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

Knowledge Tools

Create Slides People Will Remember by Nancy Duarte

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las YeguasIf you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would know how one of the various different things that I keep trying to do, but fail miserably, struggling all along, is to embark myself into writing over here relatively shorter blog posts versus the rather lengthy essays that seem to have been more of the norm all along. Don’t take me wrong. Somehow the vast majority of you folks seem to enjoy those lengthy articles quite a bit, since blog traffic tripled throughout 2012 from previous years, but I am starting to think that it wouldn’t hurt to have little snacks every now and then, while we are all on the move, about interesting things that are happening out there, or relevant links worth while sharing across with an annotation or two, or just simply, reflect about a crazy new idea, a new thought, a new interesting initiative that may have caught my attention, etc. with just a few words to then develop it further along as time moves on and things settle down a bit. Well, here’s my zillionth attempt into aiming for shorter blog posts. Will it blend this time around?

I am not sure whether it will stick around, or not, but I guess it’s worth while trying it out, once again, don’t you think?, and see how it goes… Now, I am not thinking about stopping writing lengthier blog entries, at least, not for the time being. I am thinking more along the lines of combining both longer pieces with shorter bites of things that may have caught my attention and that I would want to perhaps develop further along on it at a later time. Or if it has got to do with something related to Productivity and how we can improve, collectively, our overall sense of Effectiveness as knowledge Web workers, by all means, I am going to give it a try and experiment with this new form of combining both shorter and longer articles to help perhaps make the blog a bit more dynamic. That’s maybe the reason why it took me so long to come back to this blog in the first place. The fact that I kept aiming for longer pieces where I needed to reflect perhaps more than I should. So maybe I can prepare now for those crazy busy times ahead of me (As I am entering my last week of vacation) when time will be scarce but ideas plenty and I would need to have a place to air them out, so I don’t forget about them for when things may slow down and I can pick them up again. 

So what a better way of kicking off these shorter blog posts than sharing a link to a rather interesting YouTube video that I bumped into a few weeks back and which I think would be incredibly helpful for those people who, like me, do plenty of public speaking and could do with a few tips on creating slides people will remember. That’s, indeed, the suggestive and rather intriguing topic that Nancy Duarte talked about on this video presentation that I can certainly recommend everyone to go through, since it’s just a bit over 2 minutes long, but pretty packed up with some excellent tips that I thought I would briefly quote over here, as a teaser, to get you all going: 

  1. “Use Slides Selectively
  2. Write the slides after you have prepared the speech
  3. Design slides people can “get” in 3 seconds
  4. Storyboard one concept per slide
  5. Remember that slides are a visual medium”

Here is the direct link to the video, in case you may not be able to play it through the embedded version below: 

I guess if this year we are, finally, at long last!, declaring war to PowerPoint and presentations in general, Nancy just shared across with all of us a nice, smart, succinct, knowledgeable manner of doing it without dying in the attempt, don’t you think? I particularly love item #1 which is why during the course of 2013 I’ll keep aiming to reduce tremendously my dependency on visuals and focus more on the power of the word, of emotion, of passion, essentially, on what drives me to do what I do and what I care about: having a good conversation where I can learn just as much as the audience does, if not more! That’s what presentations are all about. The rest are just master classes.

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Narrate Your Work, Working Out Loud, with Google Plus

Gran Canaria in the WinterAll along, and ever since I started making use of Google Plus, over a year ago, I have been saying time and time again how, to me, it is probably one of the most powerful Social Networking Sites available out there on the Social Web, allowing us all, knowledge Web workers, not only to live social, but also to get work done, never mind the huge amount of deeper conversations one can certainly host over the course of time and that we are starting to see more and more by the day now that a whole bunch of people are starting to realise the huge potential versus other social networking tools. The combination of multiple levels of interaction from a same single user interface is a killer. Public vs. private vs. dedicated interactions – through circles -, offline social networking through text, real-time with IM, videoconferencing with Plus Hangouts, one of my favourite features, without a doubt!, broadcasting events through Hangout On Air, a phenomenal mobile experience with stunning iOS Apps for both iPhone and iPad, etc. etc. are just a few of the capabilities that have made Google Plus escalate to number #2 position for yours truly of social technologies to enjoy nowadays. And I suppose I’m not the only one thinking along those terms.

But I’m now wondering whether we may all have an opportunity to up the game for Google Plus and try to prove what’s really made of. Take it to the next level. Show and demonstrate how it can take productivity and effectiveness into new heights and how it can help you build your online reputation like no other social networking site may have done in the past, perhaps with the well known exception of your own personal business blog, as I have blogged about it in the past. Well, here’s what I am doing to level up Google Plus then for myself…

I have always been fascinated by the whole concept of narrating my work, working out loud and observable work (a.k.a. #owork). I have blogged about them in the past already a few times and it never ceases to amaze me the huge impact each and everyone of them have been having in helping transform the corporate world as we know it, within the larger context of Social Business. Once again, nothing to do really with technology, but more with attitude (One of my favourite key terms when talking about corporate culture as of late. Isn’t it everything about attitude and what we do about it?), with that shifting of gears, of mindsets, of human behaviours, where knowledge workers become more open and transparent about their own workload, strongly believing that by doing that not only are they helping themselves to become more effective and productive by raising their visibility by demonstrating their subject matter expertise, but also helping others excel at what they are good at, along with helping their organisations build a huge amount of information and knowledge flows freely available to everyone, where before they were all trapped in a good number of corporate silos, regardless of the current excuse du jour. 

