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

Knowledge Tools

Life Without eMail – 5th Year Progress Report – The Community, The Movement

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere have been a lot of people who, over the course of the last few months, have been asking me whatever happened to that initiative I started a while ago around ditching corporate email (Under the moniker “A World Without eMail“), since things seem to have been a bit quiet over here in this blog for a little while on that very same subject. Did I give up on giving up on corporate email? Did I get tired of it and moved back to email? Was the experiment a total failure? Did I get tired of it and move on to something else? What happened? Well, nothing and a lot! The movement is still alive and kicking. It’s now more popular than ever and it’s still going as strong as ever, if not more! To the point where it’s now evolved into what will be the next stage and my new focus area: Life Without eMail.

A couple of months back I was talking about this with one of my fellow IBM colleagues, and very good friend, Rawn Shah, and while brainstorming on something that I am hoping to be able to share very soon (Which I am sure plenty of folks out there have been waiting for it for a while!), we thought it was time for me to help the movement evolve into something much more exciting: going personal. Indeed, instead of focusing on the whole world, which may have been a bit too ambitious and perhaps over demanding on everyone as in too large to cover, I am switching gears and instead adopt a new mantra towards it: Life Without eMail

Why? Well, mainly because if there is anything that I have learned over the course of time, and, specially, in the last couple of years, is that the world doesn’t use email. People do. So if someone would want to free their life up of the email yoke it’s got to start with people. We are the ones who should, and need!, to break that chain. The (corporate) world is not going to do it. It’s just far too comfortable keeping up the status quo of abuse, political and bullying games just as it is. It’s a matter of divide and conquer. And so far email is winning, at least, according to some folks, although I reserve the right to disagree with those statements, specially, when we start separating email as a content repository from email as an alert / notification system (BACN anyone?). Either way, that’s why I feel it’s probably a good time to move on to the next challenge. To design a new kind of work, a new mindset of work habits that would inspire each and everyone of us to become much more collaborative and keen on sharing our knowledge out there openly through digital tools, whatever those may well be.

So, instead of just focusing on the world itself, it’s time to focus on the people, the knowledge (Web) workers, to help them free themselves up from what may have been stopping their passion to pursue something bigger, much bigger, for themselves. That is why from this year onwards I will be talking about going personal with Life Without eMail

It’s no coincidence either, really. Because those of you folks who may have been following this blog for a while would realise now how, a couple of months ago, we just went through the 5th year anniversary since I first started “Thinking Outside the Inbox“, then how it evolved into “A World Without eMail” and how it all comes back to basics, eventually: that is, live a successful, purposeful, effective and rather productive work life without depending so much on corporate email. Indeed, I can’t believe it either myself that February 15th 2013 marked the 5th year anniversary of an initiative for which a large chunk of people thought I would be fired from my current work within two weeks, thinking I was just plain crazy, and, instead, here I am, 5 years on and having a real blast with it. 

Of course, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way, and there are still plenty of them ahead of us, but, if there is anything that I have learned in the last year, since my last progress report update, and even more so in the last few months, is that this movement is now unstoppable. And that’s why I thought it would be a good time to put together this blog entry where I could reflect on what has happened since the last update I published over here, where we are moving forward and what surprises do I have reserved for you folks, because I do have a couple of them…

But let’s start with the beginning. First, let me assure you that although this article is going to be a bit long (Remember, it’s a yearly update 🙂 hehe), it is not going to be as massive as the last one I put together by the beginning of last year. This time around I am just going to focus on giving you folks an update on what’s happened in the last 12 months, then share some further details on a new experiment I have conducted last year that I am sure you would all enjoy learning some more about it and after all of that we will go through the surprises I have got prepared for you. So, let’s begin… 


A World Without eMail – Year 5 – Progress Report

If you remember, in the last blog entry on the topic I mentioned, for the previous year, how the average of incoming emails I had over the course of the whole year was down to 16 emails per week, which is roughly about 2 emails per day. So, as you can see, I wasn’t capable of killing email per se as most folks have been saying all along, specially, when I am being introduced at a public speaking event. However, if I look into what I used to have before I started this initiative there has been a decrease of up to 98% of the total volume of inbound email, which I guess it’s just not too shabby when thinking about how 5 years ago I received a total amount of 1647 incoming emails and last year only 798. 

