes my way, so I can then decide whether I would want to read it or not. I have always felt that’s the ultimate choice from social networkers in terms of defining the amount of signal / noise they would get exposed to without having that social networking tool calculating automatically what may matter to you or not.

I am sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. So a few months back I started relying more and more on Google Plus Circles to the point where I became rather dependent on them. I created a bunch of them, that I check on a rather regular basis, but there are four of them that I consider critical food for my brain. You know, the One50, Two50,  and TheRest and a new one I created which is a combination of all three of those coming up to nearly 500 people in total, which is what I am checking out nowadays the most as my new timeline. Essentially, the one circle of those folks who I would want to receive whatever updates they share. 

Thus a little while ago I decided to try out an experiment, which was, essentially, keeping an open tab in Chrome throughout the day for Google Plus and, in particular, for that specific G+ Circle (That I called Everyone), and which would allow me to jump in every now and then and check what people may be saying, talking about or sharing across. You know, in between work tasks, coffee breaks, those spare idle moments in between meetings and so forth. The idea was to be able to catch up with everything that may have been shared across with an opportunity to do it at my own pace, and without any restrictions.

However, over the course of time, I started noticing how after a short period of time, without checking things out, the lovely blue box would show up indicating the number of new posts that I had catch up with since I last refreshed, and I started to notice how if I would have, say, 74 new posts, when clicking on refresh it would just display (I counted them!) about 36, which means that half of the content is gone. Just like that! WOW!!! 

And here I was thinking that G+ algorithm was only in place for the Home Stream (All) page. Well, apparently, not. I have actually raised this very same issue on my Plus Profile, on this post, where I talked about it more extensively, and a bunch of other folks have been very helpful sharing their insights, including reference blog entries like this one on that very same topic with the flair that it’s working as designed. Well, no, it’s not. At least, it is not my design. 

See? If I create a new Circle in Google Plus because there is a list of contacts / networks that I would want to keep up with and get exposed to everything they share in G+ that’s what I expect the circle to handle graciously, not just show to me what it thinks is better for me. Never mind how much data you have about me. No, sorry, systems should not be making that choice for people. At least, people should be given the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of that model, which in this case it’s just not happening. And I am finding that incredibly frustrating and perhaps somewhat disturbing as well for that matter.

Why? Mainly, of course, because of that filter bubble. I would want to be the person in charge of what I get exposed to, how I would want to get exposed to, and, most importantly, how I would want to consume that content shared across. And let it be down to me to decide if I would want to mitigate, or not, the fire hose effect of content I get exposed to. It should be my decision, not the system’s. That’s actually one of the reasons why I have never been a fan of Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking tools that do pretty much the same thing: putting constraints in place by the system, within the streams, thinking it knows better than their end-users. Well, maybe not. 

Yes, I realise that I am perhaps making a big fuss out of anything. I mean, I am sure that you folks would be able to identify a whole bunch of various different areas of improvement for Google Plus in terms of missing features and capabilities, but, to me, it’s all down to this: can I use it for work? Yes, I know I can use it for personal use, which I have already for a long while, just like any other social networking tool, but, to me, Google Plus was special, because I could also use it for work. Or, at least, that’s what I thought, because, after finding out about that behaviour, I am just not sure anymore. I mean, think of this very same scenario happening with work email…

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. There is no way that you just can’t miss work related emails, specially, from a customer, or business partner, or from an urgent request from your boss or your fellow colleagues, only to find out the system thought about dropping it out, because it was not that important. Goodness! That would never happen with email. Period. It’s out of the question, even. So why should social networking tools be different? Why can’t we have that opt-in / opt-out option where we, the end-users, the social networkers, get to decide how we would want to process, consume and digest those streams? That’s a fair request, don’t you think? 

So what’s going to happen next then, you may be wondering, right? Well, for now, and while I am awaiting for an official answer from Google Plus Help and some other folks, G+ has dropped out to the same level of attention, engagement, involvement and relevancy as plenty of other social networking tools, because no matter how hard you would try it looks like with Google Plus, just like with plenty of others, you will always  be missing stuff and, to be frank, if that’s going to happen, I rather prefer to focus my attention elsewhere. It’s not even worth the effort anymore. Does that mean I will be ditching Google Plus for good? No, not yet. Like I said, I like it quite a bit. I am not going to give up on it that easy or that soon, even though I fully realise I will never get an answer from the Help & Support team(s), which is also another one of those issues with all of these public social networking tools on the Open Web. I will continue to make use of it. It’s just that instead of spending a substantial amount of time in it every day, the level of attention has dropped quite a bit, to the point where it no longer has the priority on my external social networking activities as it used to have. That focus is now gone. 

