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

Learning

#Movistar – Who Owns Your Customers’ Problems?

Movistar's ADSL Connection Speed TestAnd after 69 rather long, frustrating and somewhat infuriating days of a much anticipated wait … HABEMUS INTERNET! Yes!! You are reading it right. After nearly 2.5 months of waiting for Movistar to, finally, get their act together, I am now, at long last, properly online through my regular landline and its corresponding ADSL connection. I know this may sound a bit silly and everything, but, boy, I am just such a happy camper. Excited, even, to no end like a young kid in a candy store for the first time not knowing exactly where to start just yet, as I get to witness how 2015 can now begin for yours truly with today as my first official day back at work.

Relief. Much relief.

That was my initial feeling last Friday afternoon, when the local technician came along to patch things together one final time before I was back in business. And what a journey it has been all along! I am not too sure I will be very willing to go through it again at some point in time, specially, since it has been everything but pleasant. Everything but delightful. Nonetheless, if there is anything that this whole experience has taught me over the course of weeks is to embrace the opportunity of highlighting how key and fundamental for an overall excelling client experience would be the whole notion of ownership. Allow me to explain …

Once upon a time, on November 7th 2014, to be more precise, I moved out to a new place, right in the city centre of Playa del Inglés, (Gran Canaria) 3rd largest city in the Canary Islands during high season, thinking that I’d be much better connected to the Internet in order to be able to carry on with my knowledge Web work. Wishful thinking, I suppose. I mean, how naïve can someone be to expect that if you go to a much larger city you are bound to assume to have better, faster, cheaper Internet connection. No, not going to happen. Not likely if the ISP is Movistar.

During the course of the following 67 days (Yes! 67 days!) a lot of things happened in the mean time that, if anything, only helped increase my frustration and rage to levels I have never experienced over the course of the last 18 years I have been online and in multiple cities and countries, as I witness how every day that I was not online I kept losing an opportunity to generate some more revenue, resulting, in the long run, to having lost three (potential) clients along the way. If you have been reading this blog for a little while now you may have read already the couple of blog posts I have put together on the topic. This entry is the follow-up one to them all as on the 67th day something happened.

I got to talk to a human. For the first time. And it was weird, because he wasn’t even a Movistar employee but a sub-contractor from Montelnor who was basically just as surprised as I was for being the first person I talked to face to face and who pretty much showed up where I live as his boss told him they were running out of time on the complaint I apparently raised (I don’t recall having made such claim in the first place, so probably someone did it for me, after nothing happening for 67 days in a row, who knows…) and therefore they needed to act. And pronto! I was in trouble. Big trouble as he kept explaining how the place where I now live was not wired at all and the telephone box was a complete mess. And it certainly was! I saw it and too bad I didn’t think of taking a picture to see the messy situation of how this particular telco looks into the whole concept around maintenance of infrastructure. Or the lack of, better said. What a real mess!

According to this technician’s words I was in trouble, because the place where I now live was not wired and that was beyond his control. Nothing he could do or influence to make the necessary adjustments. The local technical service from the complex where I live needed to patch me up instead, apparently, according to his colourful commentary.

Meet Frank. Although not his real name, he is the guy from the technical service. A quick short visit, an explanation of the problem I have, a fast and rather thorough look here and there at where the problem was and off he goes! Bang! On to solving the problem.

Next morning, while I was working at a friend’s home stealing, once again, their wifi, so I could meet up a couple of clients I will be visiting this week in Madrid, he shows up with one other technician from the same subcontractor company and before I could blink on my way back home the whole house is fully wired and ready to go! Whoahhh! What a difference owning your customer’s problem makes!

The next day, the subcontractor technician who was there the day before worked out the final piece of magic and after a couple of hours fiddling here and there the landline gets installed, and I FINALLY have got an Internet connection. And the nightmare is, at long last, over! 69 long days are now a thing of the past! Yay!! No, wait, DOUBLE yay!!

Needless to say that Frank did a superb piece of job (and got a lovely tip as a result of that!) in showing and demonstrating first hand to both the Movistar and Montelnor (the subcontractor company) technicians and customer service / support teams one of the fundamental traits of delivering a delightful client experience, regardless of whom the client may well be: no matter what, as the service provider, you always own your customer’s problem. No exceptions.