No, that’s right. eMail is not dead and it’s far from being dead, despite what some other folks may have been claiming all along. This is something that I have been saying all along myself, too! eMail still has got its place in the corporate world. More specifically in three different contexts or, as I call them, use cases. To name:

  1. Universal Identifier (For whenever you need to sign up for a new service)
  2. Calendaring and Scheduling of events in your agenda (Most of those meetings, appointments seem to come through email still).

  3. 1:1 Confidential, sensitive exchanges (HR, Legal, Financial matters would be prime examples for this use case. Notice how I mention 1:1 and not 1:many confidential emails, by the way, more than anything else, because as soon as you include more than one person it’s no longer confidential. You never know where it will go next and who may leak the information across)

However, beyond those three use cases, there isn’t an excuse anymore to move the vast majority of our interactions into more open social, collaborative, knowledge sharing spaces: digital tools. And this is when it is getting really exciting, because, despite the various different reports that indicate how email use has gone sky high through the roof, here I am to confirm how not only the number of incoming emails for yours truly has remained steady, but it actually decreased for the 5th consecutive year, ending up at barely 15 per week. Yes, barley 15 per week and if it weren’t for a couple of weeks where that traffic experimented a certain peak I would have been on 14 emails received per week! Too funny, as an anecdote, that one of those weeks was the very same one that 5 years ago it also triggered the giving up on corporate email by yours truly! 

Here’s the full report of the entire year, where you can see the maximum number of emails received for one day, and the minimum. And right next to it, you will see as well the comparison with the previous 3 years, so you can have a look into the overall trend from that 4 year period. If you would want to check out the entire progress report into more detail from all of those years go to this link and you will find it there: 

A World Without Email - 2012 Progress Report (Yearly) 

Not too bad, I guess, for an initiative that most people thought it was going to be dead within the first two weeks, don’t you think? 5 years on and a Life Without eMail is now a reality. And it can only get better … 


Social Networking tools *do* make you ever so much more productive

Over the course of the last 5 years one of the main comments I have been getting all along from those folks who may have been exposed to this movement has been along the lines of how as interesting as it has been moving my work interactions from email into social networking tools, it seems as if the only thing I did was swap from one tool for another. Still the same result. Well, not really. Here is why…

You may have seen that particular piece of research that McKinsey did in 2011 where it mentioned some fascinating insights on our corporate work habits confirming how the average time that most knowledge workers spend just processing email is roughly around 650 hours per year. Yes, I know it may not sound too much, but that’s actually nearly 3 months out of the year people spend it processing email. Now, if you add up the month of vacation approx., we end up with nearly 4 months out of the whole year being spent just working through emails, because you do check out your mailbox while you are away on vacation as well, right? 😉

So earlier on last year I decided to do a little experiment where I would try to measure the time I spend on internal social networkings tools to get my work done and see how that would compare to the time spent doing email. If I would have just switched from one tool into another set of digital tools it would show pretty much the same time spent, right? Well, wrong! 

Most of you folks out there know how much of a big fan I am of the pomodoro technique, which I have blogged about a couple of times already. Last year I decided to ruthlessly measure the time I would spend in internal social networking tools in chunks of 25 minute long pomodoros and see how many of those I would accumulate over the course of months. And now that the year has gone by it’s time to share the stunning results. 

Over the course of 2012 I have spent 683 pomodoros of 25 minutes each to not only keep up with what was happening around me through social technologies, but at the same time to get my day to day work done. So that means I have spent 17.075 minutes working my way through these digital tools, that is, 284.5 hours approximately. Eventually, resulting in 35.5 days or, in other words, 5 weeks. Yes!, not even a month and a half!! Who would have thought about that, right? But it gets even better…

Because it also means it could save people even more time to do other more productive tasks. These statistics are just from myself, a power user of social networking tools with no scientific method in place. A social computing evangelist at heart. Someone who lives these digital tools, walking the talk, learning by doing. Perhaps the atypical social networker, because that’s where I have moved all of my work related interactions to a great extent. As an example, in our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the average number of connections / contacts fellow IBMers have is roughly around 40 people, approx. For me, I’m currently coming close to 3,280 folks, so you can imagine how my internal networks do not represent the normal and why I strongly believe that those productivity gains in time saved using social tools could be even bigger for vast majority of knowledge workers out there. Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Spring