And that’s a pity. I know and I fully realise about that. But I guess that’s what happens when you, Google Plus, in this case, make the assumption you can own the filter bubble of those who have given you the mere existence of your own being, ignoring their voices and opinions, thinking you know better than them. Perhaps you don’t, perhaps you shouldn’t have. Perhaps you need to address the issue before I will be coming back. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, I still want to own the filter bubble. My filter bubble.

Thank you very much. 

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Life Without eMail – Year 6, Weeks 21 to 24 – (Newcomer Challenging for King Email’s Crown)

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the WinterAfter having just returned from another business trip to the US (Westford, MA, this time around, to participate on a client workshop on Social Business and Knowledge Management to figure out whether they could blend and become one and the same, but more on that one later on…), I guess it’s probably a good time now to share another blog post over here on that progress report around Life Without eMail, specially, after my last article on the topic, where I was mentioning what it was like going back to basics through that massive hard reset I experienced earlier on this year. I am sure plenty of folks are wondering where I am with it today and whether I am back on track, or not, right? Well, yes, I surely am! In fact, today’s entry will be about a Newcomer Challenging for King eMail’s Crown

If you would remember, about a month ago, I put together the last progress report to date where I was indicating how for the first 20 weeks of year 6 of Life Without eMail I was noticing a rather steep increase in the incoming number of emails received. Nothing to do much with the fact I moved on to another job (Although it contributed as well somewhat!), but, essentially, that intriguing trend of how both my social networking activities, as well as my incoming email, grew up further along hand in hand highlighting perhaps another interesting trend I have noticed as of late: over-sharing of information and knowledge all over the place, just for the sake of making yourself visible and ensure everyone knows you are out there, working really hard, whether on social spaces or in email, so that people would not jump into the wrong conclusions of you slacking off while at work. I guess tough times and work pressures are kicking in stronger and harder than I ever thought they would. 

And while email seems to be Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online (Very worth while reading Wired article, by the way, on the power of email in terms of its successful conversion rates vs. what social networking tools out there are doing), we should not forget though how emailing gives us all a false sense of progress. And if there is anything that I have learned during the course of the last few weeks from year 6 of having ditched corporate email is that realisation that I am now more convinced than ever about the paramount role that social networking tools will play in a business context in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate helping accelerate both our innovation efforts and our decision making processes, to the point where email still is a massive disruptor of that free flow of knowledge and information across the board. And it shouldn’t be. 

Indeed, email fosters closed, private, secretive interactions amongst a few people, what I have been flagging all along as sharing your knowledge across on a need to know basis vs. what social networking tools do, which is promote that wonderfully inspiring mantra of default to open. It’s been rather interesting to note as well how email is pretty much used nowadays as a way of managing your employees and your knowledge workflows vs. perhaps walking along the virtual aisles of social networks to find out what your team members are doing in terms of opening up the conversations, narrating their work or working out loud. And all of that without having to even ask a single question once. Somehow the latter approach sounds so much more of an effective use of our time than the selfish, egotistical use of email just to fit our own individual purpose(s).

So while that transformation keeps taking place I am sure you may be wondering what has happened in the last 4 weeks since the last progress report I shared over here, right? Well, like I hinted above, at the beginning of this article, things are slowly, but steadily, coming back on track. As you can see from the attached snapshot, after the massive peak of email activity for Week 20, with the highest amount of incoming emails for a single week that I can remember in years!, there has been a steady decrease on the amount of emails received for the following four weeks, which I can think can only be, but some really good news. For a moment, I thought all of that hard work of over the course of the last 6 years around Life Without eMail was just gone! Well, not really. We were just having a break, apparently…

 Life Without eMail - Year 6, Weeks 21 to 24

As you can see, the average amount of incoming emails is still sitting on 31.2 per week, which is pretty much the very same volume of incoming email that I was receiving back in 2009, but the good news is that over the last four weeks you will see a decrease on the total amount of emails received, and that is a good sign that things are going back to normal, the new normal: a Life Without eMail.