Well, in that context of narrating your work, working out loud, I keep getting asked by folks outside of the firewall what it is that I do for work eventually inside IBM as a Social Computing Evangelist. And all along I have been trying to do my best in describing what I have been up to and what it is that I try to achieve at the end of the day. However, all along it’s been a bit of a challenge on its own, because in the vast majority of cases despite my eagerness to try to become more transparent and open on what I do to folks outside the firewall, external social technologies still keep presenting a good number of challenges: Twitter with the silly 140 characters limitation, amongst several others; LinkedIn because of the hugely aggressive Terms of Service which still continue to be a complete turn-off for yours truly; Facebook not much anymore since I deleted my account over 2 years ago and haven’t had a need to return back to it just yet (Doubt I ever will, since it’s kept that personal use flavour ever since I left it); Slideshare because of how heavy centric it is on presentation materials and a bit too tough when I no longer do them for public speaking; and a whole bunch of other starting social networking sites that bring forward lots of promise, but that they then end up being acquired by other major players and there goes all of the excitement.Gran Canaria in the Winter 

Till we then bump into Google Plus itself, indeed! And that’s where it clicked for me a little while ago now, because the limitations  from other social networking sites are just not there. Quite the opposite. It’s got that unique opportunity to explore it for a good number of use cases from your day to day work and eventually see which one would stick out the most. I have got to admit that for a good number of weeks I struggled to keep up with it, having long periods of silence or sudden bursts that even me, I thought, were a bit too much over the top. All induced, perhaps, by some of the habits I have built up already over the course of years from several other social networking sites. But once I learned to build a new set of habits for my use of Google Plus things have finally clicked. And all thanks to a one single key concept that we all seem to be taking for granted, perhaps far too often, but that’s is critical to any good social networking behaviour: engagement.

Yes, in Google Plus I no longer get to post as frequent as I perhaps do in Twitter. I’m lucky if I get 1 to 3 to 5 updates per day, depending on the context of what I may be doing. I am now totally fine with that! Just as much when a day, or two, or more! go by and I haven’t shared anything. That’s fine, too! I decided what I want to do is focus on the long term of the interactions, pretty much like with blogging and realise and embrace that some times you would have something to talk about and that in some others it’s much better to sit back, relax, enjoy the conversations flowing by and keep learning. In Google Plus I do care more for the conversations, taking the time to respond to each and everyone of the comments that come through, pretty much like I try to do on my personal business blog. Main reason being that it’s much easier to keep up with than with other social networking sites. I hardly ever share, broadcast any link, unless its content is just so powerful that I feel compelled to engage on a follow-up conversation with various people. I have built up the habit of sharing and commenting on links to other interesting readings, more than anything else as a learning experience for yours truly when interacting with others, build a bunch of food for thought which will then be reflected on upcoming blog posts, like this one. And so forth. 

Essentially, what I decided to do with my Google Plus experience is to tailor it to be half way in between short bursts to connect with people all over the place, to then spark conversations on topics we both / all may care about and feel very passionate about and eventually develop deeper thinking about them that will see the end-result in blog posts. And over the last few weeks that seems to have worked incredibly well, to the point where one of the threads that I have started in there helped me prepare (Thanks ever so much everyone who participated in it!) the flow for one of the most important presentations I may be delivering in my lifetime next week Friday in Zurich. And this is where I feel narrating your work by working out loud with Google Plus would probably be my main use case for G+ from here onwards. 

Gran Canaria in the WinterThat’s right, from now onwards, I plan to continue making use of the following hash tags to share a glimpse, or two, of what it is that I go through at work as a social computing evangelist with the aim of inspiring some more observable work coming along. So, to that extent I will be using #elsuasworkbook #narrateyourwork #workingoutloud #observablework #owork plus whatever other hash tags related to the context of what I will be sharing. One of the other perks and advantages of doing so as well is to be able to capture plenty of the activities I’ll be involved with throughout the year, so when year end comes along I will have a good overview of what I may, or may not!, have accomplished throughout. And since it’s going to be shared out there in the open and transparently, I am hoping it would also benefit other folks as a result of it. 

Thus, if you are just catching up now, and would want to take a peek of what I have been doing over the last couple of months, go ahead and dive into it, see how narrating my work is helping me become more effective and productive at what I do with Google Plus and I do hope as well some of that content shared may be compelling enough for you to drop by and share a comment or two and keep the dialogue going … I will surely be looking forward to it! Pretty much like I have been doing on this blog all along… Yes, I know what you may be thinking about … will Google Plus replace this blog over time, like it’s done for a good number of people out there already? No, I don’t think so. At least, not yet. My blog is still my blog, my voice, my online CV, my business card, my virtual self. Google Plus though is just about to help amplify and augment that voice one notch higher…

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How Mobility Empowers Work as a State of Mind in the Era of Social Business

Gran Canaria - Artenara & Roque NubloIn last Friday’s blog post you would remember how we talked about the huge impact of social business and social technologies in helping us adapt and embrace a new model of work, where in a world that it’s now more virtual and distributed than ever, work itself stops being a physical space alone and instead it evolves into becoming a state of mind. Again, “work happens, indeed, wherever you are, whenever you need, with whatever the tools you have at your disposal, with whoever the connections you may collaborate with in getting the job done“. There is no denying that in order to make that new mantra a reality within the business world there is one other massive component that we should be bringing up into the mix in order to bring forward that flexibility and work life integration that we mentioned earlier on: mobility.