Thus what does that all mean? Well, essentially, that next to all of the perks and various benefits I have been sharing around becoming more open, more public, collaborative, flexible, autonomous, transparent,  agile, and more responsible for how I work I can now add up that living social / open has made me more than two times as productive as whatever I was 5 years ago! And believe me, this is something that I really appreciate, because, like for everyone else, work does never decrease, but it is always on the increase, so knowing that I have remained over twice as productive over the course of the years, no matter what, has been a splendid and surprising new finding that has made me realised the whole initiative since I got it started 5 years ago with it has been more than worthwhile.

But what do you think yourself? Would you be able to relate to this new experiment yourself as well? Specially, if you have started already that journey of reducing your dependency on email, is it something you can confirm yourself, having experienced similar results, although perhaps not at the same scale as what I have done and described above myself so far? Do you feel it’s a realistic conclusion altogether? I am not claiming it’s a rather scientific experiment, since it isn’t, but I’m starting to think that it could well prove accurate enough to confirm the ever significant impact of social technologies in the corporate world. 

The one thing that I do know now is that relying more and more on social networking tools for business to carry out my day to day work does make me much more productive and effective than whatever email claimed to be in the past. And that’s a good thing! Finally, the living proof is there! It’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder. All along. It’s all about making it personal and making it work for you, just like I did for myself. And therefore the new moniker kicking in from now onwards…


Life Without eMail – The Community, The Movement

So, “where to next then?”, you may be wondering by now, right? Well, certainly, I am not going to stop here. Like I said, there is no way back anymore, but onwards! The movement is alive and kicking and we are going to take it into the next level with a couple of surprises I have got for you folks for sticking around following this initiative all along and for being so incredibly supportive over the course of time and for sharing along with me this fascinating journey. Hello and welcome to the Life Without eMail community. The Movement.

Last year’s progress report, you would remember, was rather massive, more than anything else, because I decided to summarise one whole year of progress with a substantial amount of interesting and relevant links about the impact of social networking tools on helping us reduce our dependency on email by a large margin. I talked as well about other companies attempting to do the same, as well as sharing plenty of interesting and relevant links on good practices on using social tools, or fine tuning the email experience to get the most out of it. 

Well, this year I am not going to do that. I still have got a bunch of top-notch resources, but instead of sharing them over here in this blog post I decided to eventually gather them all, and over the course of time, share them over at my Scoop.it account  that I am in the process of feeding it, as we speak, and where I will continue to add those links over time, so from here onwards you would be able to keep up to date with all of those relevant links I may bump into that would cover this topic of “Life Without eMail” from other people interested in the topic, or writing / talking about it, as well as including articles I may write myself, interviews I may conduct or public speaking events I may well do, so you could have them all in a single place. Starting already today! 

But the main surprise is another one I have got prepared for you folks. Plenty of people have been asking me over the course of the years whether there would be a central place where those #lawwe and social networking enthusiasts could gather together to share their own experiences, hints and tips, their know-how, lessons learned, and whatever other activities where they (we) could all learn from one another. And time and time again I have been telling folks there wasn’t a specific space. Till today. 

Indeed, along with Prof. Paul Jones, Paul Lancaster and Alan Hamilton, all really good friends and folks who have already embarked on freeing themselves up from the corporate / organisational email yoke as well, we have decided to put together a community space where we could hang out with other folks interested in this movement and help share our very own experiences, know-how, and plenty of practical hints and tips on what it is like having ditched work email for good. The original idea, and due credit, of course, is going to go to Alan Hamilton, who suggested to me some time last year to put together a community space where we could hang out. And while we couldn’t get it sorted out back then, too much going on, as usual, I guess it’s never too late, eh? So thanks ever so much, Alan, for triggering the thought of having an online community for us to get together!