Yes, this year it may well have been a bit of a bumpy road, but that’s a good thing, because, amongst several other things, it’s allowed me to revisit, review and reposition the whole movement since I started it, and, if anything, I have also learned that I may have gone back to levels of email activity as I had them in 2009, but I have got plenty of years of first hand experiences of how to turn it back on the right track, once again, by living social, by living Open. And I know I am not just ready yet to let things go away like that forgetting everything we have done in the recent past. There is still a good fight out there to go for. One where we transition from closed systems of record into open systems of engagement. One where we continue walking the talk, leading by example on what really matters: a much more purposeful, meaningful work where openness and transparency through social networking tools help us all become more effective and eventually more productive at what we do, i.e. get our work done collectively as teams, networks and communities. And that can only be a good thing for businesses that want to promote sustainable growth as their primal reason for survival in today’s Knowledge Economy. After all, when was the last time that you could do your job without the help or support from your (extended) team(s)?

And talking about that Openness and Transparency, I just couldn’t help closing off this progress report post sharing across a recent article I had the privilege, and true honour, of writing it for The Times where I basically shared some additional insights in terms of how king email’s crown is getting more and more challenged by the day by a certain newcomer that’s transforming the way we work: social networking for business. Indeed, over at The Social Business report, pages 12 and 13, you would be able to read “Newcomer Challenging for King Email’s Crown” where I mentioned the larger impact all of these social technologies are having around how we get work done in a business environment nowadays:

Social sharing, when occurring in the workplace, is becoming more focused, purposeful and is making a meaningful contribution to productivity. […] 

Knowledge workers are more comfortable with sharing work-related items in the open, but they are also encouraging transparent working. There is an understanding that the more business-related information available out there for practitioners to benefit from, the better the decision-making. It is increasing the ability to share responsibility and accountability

Yes, I know, I just couldn’t help teasing you all with a couple of paragraphs from that article, so that, if you would be interested, you could have a look and read on, specially, if you are keen on finding out plenty more how that openness and transparency are challenging the traditional role of management, decision making, knowledge sharing and, eventually, executing work. Resulting, all in all, in helping us address what I still think is the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee engagement

Because, after all: 

Socially integrated enterprises have been empowering happy employees to create delighted customers, all through the clever use of digital tools. Social technologies have just become the new overlord. It’s about time.


[Oh, and before I forget, here’s a friendly reminder, in case you may want to find out further more, to come and join us at the Life Without eMail Google Plus Community where a bunch of us (Including the coiner of the well known mantra I have been reusing for years > “eMail is where knowledge goes to die”) have been having some rather interesting, refreshing and thought provoking conversations of how social technologies are reshaping the workplace by helping email repurpose itself into better things…]

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What’s Next for the Social Enterprise? – #SocBizChat

La Palma - Roque Los MuchachosTweet Jams. Perhaps some of the most exhilarating, intriguing, mind-blowing, inspiring, and fast pacing online events out there on the Social Web that typically happen in a rather short time span, with hundreds of tweets, from a handful of top-notch really good quality experts on a given topic sharing generously with everyone their insights, experiences, know-how, practical hints and tips and whatever else. End-result? An adrenaline rush of new ideas, trends of thought, connections and a massive number of serendipitous knowledge discoveries that can leave you with a wonderful aftertaste to confirm why the Social Web matters: hyper-connectedness of both ideas AND people.

My favourite Tweet Jam event, and for a good while now, has always been the one that the smart and talented folks from CMSWire host on a monthly basis under #SocBizChat. One not to be missed, if you can, as you will be exposed to some of the most innovative first thinkers on this whole topic around Social / Open Business. Take, for instance, the one that was hosted for June 2013, earlier on last week, where the following hot topic was discussed and covered widely: What’s Next for the Social Enterprise?