And it’s just too funny that I am mentioning that today, as I’m just about to get started with a new round of business travelling where I am beginning to get the feeling that I will be taking the whole concept of work mobility into a new extreme. Over the next few weeks I will be visiting Brussels (5 hours stuck at the airport, which I think is worth while noting already!), Nice, Amsterdam, Zurich, Brighton, Montpellier, Washington D.C.,Valencia, Amsterdam (Again!), Madrid, and a couple of other cities that I’m still waiting for a final confirmation…

As you can see, pretty close to a European tour with the odd visit to the US, once more for this year. And I’ll be taking with me my iPhone, my iPad and my MacBook Air, as my favourite weapons of mass mobility! Along, of course, with that lovely VPN connection to the IBM network, my company’s Intranet. Nowadays, when I travel, I usually get by with just my iPhone and my iPad, but this time around I’ll be taking the MacBook Air as well, as a couple of those events will involve some heavy computing. I am just hoping, and perhaps a bit of praying, too, that I will be capable of experiencing the future a little bit more this time around, so that I can truly confirm that mobility in the workforce is now more of a reality than a distant future. Keeping fingers crossed…

And while I actually do that, you may want to take a look into this absolutely wonderful blog post by my good friend Oscar Berg under the title “What’s your mobility strategy?“, where he exposes, quite clearly, the state of mobility within the corporate world, or, at least, he gives us plenty of good glimpses of where we are heading already, starting off with a rather brief description of what mobility means for all of us, knowledge (Web) workers, and also what it means for the organisation as business benefits. And making the great point that when looking into bringing mobility into your workforce it’s probably best if you look into it from both a strategic and tactical points of view, highlighting one of my favourite quotes from Peter Drucker that I have taken the liberty of quoting over here as well with an additional explanation from Oscar on what it actually means for him (For me, too!). Isn’t it pretty amazing the huge amount of brilliant quotes we keep bringing up from Mr. Drucker every time we would want to highlight a point on why Social Business makes perfect sense? Well, this would be another one!: 

I personally prefer Peter F Drucker’s simple definition “strategy is doing the right things, tactics is doing things right.” A strategy is a strategy if it answers what you need to do and why to achieve a certain business objective. Tactics are the detailed maneuvers you need to do to realize the strategy. Strategies must come first, then the tactics” [Emphasis mine]

And from there onwards Oscar gets on a roll to continue with this rather brilliant observation of how to make it work, how to get both strategy and tactics working together as one to achieve maximum results. To quote: 

When it comes to how mobile devices can be used to improve business performance, I really see that as tactics. What an organization should have is a mobility strategy. Developing such a strategy should be about making informed decisions about what to mobilize and why in order to achieve business objectives” [Emphasis mine]

Indeed, right on the money! Organisations should work on putting together that mobility strategy and us, the knowledge (Web) workers, will get down to business and make use of the mobility tools at our disposal in order to keep being effective and productive while on the move. If you ask me, the best of both worlds; if you ask me again, I can actually summarise it all with a single keyword: empowerment. Best part of it all? That perhaps with BYOD glowing in full force for the last couple of years there may well be no way back at this stage and we are continuing to witness a rather massive consumerisation of IT in the Enterprise, as my good friend Dion Hinchcliffe has brilliantly pointed out in a couple of highly recommended articles.

At IBM, we are fully immersed on building, shaping up and putting together that mobility strategy, well, the organisation is, for that matter, while a bunch of us have been enjoying the full benefits of going tactics, while on the road, and take the most advantage of using both smartphones or tablets to continue working whenever and wherever we would need to. There have been plenty of news items on this very same topic and how IBM has become incredibly flexible in this regard to the point where there is probably now a much richer environment of devices connected to the IBM network than ever before in its entire history. 

My good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Chris Pepin, has been doing a fantastic job over the course of the last few months putting together a bunch of presentations on this very same topic, describing that fascinating IT transformation that IBM itself has been going through by becoming not only platform agnostic, but also device agnostic for its own employees, pretty much allowing each and everyone of us, with the proper security protocols in place, of course, to be a bit more in control of our very own (mobile) computing environment, which, if anything, I can tell you, it’s been rather liberating over the course of the last 6 years that I have been enjoying such bold move myself of trusting your employees to use your IT in a responsible and trustworthy manner: that is, get work done whenever, wherever, with whomever.

Perhaps my favourite presentation that Chris put together and that details that revolutionary journey for yours truly, and for several thousands of IBMers as well!, is that one of Deploying Apple in the Enterprise, which is a case study of how fellow IBMers have been using Apple products, whether Macs, iPhones or iPads, for work related tasks without hardly any official support, but more than anything else relying on what has always worked the best: peer to peer support networks.

But I can imagine that for today’s blog post folks would be much more interested in this other dissertation that he did at IBM’s Pulse 2012 conference event, under the suggestive title “The New Workplace: Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility“, which would help address a good number of different concerns people out there may well be having about their own mobility strategies.

Nonethless, though, if we are about to look into not just strategy, but also tactics, folks out there may well enjoy this other presentation put together as well by Chris himself, which just basically details what you might need to kick things off: Becoming a mobile enterprise – Step by step

 

There used to be a time when plenty of people kept telling me that I was very lucky for working at IBM, since technology was always a given and we always had the opportunity to work with the best IT at our reach. I kept telling them that perhaps 10 years ago that may well have been the case, specially, when social technologies were still in the making, and we were lucky, indeed, to enjoy that luxury of just being on the Internet. Fast forward 10 to 15 years later, 2012, and I’m more and more convinced that with over 50% of our total employee workforce being purely mobile, we are no longer talking about a luxury, or consider ourselves lucky, or just value that tremendous flexibility that empowers us to be more in control of our very own workflows. I’m starting to think that we probably don’t have much of a choice anymore. Mobility is here to stay. It’s changing the way we work, connect, collaborate, share our knowledge, be in the know, innovate together, you name it. And if there is anything clear out there from today’s mobility landscape is that we are at long last breaking loose from that technology fetishism of being attached to a computer or a laptop and instead we are, finally, grabbing the tools in our hands, just like in the good old times, thousands of years ago!, to do what we know best: collaborate, share our knowledge, get work done together. Whenever. Wherever. With whomever.