And after much discussion and looking around for some really good solutions that may be available out there, we have all agreed to create this particular community space over in Google Plus Communities. So here’s the link to it: 

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesWe hope you would find the time to come and join us in the community, where all of us, me included, will be sharing plenty of our own experiences, as I mentioned above, on how to reduce our inbox clutter while we keep sharing some additional insights on what’s happening in the space of social networking, Social Business and, of course, Open Business and how they keep disrupting the corporate email driven world as we know it. Still today. Our main purpose is to help out knowledge workers become more open, transparent and collaborative through digital tools vs. just keep dragging along through an excessive and perhaps unnecessary abuse of our email habits. I can surely guarantee you it’s going to be a fun ride! 

So much so, that if you are really willing and committed to give it a try yourself we will be sharing with you some initial tips by which we can guarantee you that within the first 5 weeks, since you start, you would be able to see your incoming email volume getting reduced by over 80% and without hardly any effort, just applying some methodology I have developed over the course of time and which I am sure you would be able to follow with no problem since it isn’t rocket science, really, but just the trigger to break the chain and to, finally, have that rather rewarding and fulfilling sensation of owning your work, perhaps for the first time in a while! 

Will you join us? Remember, 80% reduction of incoming email in just 5 weeks! Here is the link again to the community to get you going and thanks ever so much, once again, for the continued support, for sticking around and for having made these 5 years quite an interesting, inspiring, exciting and rather refreshing time! 

Onwards into a Life Without eMail!

[In my next article on this topic, I will be writing about a rather interesting twist that I have gone through this year so far. A hard reset. A reboot from everything that I have done in the last 5 years… But that would be the story for another post soon enough…]

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Social Business in 2013 – An Opportunity (Open Business)

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloAnd, finally, after “Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge” and “[…] – A Commitment“, here’s the last article of the series, where I will be focusing on “An Opportunity” for Social Business in 2013 (and beyond), more than anything else by touching base on a deeper level on what I covered at both of those blog entries and what I have been experiencing and reflecting upon myself over the course of the last year or two. This piece would also highlight a shift of focus and purpose for yours truly with regards to the overall theme of Social Networking for Business. Yes, indeed, this is the so-called blog entry I have been talking about (Both offline and online) over the last few months about where to next …

And with that I mean, mainly, where will I be moving along with my own efforts as a Social Business evangelist from here onwards as an opportunity to continue to grow, learn, explore, reflect, and share that huge new opportunity Social Business has got ahead, if it would want to succeed in today’s, more complex and uncertain than ever, corporate workplace environment. Indeed, a shift of focus away from that technology fetish, vendors’ speak, Sales, Marketing & Communications, Digital (Technical) Thought Leadership and so forth and diving right into what I have been sensing is the major key towards completing and realising that Social Business transformation we keep aiming at, but fail to deliver fully. Time to step up, level up the game, shift gears and go right to the heart, the core, of how businesses have been run over the last few decades in order for Social Business to thrive: Human Resources. Or, better said, the metamorphosis of Human Resources into Human Relationships.

That’s what is at stake over here. In previous blog entries I have reflected on the fact of how I keep seeing how more and more businesses seem to stagnate in their adoption efforts of becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise after the first or second year of deploying social technologies behind the firewall (Never mind the external side for a minute… More on that one later on…). It’s what some folks have called that lovely honeymoon period where rather Sales, Marketing or Communications have been taking the lead in jumping the shark and deciding to, finally, dive into the world of Social. And, yes, businesses eventually do. Knowledge workers ultimately adopt and embrace as well a much more open, public, trustworthy and transparent manner of collaborating and sharing their knowledge. And the raw benefits have been demonstrated time and time again. Have you noticed how little we see nowadays in writing that awkward, old, now obsolete, conversation about the ROI of Social Media? It’s gone! Nowhere to be seen anymore! Nothing. Zipped. Nada. Why? Well, mainly because everyone has stopped questioning the value add that social technologies can bring up to the day to day business operations and how they can help improve overall business performance. It’s there. It’s now a given. It’s just a matter of figuring out the How, so that you can incorporate it into your overall business processes and corporate culture.

But there is something else. It’s what I call Human Processes. The ones that are driven by humans AND for humans. The ones that are not spoken, perhaps not even written about much anywhere, but that everyone understands they are a key part of the corporate culture to the point that they are the ones that rule how businesses operate. Essentially, Human Resources.