And that is essentially where both Movistar and Montelnor failed big time to deliver. They never even attempted a single time to own my problem (i.e. the transfer of a landline and ADSL from my old home to my new one, never mind the additional services contracted and already paid for, like Fusión, which I am still waiting for it to be completed, by the way!). Yes, I know, I am one of the 22 million customers Movistar has, but it is of no excuse really to make a single customer wait for nearly 2.5 months before having their needs or business problem(s) solved. And that’s what total ownership of your customer’s problems is all about: becoming responsible and accountable for your client’s needs and wants, something that Frank understood really well right from the beginning and who within the course of a single day got everything sorted out. Flawlessly and in a heartbeat and always keeping me in the loop of what was happening so I would know the due progress just as it happened.

Why can’t companies that claim to be customer centric get this? Why can’t companies that keep claiming they work really hard on providing excelling client experiences, but fail to deliver, become more accountable and responsible for putting actions behind the (useless) marketing words they utter all over the place time and time again? Plenty of people out there keep saying how we are entering the age of the most personalised, individualised and customised client experiences than ever before, yet it’s got to be Frank, who has been working as technical service for over 35 years, the one who keeps demonstrating on a day to day basis what owning your customer’s problems is all about becoming more customer centric, more accountable and responsible for your work and eventually more human.

Why can’t companies become more like Frank? Why can’t companies become more human by showing more empathy and engagement when dealing with their customer’s problems? Why can’t Movistar be one of them?

Movistar, are you really listening? I hope you are, because otherwise I think you may have just lost another customer …

 


 

PS. Oh yes, the picture I have shared above, as part of this blog entry, is the actual speed test I did right after I got connected the Web through ADSL and, I know what you may be thinking… gosh, it’s awfully slow for today’s standards, I suppose! Well, yes, it certainly is! But I guess it’s better to have such speeds than having no Internet at all, like I have just gone through for nearly 2.5 months! But it gets better, because once again Movistar failed short on the expectations raised, because when I first moved to this new place I was advised I would be enjoying speeds of up to 10 Mbps download (Not lightning fast either, but a minor improvement!) and instead this is the current speed I’m getting and it won’t go any way further up at this point time at all. So I better get used to it, I was told. The alternative would be rather ugly.

Fibre. What about fibre?, you may say, right? Well, according to this very same technician from Montelnor I can just simply forget about it, because by the time it arrives right where I live, right in the city centre, I will probably be bored by then… Talking here of waiting times for over a year or much longer, IF we are lucky! Arrrggghhh

We will just have to wait and see…  I guess, in the mean time, I can get to enjoy the current speeds from my 3G / 4G mobile phone:

Movistar 3G Speed Test

I suppose this is the current rather appalling and extremely poor state of things of a telco / ISP infrastructure like Movistar’s, where the local 3G / 4G speeds of your mobile device are FOUR times faster than the regular fast ADSL line back at your home place. As Benjamin Zandler would probably say, “How fascinating!

Not!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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#Movistar – The Cost of Lying to Your Customers

No Internet ConnectionToday is, officially, my first day at work for 2015 after the Christmas holidays. I am writing officially on purpose, because after 61 days I am still waiting for Movistar (That Queen Between that always wants to get paid, but fails to deliver on customer service big time!) to come by my new place and install both the landline and the ADSL connection, so I can resume my knowledge Web work I have been forced to put into a halt for over 2 months now. Latest news I have from the fire extinguishing community management team at Movister_es on Twitter is that they will finally make an appearance (or so I am hoping!) on January 16th. Yet no-one from the technical team has contacted me to confirm that appointment. Instead, they seem to have mastered the skill of lying to this customer left and right throughout all of that time to the point where, at long last, it will have a price to pay: my loyalty.

Or, perhaps, even worse, my trust. After all, how can I ever possibly trust my local telco / ISP again for helping me carry on with my job as an independent freelancer (autónomo, in Spain), working remotely from his home office, when they have locked me down for all of this time without a single apology or concern about the huge impact they have incurred upon this family where I am the solely source of income at the moment. And, instead, they take the route of lying day in day out as it is their business as usual modus operandi. It’s always been.