A warm welcome to the mobile digital nomads! We salute you!

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Social Business Accelerates Work as a State of Mind

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & Roque Bentayga from ArtenaraA few days back Scott Edinger put together a very insightful article on the topic of whether remote knowledge workers are more engaged, or not, than people working at the traditional office. The interesting thing though is how the whole concept of teleworking has been all along with us for several decades now, specially, since the emergence of groupware, collaboration and knowledge sharing solutions came about. And it looks like with the opportunity of embracing social networking tools for business that we are enjoying nowadays, there is a new rush in trying to figure out whether social technologies can finally free up knowledge workers from the yoke of the traditional office, resulting, if anything, on what I feel has been one of the main mantras behind both Social Business and the future of work meme: work is no longer a physical space, but a state of mind.

Work happens, indeed, wherever you are, whenever you need, with whatever the tools you have at your disposal, with whoever the connections you may collaborate with in getting the job done. Never before have we been capable of realising that dream of the fully empowered knowledge worker to work virtually in a more than ever distributed world than thanks to the emergence of all of these social networking tools. To the point where, finally, we are starting to see how it’s helping employees become more engaged, more participative, more collaborative, taking on a fair bit of co-ownership and responsibility for their work to levels we haven’t seen in the past just yet. And it makes perfect sense, specially, if you take into consideration how initiatives like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) have taken the corporate world by storm. However, there may well be perhaps a couple of other additional reasons altogether than those Scott has talked about on that article itself that should probably be added into the mix. 

But before we go into that and explore it a bit more in detail, and perhaps as good background for this topic of discussion, on teleworking, that is, we should not forget about the huge amount of literature, in the form of blog posts , articles, studies, research, infographics, white papers, etc. etc. that we have seen over the course of the last few months talking about the various different benefits, the perks, the advantages, the good practices and lessons learned of working remotely thanks to the extensive use of social networking tools. It’s definitely noteworthy to state how it’s perhaps, finally, moving forward in the right direction, raising the right questions: does remote working help you improve your productivity and effectiveness at what you already do? The answer seems to be on the positive side of things. Yes! And I would wholeheartedly have to agree with that assertion, at least, based on my own experience as a remote knowledge (Web) worker from over the last 10 years and counting…

We have seen as well though a few folks talking about some of the various disadvantages; nonetheless, if there is anything clear out of the whole discussion taking place is that working remotely, while remaining productive and effective enough at what you do, still raises questions, concerns and whatever other issues that have certainly kept challenging the relevance of the traditional office as well as the potential place for the virtual workplace of the future we are moving forward to. This time around, nothing to do with technology, apparently, as it’s just an enabler, as usual, but more from the perspective of culture and how in a good number of different environments teleworking not only doesn’t it get promoted nor encouraged, but eventually it gets turned off, to the point of not tolerating it, because both knowledge workers and managers have got that presumption that if you can’t see, or can’t be seen, you can’t be productive, you can’t measure the results. You see? Apparently, we are still very much inclined to measure our productivity by our sheer presence at the office rather than the results and deliverables you produce, in whatever the timeframe, wherever you may well be.

Well, that presumption may well have its days numbered, thanks to the emergence of these social networking tools, because if there is anything out there that they are very good at is at helping generate enough visibility, openness and transparency to continue working out loud, narrating your work. In short, becoming comfortable with observable work (a.k.a. #owork) by which we are seeing a fundamental shift from measuring individual performance by your mere presence at the office cubicle to measuring network / community / team performance based on the results you get to produce in a collaborative and open manner. And this is, indeed, when work is no longer considered a physical place, i.e. the traditional office, but more that state of mind: work happens around you and your networks (physical or virtual) who collaboratively share your knowledge to achieve a common goal. That is, getting the job done. 

However, with all of that said, I still think Scott missed a couple of interesting insights that I have seen over the last few years in that transition towards adopting and embracing teleworking. The vast majority of knowledge workers who are still skeptic about it are mainly so, because they haven’t experienced it themselves. They keep saying that they wouldn’t be able to do it;  that they need to be in contact with other people face to face, that they lack the discipline to stick to work related stuff, they would instead do the shopping, or the laundry or just keep the kids buzzing around. They just can’t possibly see themselves working remotely, never mind their managers, specially, those who are still living that illusion of command and control or those other managers who thrive on micro-managing their employees. Yet, they keep feeling that way, because, in reality, they haven’t tried it out themselves for a good number of weeks, months. Versus just perhaps a couple of days. 

Yes, indeed, you would need plenty of discipline, motivation, encouragement and commitment to make it work. There is no denying that. It’s not easy. Just like commuting to the physical office, one has got to set one’s mind up towards understanding that work is work and the rest is … life. And this is exactly what I think Scott is missing from his article. Two of the main key motivators for which remote workers excel at engagement, participation and collaboration with their fellow colleagues, customers and business partners: flexibility and work / life integration. 

Flexibility from the prospective that the traditional 9-5 work schedule is a thing of the past. Long gone are the traditional 8-ish working hours per day (Although we know that every knowledge worker works, sadly, more than 8 hours per day, contrary to what studies have shown as the perfect work week schedule) and instead knowledge workers, through the use of these social networking tools have become more flexible, understanding that depending on the kind of work at hand there would be times when they would be chipping in 14, 15 or 16 hours of work, but then there would be other times when things may be slowing down a bit, and they may just work 2 to 3 hours. And it would be totally fine, because thanks to that flexibility they just focus on the task at hand, versus having to keep working even if the task is completed already. That flexibility is a huge motivator and incentive for remote knowledge workers, because right there they are starting to grasp the notion of how they are in much better control of their workflows, according to their needs & wants and those of their networks. Eventually, working together to finish the job even faster and with perhaps much more quality, thanks to that network effort. 