In practical terms, something much more mundane that I suspect is going to become the main, key focus for most businesses over the next few months, if not already: Employee Engagement. But all along with a slight new twist added to it; it’s a two way street that needs to work in both directions: Employees to employer and employer to employees. Right now, it’s a one way only street (Employees to employer), one where employers are saying that employees should even be lucky to have a job, to be loyal to the firm, to have work to do. Well, that may well have been the case over the last 50 years, but we are now past way beyond the threshold to admit it as how businesses should operate in this, more complex, inter/ hyper connected, networked 21st century than ever. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. And that’s where Human Relationships kick in. HR’s own transformation to start facing AND do something about what I feel is their number #1 business problem to solve over the next year or two: reduce the huge % of disengaged employees we have got across the corporate world and for which no-one seems to be doing much. Or, anything at all, really. Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga 

And that’s where Social Business kicks in. That’s where some of the main key mantras behind it need to become a reality for HR to provoke that business transformation we all sense is almost there, but that it keeps escaping us through our fingers. It’s now the right time for HR to step up, level up the game, and get involved in becoming the centre of that social business transformation, specially, with regards to those key human processes. Key themes like openness, transparency, trust, recognition, (digital) reputation, empathy, equity, meritocracy, democracy, authenticity, engagement, participation, constructive criticism, knowledge sharing, collaboration, learning, connectedness need to become part of HR’s new speak. And not only just speak, but do as well, leading by example, learning by doing, diving into the conversations they keep saying that have been watching and monitoring from afar to judge employee’s sentiment, but that time and time again they have neglected to dive into the conversation, because they feel they still rule the corporate world, i.e. the knowledge workforce and therefore they don’t see a need for it. Really? Ever heard of Talent Management or Talent Wars? Ever read about plenty of research done around the huge %s of disengaged employees at work? That’s not what I would call ruling the corporate world. Quite the opposite. Indeed, more like destroying it altogether to no avail. 

I remember when back in the day, nearly 10 years ago, when I first started blogging, both internally and externally (Nearly 8 years ago for the latter), one of the themes I decided to go for as its own category was Social Computing, then Social Networking. From there onwards Enterprise 2.0, followed by the Social Enterprise and, lately, Social Business. That was all part of what I felt was the evolution of social networking in a corporate environment. Well, as of today, and while I move on shifting my focus into that where to next … I have created a couple of new categories. One of them is just a renaming activity from a previous one. The other is an entirely new category that I will be using to post articles on that particular topic from here onwards. It will also mean how, after 6 years, I’m starting to sense it’s time to move on from those fully loaded monikers of Social Enterprise  or Social Business, since, you know, they eventually mean something completely different altogether and it’s probably a good thing to move on anyway.

That’s why Social Enterprise / Social Business from here onwards, for yours truly, are going to be Open Business, following further up the superb piece of work that David Cushman did in setting up the stage of what Open Business is all about during the course of last few months. You may want to go ahead and start readingThe 10 Principles of Open Business“, or “Introducing Open Business“, or perhaps check out the Open Business Council to find out more about it and you will see how for a good number of years this blog has been permeating through plenty of the vision David shared across with that new concept of how businesses should operate. I know it’s not new, for sure, I mean, openness has been there all along, but if you read further into the principles that David shared across about this topic you would see how we still need to do plenty of work about it. And that’s essentially what I am planning on doing from here onwards.

Gran Canaria - Risco BlancoI would love to read your comments on this blog post about what you think Open Business would mean to you and whether you would feel it’d be something that could stick around and help us evolve the conversation around Social Business and look for that specific purpose and focus without getting confused along the way anymore by stealing terms and concepts, because we just couldn’t find anything better at the time. Oh, and in case you may not have noticed it will also mean I’m finally getting rid of that fully loaded concept of Social, which I know it’s kind of a taboo word for plenty of people out there since it has got plenty of various other different connotations than just work, like goofing away, slacking off, or just simply avoid doing work.

I know it’s going to take me a bit of time to adjust and stop using Social or Social Business, so I would ask you to bear with me along the way while I get to adjust accordingly and I get to explore further along what an Open Business is all about. That’s essentially what I am planning on blogging further along from here onwards as well. 