These Tweet Jams usually have got a bunch of questions proposed by the CMSWire folks themselves around a particular topic that a pool of experts then get to answer and provide their insights on over the course of that 60 minute timeframe. So, for instance, this month, here’s the list of questions that were proposed for the subject mentioned above:

  1. What 3 key elements define the social enterprise?
  2. Is it important to distinguish between internal social practices & external marketing or customer related social or are they one & the same?
  3. What are the key challenges still blocking adoption of social in the enterprise?
  4. What role does IT play in the social enterprise?
  5. Wide vs. Narrow focus — how should social tools be deployed and why?
  6. Do any elements of 20th century business work in the social enterprise and if so, which?
  7. What three words would you ban from the social enterprise conversation?
  8. What is your vision for the future of the social enterprise?

From there onwards, that’s when the good fun starts, because over the course of just a few minutes you will start seeing dozens and dozens of live tweets going by covering those various different questions, along with multiple on-the-side conversations on the overall topic, reaching the state where at some point it’s almost impossible anymore to follow it all up! A real blast I can tell you that!

There used to be a time where, in the past, I made use of TweetChat in order to keep up with the flows of conversations, but since it is not working any longer I recently switched over to the rather nifty and powerful tool called Twubs. And it does make a difference following it all up from the traditional desktop / mobile clients or even the Web interface. So I am sticking around with it for now as perhaps one of the best options out there.

The really cool thing about these Tweet Jams though is not really the quality of the superb interactions that happen throughout such a short timeframe of 60 minutes, which would surely keep blowing away your mind time and time again. But it’s actually having folks, taking the time afterwards, curating the outcome of the Tweet Jam, sharing their favourite insights learned or discussed making up for a wonderful aftertaste of the event that can go on and on and on.

Usually, folks make use of CoveritLive or rather Storify (Like my fellow colleague Colleen Burns) as the potential options that there may well be out there to curate those tweets further along and share along the Storify links. One of my favourites, from last week’s event, was the one put together by my good friend, Greg Lloyd, who did an absolutely phenomenal piece of work capturing the vast majority of those golden nuggets into this Storify that I can certainly recommend folks out there to sit back, relax, grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever your favourite beverage, and read through it to savour Greg’s brilliant curating skills. It will definitely be worth your time, I can guarantee you that!

As you go through the curated tweets, you would notice how I, too, was one of the panelists participating in the event as well sharing my insights on What’s Next for the Social Enterprise and I thought that, to close off this blog post, I would go ahead and grab those tweets that I initially shared trying to answer each and everyone of the questions that were put together and that I referenced above as well. I know sharing those tweets over here would act a little bit like teasers, but I am sure they would give you an opportunity to decide if you would want to tune in for next month’s CMSWire Tweet Jam, which I can certainly recommend you attend AND participate virtually in an effort to keep improving the overall user experience for all of us by participating in it getting exposed to plenty more different and varied points of view that would help enrich the event to no end. So, without much further ado, here you have the embedded tweets I shared to answer each and everyone of those questions:

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Open Business and The Power of Habit

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringIf you have been reading this blog for a while you would remember how all along I have been insisting on the fact that for businesses to facilitate and adapt to that Social / Open Transformation technology is nothing more than just an enabler, it’s the icing on the cake, and how the key to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise there is nothing more than just acquiring a new set of behaviours, a new mindset, in short, a new core of good healthy habits to get things going on that journey. It may well be much easier saying it out loud than writing it down, but what is a habit though? Is that something that you inspire in yourself, and / or in others? Is that something that you aim to acquire by osmosis mimicking what other people may be doing already? Is it that inertia that keeps coming up without questioning the status quo of how certain things get done around the workplace? Well, may be not. A habit is, apparently, a reward.

Over the course of the last few months I have become very interested in the whole concept of behavioural dynamics, about how we may be able to influence the behaviours of those around us, and the good old habits they may have accumulated over the course of the years, in order to think differently in terms of how they share their knowledge across and collaborate perhaps much more openly and transparently through social technologies versus whatever other traditional means. And all along it looks like I haven’t been the only one interested in that topic judging by the extensive amount of additional reading materials in terms of blog posts, articles, dissertations, reflections, infographics, and numerous, never ending, Top N Habits posts to perform or do XYZ, you name it. Plenty of extensive reading on the topic of habit formation, too, I can tell you.

I would event bet you all may have your own favourite picks that you may have curated over the course of time in terms of what would be those desired good habits (Even for Community Managers!), or whether they are related to keeping up with healthy habits, or perhaps enjoy the odd pleasure of showing your gratitude. You may even want to break away from your email habits altogether (As my good friend, Oscar Berg brilliantly wrote recently at CMSWire) or from any other bad habit from that matter!