From 5 to 20 days to get it all sorted out, initially, to another 5 to 20 days to finally get it done and dealt with, to December 29th, to now January 16th (Perhaps?), all along I have been told they would make it all happen relatively fast. Yet, 61 days later I am still waiting… But that’s not the worst bit of it all, because earlier by mid-November last year I got a phone call (One of the many pointless interactions I have had so far!) from a rather helpful and supportive lady telling me they have acknowledged the request to transfer the phone / ADSL line and that it will be taking place by mid-January.

Yes, MID-JANUARY 2015!! So why bother with all the lying to this loyal, faithful 11 year long customer over the course of weeks through regular Twitter Mentions & DMs, phone calls, SMS messages and what not if right along from the start *you* knew exactly when it will all be addressed and fixed and since it was going to take over 2.5 months of rage, angst, impatience and unsettling unhappiness all around for yours truly I guess it was better to lie to this customer in order to tame the frustration. Bollocks! 

Let me tell you something, my dear Movistar, if you keep claiming you happen to be a people to people business, i.e. a successful Social Business, one who cares about their clients and their needs, about your own employees and their well being, one who aims at changing the landscape of B2C (if there ever was such a thing like that!), one who simply cares, there is one little thing you may want to add to your vocabulary from now onwards: never lie to your customers. Be willing to engage in a two-way, meaningful, open, transparent conversation where you are willing to acknowledge the shortcomings of your already appalling customer service, so that you might be able to spark that sentiment of empathy you now have long lost from yours truly, because you just weren’t ready to face the reality: you are everything BUT a social business. Sad state of things, really, if you can’t handle the simple fundamentals of what it is like being an Open Business through openness, trust and authenticity.

Yes, it’s going to take me about 2.5 months to get back on track and be connected to the Internet, once again, thanks to you, Movistar. In the mean time, I can tell you I have gone through some rather interesting and colourful times that will make me remember you not very fondly for a long while, but, right now, there is just something out there for you to worry about quite a bit more: my trust in you and your services, because if you cared about your customers and keep aiming at building one’s trust in you, I can now confirm you have totally lost mine and it will take you a substantial amount of time AND effort to repair it.

I know for sure though you won’t even think a single time in investing your always lacking resources. Why should you, right? After all, who am I? I am just A customer. One of the many millions you keep saying you are serving to the point of delight, but fail quite remarkably at it time and time again by ignoring their own needs and wants, just because you feel we should be obliged to you for offering the service of being connected to the Internet. According to you, it should be our privilege to be your customer, like we owe it to you, but, alas, you know what?, at this point in time, that trust and loyalty from yours truly you have accumulated over the course of over a decade is now lost and long gone forever to the point where you will now become a primer example of what a so-called social business should not be doing at all. You are the perfect case of the anti-social business mindset. Your weakness? Not the lack of resources, nor the lack of customer service skills and know-how while trying to fix your customers’ problems, but something much more fundamental and key to every single Open Business: never *ever* lie to your customers

You know, they will eventually find out. I just did. 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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2014, The Year That Was

View of Campo Internacional from Playa del Inglés on my way to #running Gotta love the eternal spring, don't you think?  #grancanaria #playadelingles #campointernacional# #running  #exercise  #lifeisgood #landscapes #winter #eternalspring #sunshine #sunAnd nearly four months later… I am back to blogging. Again. And for how long this time around? I just don’t know. We will have to wait and see, but, I tell you, if I were to describe what 2014 has been like so far for yours truly, as we are coming close to its end, I would probably be able to describe it with just a couple of words: “in transition”. Frankly, I never thought it would be that way, or that it would take this long for it to be completed, specially, on a personal level, but you know how it goes, you make lots of exciting plans ahead of you in terms of what you would want to do and focus on and then life does its own thing and makes sure none of them eventually work out the way you intended them to in the first place. Well, at least, one thing did work out in the end though: at long last, and after a massively long hiatus (that is now over, by the way) I am back to blogging. Why? Plain and simple. Because I needed it.