Finally, the new category I will be using on this blog from here onwards is Employee Engagement, more than HR 2.0, HR Transformation and whatever else. It’s going to be that focus area for me where I plan to write down articles, and share some interesting readings I have bumped into over the course of time around Employee Engagement itself, but as a two way street: from employers to employees and from employees to employers. It’s going to be an exciting journey, one where I plan to learn quite a bit on how HR operates and how we can *all* help out provoke that transformation from Human Resources into Human Relationships. I am hoping you folks would be helping me out adding further up into the conversations by sharing your insights, first hand experiences, know-how, skills, ideas and so forth on HR becoming the main driver of Social Business, errr, I mean, Open Business and help us bring forward that huge opportunity Open / Social Business has got ahead of us all over the next couple of years … Oh, and if you feel I’m way off base and heading into the wrong direction, let me know, too! Like I have always said, I do care a whole lot more about the journey than the final destination, so if I’m about to start the wrong kind journey, better to know well in advance, don’t you think?

[This blog post series was inspired as a follow-up from the recent article I published at CMSWire under the heading “Social Business in 2013: A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Commitment” and I am going to hereby take the liberty of quoting the last piece on An Opportunity to see the context of where it all comes from and where I will be heading next … Hope you folks will also join me along the way on this rather anticipated and incredibly exciting journey! 

The opportunity for Social Business in 2013 and beyond is going to start with a challenge. A business problem. Actually, the biggest problem the corporate world has faced in decades, which despite the rampant use of social networking tools, we still haven’t been able to solve accordingly: employee engagement.

Recent research studies from Deloitte have confirmed how over 70 percent of our employee workforce is disengaged or totally disengaged at work. This is while we have witnessed and experienced the rampant adoption of social networking tools behind the firewall.

How can that be that the surge of social technologies has taken the business world by storm, yet seven out of 10 employees are totally disengaged with their day to day work? The answer is rather simple. We have been missing a huge opportunity in the wider adoption of Social Business within the enterprise.

We have seen where social technologies have been rather successful in communications, marketing, sales, learning, retail, consultancy, research, knowledge sharing, collaboration, customer service and so forth. Yet there is one group that has not been affected by this rampant adoption of social networking tools for business, and which could very well be the main reason why knowledge workers are not engaged at work.

Without this group being involved, we are not really provoking the (social) business transformation we would have wanted or hoped for. I am talking about HR and their new transformation from being Human Resources to becoming Human Relationships.

That’s the huge opportunity for Social Business in 2013 and beyond. Help address employee disengagement across the board by having HR drive, right at the center, the transformation of how business gets done through Social.

There are plenty of implications here, but one that’s going to become key is the one around Talent Management, especially, when your employees are disengaged, finding that new opportunity to be rewarded, recognized and motivated and more, thanks to the meaningful, purposeful, engaging work they may have eventually landed in.

This is the chance for HR to demonstrate that Social Business has never been about having the coolest tools, or the most impressive working business processes. This is going to be the final opportunity for HR to be back at the forefront of facilitating something we have been missing for decades: employees owning their work, taking more responsibility, making the right decisions, earning their merits and (digital) reputation, to eventually become recognised for what they do best — their job(s).“]

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Social Business in 2013 – A Commitment

La Palma - Roque Los Muchachos (Observatorio)Before we move further on in trying to address the final conclusions I shared on a recent blog post under the heading Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge, I thought I would go ahead commenting further first on that third piece from that recent CMSWire article that I published earlier on, where I talked about perhaps one of the most important, key concepts for Social Business to thrive in 2013 and beyond: A Commitment. More than anything else, because over the course of the last few months, perhaps couple of years, I have seen very little of it, as I have blogged about a couple of times in articles like Why Social Business Keeps Failing to Deliver or Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou? and somehow it’s starting to bring back memories of the same trip that Knowledge Management went through back in the day. About 15 to 18 years ago. Yes, the buzz is there, the hype, too! The selling and marketing of it, but when you are talking about making a commitment, that is, raising the stakes to provoke that profound business transformation we all know it’s fully capable of (about how to make it work), it’s nowhere to be seen. And that’s worrying. Very worrying.