With regards to Work Life Integration, there is very little that I can add, since I have blogged about it recently as well. But I can certainly add one other key aspect related to such integration. Notice how I am no longer talking about work life balance, since I think it’s a myth. It’s always been a myth. It’s never worked. Despite corporations trying really hard for knowledge workers to embrace such balance, in almost all cases there isn’t such a thing: work always wins. Regardless. However, with integration it is different, very different. Because what you introduce into the equation is a new key concept that’s finally making its way into the business world: choice

In particular, your choice to become a remote worker. In the vast majority of cases, it’s the knowledge workers themselves the ones who request from their managers and their day to day work to become remote workers. They are the ones who have got that initial urge to become remote employees. Some times it doesn’t get granted easily, depending on the nature of your job, whether you have got direct customer exposure, or not, whether your team is all collocated, etc. etc. Whatever the reason. But the vast majority of times it is granted. That’s when flexibility kicks in. That’s when the motivation is huge! That’s when micro-managers become servant leaders helping facilitate interactions and connections, even remotely, in order to facilitate more openness, transparency, trustworthier exchanges, etc. etc. to get work done even more effectively.

And it just works! Why? For something that most people don’t seem to realise just yet. And that’s the fact that those remote knowledge workers are the very first ones who are truly interested in being allowed to continue working remotely in the first place. So they are the first interested party in keeping up that status. For their own good, never mind that one of their teams, networks or communities. They are the first ones who will work really hard on it, because they realise that thanks to that very same flexibility and work life integration they are much more effective and engaged employees than as if they would be working from the physical office.

That’s why whenever someone asks me how I can keep up working throughout my work week from Gran Canaria, you know, paradise island, they are still surprised they can reach me any which way thanks to those various different social networking tools, instead of, say, just being on the beach. Yes, I know, I could well do that, but then again, for how long? How long would you think I would be allowed to keep such status if I weren’t the first interested party in remaining a fully empowered, networked, engaged, motivated knowledge worker?

Even more, do you think I would be allowed to work remotely, where I live, by just making use of corporate email, instead of Living “A World Without eMail“, by making an even heavier use of social networking tools? I probably wouldn’t. And understandably given that lack of openness, visibility and transparency that email provides. That, on its own, is the main reason why I keep walking the talk on becoming an engaged remote knowledge (Web) worker, because thanks to that very same flexibility and work life integration I get to enjoy, every so often, things in life like this … 

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes' Sunset

And that’s not too bad for a professional, remote, networked knowledge worker, don’t you think?

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Twitter Is Where Conversations Go To Die

IMG_1970Back in 2003, Bill French coined the now rather popular quote “eMail is where knowledge goes to die” that’s been making the rounds all along and which over 4 years ago I decided to adopt myself (Or kindly steal, errr, I mean, reuse, if you would want to call it that way), as part of that new mantra of mine on Living “A World Without eMail“. Well, nearly 10 years later, and only 6 after its birth, I think I’m now ready to declare something that I never thought I would be claiming, at least, not this soon, but I am afraid we have reached that point: Twitter is where conversations go to die. Sadly. 

It took email over 30 odd years to reach that status where more and more people started to question its long-standing status quo within the corporate world and it looks like Twitter has accelerated that same perception to just a few years within the Social Web, without even entering the corporate world altogether!, but, based on what I have been seeing over the last few months I’m starting to think that we maybe well be a bit too late into the game and we may not be able to get back out it. Twitter has now become, once again, another messaging board system, like a good bunch of them out there of the once so-called social networking sites. Not anymore. And here is why… 

I have been using Twitter for over 5 years now (I think I can track it back to around March 2007 when I created my main Twitter ID @elsua) and all in all I have been having one of those rather heated love and hate relationships with it, with its ups and downs, with its wonderful experiences, but also with its rather painful ones, with moments of pure brilliance and genius, combined with others that I am afraid I just can’t explain myself. The thing is that, almost right from the beginning, I knew that if I wanted to make Twitter work its magic for me to even become part of My Big Three social networking tools I needed to focus rather heavily on the connections, the relationships, the knowledge sharing activities, the collaborative interactions, the innovative and creative side of those wonderful conversations, the immersive, constant and rampant learning experience one kept engaging with time and time again spending, after all, countless hours just to keep up. WOW, boy, did we have a good blast?!? For sure! And a real one!

I knew that I was not going to focus much on the social networking tool per se, more than anything else, because the experience, all along and throughout those 5 years, has been quite a horrifying one on its own, an appalling attempt to keep grabbing your attention, as if you didn’t have anything else to do!, with a rather poor performance, lacking scalability big time, with silly limitations with its API, capped, or better said, rather crippled searching capabilities, incredibly dull, boring and unappealing front end Web site, with huge amounts of spam making it rather difficult to even enjoy the tool any more and perhaps too many pretensions to try to reach a certain status that has never managed to achieve: indispensable. Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

And this is the time we are now, where the user experience of the Web site, along with both its desktop client TweetDeck, or its iOS client(s), are still horrendous, and rather depressing, but where it looks like Twitter, the beast, the Kraken, has finally awoken from that ideal world we all thought we were living in, that one of being so powerful enough to change the world any which way, that it has, finally,  decided to kill the very main reason as to why it’s reached the success it has at the moment and over the course of the years: its entire unique ecosystem of developers AND end-users as ONE entity. How about that?