The thing is that habit formation is hard. And yet, it’s of paramount importance, because habits are at the heart of our successes and our failures, apparently. So when thinking about that Social / Open Business Transformation I just couldn’t help thinking whether we have got it figured out how we can inspire those new habits in terms of how people connect, collaborate and share their knowledge across. Whether we can model new behaviours and new habits and, if so, how can we achieve such goal, because something tells me that it’s not going to be an easy one. You know, they keep saying how for a human being to acquire a new habit for a particular action, it needs to be repeated, at least, 31 times. I know, that’s a lot! Well, that’s what would take us to build a new habit into what we do on a regular basis.

Interestingly enough, a couple of months back, I bumped into this superbly done short video clip (Under 3 minutes) from Epipheo that pretty much describes The Power of Habit from Charles Duhigg and which surely makes up for quite an interesting watch altogether. No, I haven’t read the book just yet, in case you are wondering, but I finally managed to buy it for my Kindle for my upcoming, and ever growing, summer reading.

The video though clearly highlights what’s perhaps the main challenge we, social / open business evangelists, keep facing when helping fellow knowledge workers adapt to those new behaviours, those newly built habits, in terms of whether they are going to succeed in the long term or not. Here it is, so you can have a look and see what I mean: 

Apparently, a habit is based on three components: a cue (the trigger), the routine (the behaviour itself) and, finally, the reward. I am sure, at this point in time, you may know exactly where I am heading, right? Well, may not. If you look into how most businesses have been facing the adoption / adaptation to Social Business as their new fabric, their new DNA in terms of how they get work done, you would notice how time and time again we do have the cue, we do have the routine in place as well for that matter (The hundreds, if not thousands, of use cases), but more often than not we seem to lack the reward. And I am not just thinking, perhaps, about tangible rewards, which is, I am certain, what most people would be thinking about out there. I am talking more about the long term reward of that habit, that is, of how we are transforming the way we work, interact, build relationships, while still keeping the focus on the business results.

That, to me, seems to be missing from most of the various different deployments of Enterprise 2.0 to help further along with the overall Social Business strategy; to the point where it is no longer surprising the apparent high % of failed deployments of social networking platforms for business, if your vision and focus are on the behaviour and the mindset (which is where it should be, in the first place), as Gartner recently indicated.

Somehow, it’s probably now a good time then to dive into the world of psychology, behavioural dynamics, and social sciences in general to understand how Social / Open Business has never been about technology, nor the business process themselves, but about the people, their mindset and their behaviours. In short, their day to day work habits they have accumulated over the course of time and the rewards in place to realise that long term vision of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. Somehow, and like I have mentioned above, we seem to have the cue, the routine, but we better get our act together around the reward piece, because otherwise those new habits would not stick around for long, before people would move on to something else. And, once again, we would be going back to square one. Remember Knowledge Management?

We shouldn’t have to go back.

Instead, I do want to have my small piece of chocolate today, and you?

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Open Business – The Narrative vs. The Ruthless Measurement

Prague in the Spring - Old SquareSocial Analytics. Don’t you just love it? Oh, metrics, what would we do without you in the business world, right? They are the main reason, apparently, of our mere existence in a corporate environment. And, lately, attempting to measure the Return On Investment of Social / Open Business has been grabbing most of attention in the last 3 to 5 years, but perhaps for all of the wrong reasons altogether, since time and time again we just seem to keep focusing on “measuring what’s easy as opposed to what’s important.

Just like with technology, we seem to have developed, over the course of the last few decades, a fetish for trying to measure everything, and I mean everything, that happens around us, specially, in a business context, because, apparently, that’s the main only criteria we are using in order to improve the thing we are measuring in the first place. And it’s been rather interesting to see how over the course of that time, and more vehemently as of late, we seem to have dropped the whole topic altogether on measuring the ROI of social technologies, which is quite intriguing on its own, since it seems to confirm it’s been pretty much useless all along, since it is no longer possible to revert back on our Adaptation to Open Business practices. They are here to stay and it’s just a matter of when, not anymore about how, what or why. 