Perhaps we could go ahead and illustrate it with a cartoon from Tom Fishburne (Please do go ahead and read his blog post on the topic, too! It will be worth while a read!) that I am sure you would all agree with me that it would make the point incredibly well. If not, judge for yourselves on what I mean with that keyword of Commitment (With a capital C) and the lack of it in today’s current Social Business landscape:

Just brilliant, don’t you think? I can imagine that at this point in time plenty of you folks out there would be musing about the fact that you may know plenty of firms who would fall under any of those various different strategies except perhaps for the “All too rare” that Tom mentions and that I feel is why we need to raise the stakes on not only what Social Business could do, but what it would eventually need to do! And not just with that flavour of a focus on delighting customers, but with employees and knowledge workers alike! Think about it. When was the last time that you helped your fellow colleague(s) to be more awesome, become smarter than you are at what you do… without asking anything in return? See what I mean?

There are big key words in here at play in this so-called social business transformation that very few people, specially, vendors, have put into practice and perhaps that’s something that we can help them understand when talking about commitment. Concepts like empathy, equity, meritocracy, transparency, openness, authenticity, trust, engagement, participation, constructive feedback / criticism and so forth are still very much missing from vast majority of Social Business vendors out there. And I suspect that customers, whether internal or external, are just about to become really fed up with all of that NOT walking the talk from all of those social business vendors that in most cases are showing how full they are of themselves in any which way and nothing else. Very little substance coming along due to that lack of establishing some serious commitment behind their words on helping their own customers be more awesome

In that CMSWire article I got published by the end of last year I described it in these terms. To quote: 

“And finally, here we are with the commitment. In the quest for most brands to become more open, trustworthy, honest, transparent, interconnected, smarter and authentic, in other words, more engaging with their own customers AND employees, provide better quality service, better products, better customer service, and so forth, in 2013 we are going to see how vendors (and not just for Social Businesses, but everyone who may well be in Sales) are going to make that giant leap of faith and start walking the talk more often.

In the world of Social, 2013 is going to accelerate the transformation of vendors talking one thing and doing a completely different other. It’s no longer going to work that way. Rather the opposite. Businesses, mainly through learning by doing, will be called upon by their customers and especially their very own employees, on the main reasons why they are not walking the talk. Why they are not provoking their own business transformation through social networking when they may well be big advocates themselves of the change?

We are going to witness how trust is going to become more critical than ever, not from the perspective of how you can gain my / our / their trust, but more how you can keep it alive and kicking every single day of the year by starting to put your actions behind your words. Because if you don’t manage to make that happen in an effective and engaging manner, I suspect both customers AND employees will move on.

Brands and businesses will be striving for authenticity, for uniqueness, for what makes them special, [essential] against everyone else. Customers and employees will be striving to belong to those brands and businesses whose commitment is one of wanting to transform themselves into the next generation of how we get work done in the 21st century: sustainable growth.”

That’s the Commitment (with the Capital C) that we are about to see unfold and unleash, both inside and outside of the firewall for most businesses out there. Of particular interest, I would think, would be the bold text highlighting the emphasis on walking the talk, on learning by doing, because we are starting to see, if not already, how businesses who bought into the idea of becoming a Social Business by purchasing some [Perhaps (too) expensive] social software a year or two ago are starting to wonder about what next, because, amongst several other things, it’s just not working! Remember how 70% of the corporate world knowledge workforce is totally disengaged? Or how 7 out of 10 Enterprise 2.0 deployments will fail, according to some piece of research that was conducted last year? Knowledge Management anyone? This is, indeed, when those social business vendors would need to stand out AND deliver. Put their actions behind their words. The smooth talk is way over by now! Not just for their customers, but also for their own employees. Only then will we be capable of talking about Socially Integrated Enterprises thriving to help you become *even* more awesome.

The rest is just a waste of time. And we all know life is just too short to keep wasting along those precious moments, so I would suggest keep pushing not just for your / our customers, but, essentially for *all* of us. We cannot longer afford statements like Social Business / Enterprise 2.0 has been here for over 6 years and we still have yet to witness that true, rather profound, social transformation of today’s corporate world to become tomorrow’s social workplace.

Our workplace. 

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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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