I am sure by now you may have been reading the extensive amount of buzz that a recent announcement by Twitter itself has generated out there, on Twitterland, as well as blog posts, articles, news sites, etc. etc. Twitter has decided to start killing itself slowly, but steadily, by dictating a good number of rules of how that ecosystem should behave in order to make full good use of the capabilities available. And failure to do so would mean a cease and desist notice. Yes, it’s going to be a rather slow and painful death, because if there is a well known universal law out there in the Social Web is that if you would want to become a success in an already rather crowded Social Web space you need to count on that magic combo of both end-users AND developers, because if you don’t have such balance you are going to struggle and quite a bit. And Twitter is just about to experience that soon enough for us all to be reminded that social technologies are just that, tools, enablers, and that, as such, they come and go. Well, Twitter has just started its exit interview and it’s going to be rather nasty, as Martin Varsavsky brilliantly highlighted on this one single tweet a couple of days back: 


 

But, regardless of the implications of Twitter’s attempt to control its own environment and ecosystem, so that those who invested in it can be proved there is an opportunity to make big money by bastardising your core beliefs and founding principles, and become, all of a sudden, another publishing / media company on the Web, not even a social networking tool anymore!, there is something more worrying, extremely worrying, actually, that’s going to help accelerate its own demise and big time. And that’s us. Yes, only us. No-one else. We, the end-users, were the ones who made Twitter a smash hit back in the day and we are the ones who are going to help bury it and attend its funeral in very short time. 

When was the last time that you had a bl**dy good conversation in Twitter? I mean, a real one. Yes, you know, a conversation of more than, say, 3 to 5 tweets on a single thread with one or more participants? When was the last time you were trying to catch up on a conversation from those wonderful people you decided to start following, because you felt they would manage to rock your world, if you would give them a chance (And, yes!, back in the day they surely did!)? When was the last time you were blown away by a short exchange of exhilarating blurbs of less than 140 characters that left you wowing like you have never seen before? I bet that’s been a while, perhaps far too long ago…

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings in the SpringThe thing is that Twitter was never designed to keep up with conversations, it was never envisioned as an open, public social networking dialogue between passionate advocates for whatever the topic with an inner urge difficult to surpass to connect, collaborate, share your knowledge across or innovate on some really cool initiatives. Yet, we, end-users, with the superb help and support from one of the richest ecosystems of amazingly talented developers managed to tweak Twitter, to hack it around in ways never imagined possible, and build brilliance out of it. Remember @s (Mentions) when they weren’t Mentions, but Replies? Remember hash tags? Remember any of the hundreds, if not thousands of Twitter related Apps that allowed us to tap into those conversations with prime examples like Janetter or Tweetbot as of late? Ahhh, those were the times, indeed! 

And I missed them, and big time! Because over the course of the last few months I have started to notice something that I never thought I would find possible, at least, not this soon. Nobody reads Twitter anymore. Better said, let me rephrase that in another way: nobody reads your tweets anymore! There used to be a time when we did though. When we took care of perhaps not reading the entire timeline to dig out all of those wonderful golden gems that made it totally worth it hanging out in Twitter, but a large chunk of them to make sense of what was happening around us. The good old Ambient Intimacy (coined by Leisa Reichelt, a.k.a. @leisa, back in the day) or Declarative Living (coined by James Governor, a.k.a. @monkchips). Fast forward to 2012 and we are just now far too busy with ourselves with our key, important messages, that we would want to blast out to our networks thinking we know better than them what they need, even if we haven’t asked them first about it!, because we all feel conversations are just that: sharing your messages never mind everyone else’s. Why bother, right? I mean, you don’t have time for that. You need to move on! You are just far too busy with things, right? See? This is what traditional marketing has been doing all along, i.e. finding new channels to keep doing the same good? old stuff without much care in between, and disappointingly enough traditional marketing is winning, because we are being used ourselves (by ourselves!) to behave in exactly the same way!

Twitter is where conversations go to die“. Gosh, it really hurts when I write that down. It hurts even more when I come to think about it, specially, how we are the very same ones misusing, and abusing, even, this unique and wonderful opportunity to reach a global sense of connectedness. Of co-ownership. Of co-shared responsibility for one another, to help each other, to connect, collaborate and innovate together. And, instead, we have just made the switch and started blasting out our messages thinking, and believing!, that Twitter is just another messaging board system where attention is no longer required, because conversations are no longer taking place, so why bother, if I have shared the blurbs I wanted to share and can now move into the next thing. Ever look again into Trending Topics? When was the last time that you didn’t find anything related to watching something on TV, or a movie, or a sports event or a celebrity passing away (According to Twitter, at least!) or, you name it. You do know what I am getting at. In a way, Twitter has gone mainstream, but of the worst kind. Twitter has become industrialised.

Once again, another social networking site biting the dust and become absorbed by that frenzy of becoming the new media. And annoyingly enough we seem to be pretty ok with it, because we are not doing much to revert it, in fact, we keep feeding the beast, and more and more by the day with all of those tweets we all know no-one reads anymore, but, you know, you have to be out there, because if you are not on Twitter you just don’t exist. People need to see you are actively engaging? with those 50 to 60 to 70, or more!, tweets shared across on a daily basis; you need to show people how your whole social networking strategy (Gosh, what a bunch of ugly words!) is based solely on Twitter, because that’s where everyone is, so you need to make the most out of it. Period. You still think it’s the platform that allows you to get the biggest gains with the lowest friction possible. I mean, everyone can tweet 140 characters or less, right? Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Well, no! I refuse to make use of Twitter in that way! I want to fight back!! Please do allow me to fight it! I want the conversations back in Twitter. I miss them. And dearly! One of the reasons why over the course of the last 2 or 3 years I have performed monthly acts of Twitter hygiene by not following far too many folks, but enough to feel comfortable with, is because I read their tweets. Perhaps not 100% of them, depending on the day, and whether daily work, or business travelling, gets in the way, but I can certainly share with you all that I read the vast majority of them and every single chance I have to see the spark of a conversation I go for it! Why not? I want to bring back the user experience of what made Twitter a great social networking tool par to none. 