Yes, I know, change is inevitable, after all, and the only thing we can do, eventually, is delay it. That’s probably the main reason as to why very few people are continuing to question the value of social networking for business. It seems like everyone has finally come to terms with the fact that, whether we like it or not, Social / Open is here to stay. But things weren’t always like that in the past. In fact, there have been numerous different articles, insightful blog posts,  inspiring dissertations and what not, that have attempted to come up with a good, smart way of hinting how we may eventually measure the effective use of Social / Open Business. Pretty much like we did with Knowledge Management over 18 years ago and that we still haven’t managed to get it right, after all of that time. Somehow, I keep making the connection that perhaps we have attempted to measure what we shouldn’t have in the first place and instead we should have put our efforts in helping out, plenty more, with that adaptation to Open Business. 

As usual, Seth Godin, in perhaps one of the top blog posts from 2013 (Yes, I know, that’s how good it is), pretty much nailed the whole argument around what has been the current state of affairs in terms of measurements within the business world. To quote: 

As an organization grows and industrializes, it’s tempting to simplify things for the troops. Find a goal, make it a number and measure it until it gets better. In most organizations, the thing you measure is the thing that will improve.

Not much that I can share across after such brilliant reflection, other than perhaps add further up one other key element that seems to describe, pretty well, what may drive that kind of industrialised mentality: inertia. As in why change what has worked in the last few decades, right? Well, wrong. That’s the problem, it hasn’t worked out all right, because more than anything else what’s happened is that we have diverted our attention away from the real thing and just decided to muse on what’s easy, i.e. the low hanging fruit, what we can quantify in an effortless manner iteration after iteration. But Seth states it much more beautifully with this brilliant conclusion that I half referenced above already. To quote again: 

“Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.”

So, what can you do then? What’s important? Well, lately, to me, for a good number of months, it’s been down to two things: Results and Relationships. As you may have noticed, none of those really focus on measuring the use of the digital tools at our disposal, which seems to be what most social analytics efforts focus on at the moment. Somehow I suspect we need to perhaps level up the game and start focusing on what kinds of measures, if any, at all, we would need in order to quantify the effectiveness of not just using social tools, i.e. the low hanging fruit, but the bigger challenge: the modelling of new behaviours. That adaptation to new ways of smarter work I have been mentioning for a little while now and which I think would be much more relevant. 

That’s exactly what I am focusing on at the moment, at work. Not necessarily on measuring the easy bits, in terms of adaptation and enablement, but more on trying to identify how the power of storytelling could help us provide a much more meaningful and empowering method to quantify and measure those results and relationships. How? Through sharing of stories, of insightful anecdotal evidence of how knowledge workers have been capable of transforming the way they work by addressing business problems and fixing them adapting to new social / open gestures while getting their day to day work done in an effective, productive manner.

The fascinating thing about this shift is that over the course of the last few months I have started to notice how business storytelling is starting to make (big) waves into the corporate world in terms of how it’s helping organisations understand what an effective method it is not only to facilitate knowledge transfer or innovation, or to give meaning, or to improve employee engagement, or to progress further, but also to capture such knowledge in a much more noteworthy manner that could help out everyone make sense of it all in much more profound ways through a key element that I am incredibly excited about seeing it emerge time and time again lately: Narrative

Every single business out there needs one. And perhaps if there is anything good that Open Business is facilitating at this stage it’s that huge opportunity to help inspire the creation of that narrative that employees cannot only identify with, but breathe it, as part of their new fabric, their DNA on how they work, eventually, something that I am 100% sure doesn’t just happen with the low hanging fruit metrics. Why? Because we can’t relate to numbers and figures out of context. We can relate though to people sharing their stories, connecting, collaborating, sharing their knowledge openly with one another, to eventually produce better business outcomes by working together smarter, not necessarily harder. 

Networked and hyperconnected. 


Oh, and if you are interested in the whole topic around Narrative, please do allow me to point you to one of the First Thinkers on the topic who, just recently, put together, a series of 3 blog posts that I can certainly recommend everyone to go and spend some time reading, and reflecting further along, on the huge potential impact of narrative in the business world. Neither of those three posts would leave you indifferent, I can tell you that. Here you have them Aspects of Narrative Work: Part I, Part II and Part III by the one and only: Dave Snowden. 

[Thanks ever so much, Dave, for generously sharing them along with us!]

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