Yet, folks are just far too busy with their own broadcasting of short messages, their own messaging board system, confirming the conversation is now long dead. Twitter is the new e-Mail, apparently. We are now spending very little time on Twitter, just processing our to-dos, as fast as we can, so that we can then move on to the next thing, whatever that may well be. Well, no! While I can understand, and fully respect, how plenty of people would want to do that, let’s not forget that’s the same road that is going to take us where e-Mail is today. Twitter used to be fun. It used to be that really cool hangout place where we all tried to learn something new every day, where we tried to help each other become better at what we already do: plenty of pretty awesome and mind-blowings things!, where conversations sparked thanks to a golden nugget shared or a brilliant blog post or just something provocative enough to ensure a healthy reaction towards opening an interesting dialogue.

Never mind though how we have automated and industrialized our use of Twitter with silly famous quotes or funny tweets, smart phrases we just don’t know where they are coming from anymore, retweets from our followers telling us all how cool and how great and how knowledgeable we all are (I mean, remember? That’s why I am following you in the first place! No need for you to remind of that 3 to 5 times per day!), or how desperate we all keep begging and soliciting your friendly vote(s) for that upcoming panel for that über-cool conference event so you can hang out with the cool kids while you keep ignoring us after you made it.

Or perhaps how we are now scheduling our tweets in the future, just like we do with our emails and follow-ups, ensuring we are no longer there to respond back to a potential conversation in a timely manner. Or how you have also automated your blog posts and whatever other feeds into your Twitter stream so that folks would know where to head to read your writing of more than 140 characters. See? These are just some examples. Examples that, from my own experience, are killing the conversations in Twitter big time today, right now, right as we speak! I am sure there are plenty more out there and I would love to challenge you to share your favourite misuses of Twitter from your dear following networks in the comments, even just to see whether the conversations have died for you, too, or not… Perhaps I should put together another blog post including them all, along with a good number of other ones that I can think of at the moment by reading diving into my Twitter stream, once again.

Gran Canaria - MelonerasYes, I know that you may be thinking that there is an easy solution out there to fix this problem; i.e. unfollow everyone and start from scratch again. And perhaps that may well be the case, but I have been thinking about it for a while now and I don’t think it would solve the problem, because the people who I am really interested in following are not going to change their habits of how they use Twitter to kill the conversation, just because I have unfollowed them. They simply won’t know. I feel I need to find another way. Perhaps I may need some new friends, as a good friend of mine suggested after a rather interesting and fascinating conversation we had offline just recently on this very same topic, and maybe that’s the reason why I am loving Google Plus at the moment so much, mainly, because it’s providing me with an opportunity to remember, dearly, what Twitter used to be like not long: my favourite social networking tool, capable of allowing me to host some bl**dy good conversations on those topics I am truly passionate about, just like my network(s), without having to worry about that constant, and rampant self-promotion of one’s own marketing messages, so that your customers can keep coming back to buy your product: You!

But the other main reason why Google Plus has now moved into my Top #2 preferred social networking tool, at the moment, is because, apart from being able to enjoy the conversations again on topics that matter to us all on whatever the common interest (For instance, Social Business and the Social Enterprise, along with Knowledge Management, Online Communities, Learning and Collaboration, for yours truly) I get to experience special moments that surely remind you how mind-blowing, über-cool, inspirational, incredibly humbling, truthful and humane technology can be to make this a better world. Our shared, networked and interconnected world: 

 

When was the last time that Twitter made you feel exactly like you are feeling now, after having watched that short video clip with John Butterill? Just think of it, pause for a minute, when was it, exactly?  “Sharing a view… That’s a plus”.  Indeed, it surely is! But I miss Twitter. I miss the conversation. I miss you, my network(s). Here’s hoping you will stick around bringing it all back to what it used to be back in the good old days of what once made Twitter such a huge success: Us. The networks engaging with one another in more meaningful ways than whatever we thought we could, or would. Ever. 

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How Narrating Your Work Helps You Become More Effective by Saving Precious Time

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringA few days back, my good friend, Bertrand Duperrin, put together a rather interesting and intriguing blog post under the suggestive heading “Employees don’t have time to waste narrating their work” where he shared some very thoughtful insights on the potential burdens behind the whole concept of narrate your work, working out loud or observable work (a.k.a. #owork) that have always been highlighted as perhaps some of the major key benefits from using social networking tools for business in a corporate environment. But it looks like, apparently, there are some potential risks along the way: mainly, knowledge workers not wanting to participate (through blogging or microblogging, as primary examples) due to lack of time, since their day to day workflow seems to be interrupted abruptly due to that lack of integration of social technologies into where the real work happens.

Bertrand brings up some really good and excellent points that I can certainly agree with to a great extent, specially, this particular quote: “And don’t forger that separating the tools where problems are from those where solutions can be found is not the best way to improve the performance of your organization“. That’s just such an absolutely spot on assessment of perhaps some of the main issues we are currently seeing on why not enough knowledge workers start making use of social technologies to help them improve their productivity and effectiveness. But if we take a look closer, then we are going to find out that perhaps the tools where problems are, and therefore where knowledge workers get work done, may not be the right tools in the first place. And that’s, on its own, another big issue that needs sorting out. 

Indeed, if you get a bunch of knowledge workers out there and you ask them openly where they spend the vast majority of their “working time” they would tell you that, right now, it would be down to two different spaces: e-mail and meetings. To the point where from a typical 8 hour work day, and we all know those have ceased to exist many years ago, despite current research indicating how beneficial 40 hour work weeks are, a large chunk of that workflow is dedicated to rather processing email or hop around from meeting to meeting (Even virtual ones!) to no end. Or even both!, accounting in most cases for 7 to 9 hours per day, every day, just doing that: processing e-mail and attending meetings. 

The mind-blowing thing is that we all know how pernicious and damaging it can well be to one’s productivity spending too much time just handling your email, recent research quoting how we spend up to one quarter of our day just doing that, making a fine total of 650 hours per year on it. And yet we don’t seem to complain, or would want to complain!, much about it! Talking about the unbeatable status quo of e-mail in the corporate world as just something that everyone takes for granted, including wasting everyone’s time on it. Well, except for “A World Without eMail“, of course, which is one of the reasons why I got things started with it over 4 years ago. Ohhh, and I think it’s probably a good time now that I start working on another massive progress report to show and demonstrate where we are in challenging that status quo of corporate email. Thus stay tuned for plenty more to come along!

The thing is that meetings are not doing much better either! Plenty of people keep stating that meetings are essential, if not, critical, for every business, yet, we keep bumping into a good number of resources, cites, quotes, articles, blog posts, research, etc. etc. that state how ugly meetings are nowadays due to how good they are at killing our very own daily productivity, despite the several good attempts we have seen recently on sharing good practices, hints and tips, techniques, and best know-how of hosting effective meetings. Yet, it hasn’t happened. We keep taking them for granted, yet we do seem to want to do very little to challenge their own status quo, even though in most cases those meetings are now being seen as a useless power struggle, an informal gathering where nothing happens, a bullying tactic to dominate the workplace, a pastime, in short, a complete waste of time. Perhaps, what we need is #lwwm – Life Without Worthless Meetings.

Or maybe not. Maybe what we would need to do is take back our own productivity and effectiveness, as knowledge workers, and stop using those time wasters from our day to day work, so that we can continue getting the job done effectively. Essentially, what we would need to do is to start, if you haven’t done so already!, challenging the status quo of those business pain points that we all seem to know what they are and how they are affecting our productivity, but that we reluctantly won’t do much about it.

Well, now we have the perfect use case for addressing those pain points: using social technologies to keep narrating our work. Basically, social networking tools like blogging, or microblogging, that Bertrand mentioned above as examples, to open up our interactions, to free ourselves from the email and meetings yokes, to become more transparent on what we do, because as he mentioned on that article he put together, the more open and transparent we become in the workplace working out loud the much easier it would be for everyone else to help you when you would need it. This is, exactly, what I have been advocating for myself for a long while, along the lines of this quote: “How can I help you, if I don’t know what you are doing? How can I help you, if I don’t know you, your work, and what you are trying to achieve? Help me please to understand your work, so that I can do my fair bit and help out where I can“. Gran Canaria - San Bartolome de Tirajana in the Spring

The rather interesting thing from making that switch into becoming much more open, public, transparent on how you work is that, contrary to what most people seem to think, it’s everything, but a waste of time. By shifting gears, and changing mindsets into a new set of habits one finally realises that you no longer have to fight the corporation, you no longer have to justify your work (since it is out there readily available to everyone!), you no longer have to keep distrusting your colleagues and bosses since they don’t know what you are doing and you don’t know what they are doing, you no longer have to put up with all of those frictions in meetings trying to make your point across, so that you have something to say. And the list goes on and on and on. Now, by making the shift to social technologies all of that extra baggage on having to justify both yourself and every bit of your work is now gone. Imagine the time savings!

Imagine if all of a sudden you get to save 3 to 4 hours per day of not doing emails but instead using microblogging or activity streams, for instance, where networks and communities continue getting work done without worrying too much about all of that stuff we know we can do without from the traditional hierarchical, overstructured, much process / technology driven corporate world. Imagine if all of a sudden you stop attending meetings you are not supposed to, or reject those other ones where they are asking for your information and contribution when all of that data is readily available out there. Yes, social networking tools for business will take some of your time, but if you look into your current business pain points and how social technologies could help you address those, I bet that you would be saving a whole lot more time by living social than by having to reply to, yet again, another chain of emails or prepare yourself mentally for that meetings galore to happen throughout the whole day. 

Frankly, I prefer to live social, thank you very much. I prefer to receive 15 emails per week, as part of “A Work Without Email” that I have been doing for over 4 years now, and attend about 10 meetings per week on a good week, which is the average I am doing at the moment, as part of that effort of “Life Without Worthless Meetings“. In short, I rather prefer to take back my productivity, having finally succeeded in addressing my business pain points and, instead, get out there, mix and mingle with my networks and my communities, learn from them, share my knowledge with them out in the open, participate in the conversations, become better at what I already do excel at and, eventually, get my work done openly, networked and interconnected, which is what matters at the end of the day, really, but with one key difference: I am now in control of my own productivity through social technologies. Something that I couldn’t have said before when I was relying far too much on both email and meetings.

And you? Still think that social networking tools for business are a waste of time, even if they are not integrated into your day to day workload just yet, pretty much just like email or meetings have been over the years? You may need to think about it again and start questioning whether you could become even more effective and efficient at what you do with your productivity, because I am certain that social networking tools would, indeed, help you save, and reinvest much better all of that precious time to work then on far much more fascinating work. Isn’t that what we would all want to achieve at some point … ? 

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