2014 is one of those years that I will be remembering for a good number of different reasons (good and bad, in equal terms), but, mainly, because, if anything, it has been a year of change for myself, both on a professional and personal levels. And, as we are in the process of wrapping things up for another year (Goodness! Does time fly when you are having plenty of good fun or what?!), I thought what a better way to resume my blogging mojo than perhaps put together this article where I can reflect on a rather personal account of what has happened month by month sharing some of the highlights (and lowlights!) as an opportunity to not only go through a rather needed cathartic and reflective moment of sorts for myself, but also as a chance to consider that “in transition” period, finally, over, done and dealt with. Time to move on …

Oh, talking about moving on, I am sensing this entry is going to be rather long, so I am thinking that if you aren’t really interested in following up with the different thoughts and reflections of what 2014 has been for me so far, I would suggest you stop reading now, and come back to the next post I will be putting together shortly as well now that I am, finally, back to writing. No worries, no offence taken if you move on. I totally understand it. What’s about to come up shortly is perhaps a bit too personal any way; an exercise of self-introspection to help me understand better what’s happened this year and venture into what 2015 may bring forward. It’s an exercise I have been looking forward to engaging with for a good couple of months, since the last post I shared over here.

So I better get on with it then, don’t you think? Again, no offence if you would stop reading from here onwards. or if you decide to unsubscribe from the blog altogether after all of this time of silence. There is a new spirit, a massive transformation in the making, a rebirth of sorts, coming along to this blog as well that I will be writing plenty more about over the next few entries and it may well not be what you may be interested in reading, after all. It’s going to be good fun though as I will be rediscovering the true spirit from this blog from way back when it was first born in October 2005 as I get to celebrate its 10th year anniversary next October. Who knows… You’ll tell me, I’m sure. So let’s go! Let’s do it!

January

Christmas holidays. As usual, the time of the year where I take extended holidays (have been doing that for the last 15 years and counting…). However, this time around a little bit of a special one, since upon my return, on January 20th, I announced, after 17 years of (big) corporate life, I would be leaving IBM, my former employer, and embark on to whatever my next adventure may be like. Not knowing exactly how things would work out eventually, whether I’d be landing safe and sound, whether I’ll be able to justify what’s been my working life for the last of those 14 years as a social computing evangelist or whether I may be able to stay right where I am without having to migrate elsewhere, given the current poor state of things in this country. Lots of uncertainty, indeed, but at the same time plenty of excitement about the new adventures, whatever those may well be. About the change itself, about the new bits of fresh air coming along about figuring out whether I still have got a chance to do something else for the next few years outside of the well established comfort zone I have grown into over the last decade or so. But then … life kicked in, as home care of a rather close family member continued throughout the whole month. Not much of a holiday, after all, as I got to experience, in full force, the initial shift of priorities kicking in and, officially, beginning the “in transition” period…

February

Reflection month. Spent vast majority of the time reflecting on what I wanted to do next, whether it was working for another vendor in the Social Business & Enterprise Social Networking space, or work for an international business, or work at a startup or, eventually, set up my own business. In the end, and after much thought put into it, I decided to go from one extreme to the other and from having worked 17 years in one of the largest and most complex IT environments out there (through 6 different Lines of Business and dozens of project teams) I decided to set up my own advisory firm around Social Business & Digital Transformation, Knowledge Management, Learning, and Online Community Building. Was that the right choice? I don’t know. Nearly a year later, it looks like I may have made it, after all. But can I sustain it for the next few years? Or was it just the beginner’s luck of someone starting up hoping for the best? I still haven’t been able to answer those questions and I suppose it may need to wait way into 2015 to confirm it. What I knew for sure back then was that I needed something different than whatever I was involved with over the last 17 years. Shifting work environments of similar traits was not going to do it. At the same time, I knew I also needed to have a Plan B and may be a Plan C as well, both of which I haven’t resorted to just yet, which may confirm that initial decision as the potential correct one, if there ever was one. Home care, after nearly three months, finished up on a high note and everything was back in order, although too close for comfort! Phew!

March

The start of my next adventure. Going solo, as they call it, although I have never been, nor felt, alone, as some people say when you are just getting stated with a new career. Having cultivated and nurtured social networks over the course of the years (As an opportunity to build further up on the collective digital footprint of those friends who you care about and who, in return, would care back), I spent lot of time catching up with folks, whether face to face, or virtually. A very much worth while doing exercise, since it helped me rekindle plenty of those personal business relationships as well as come to terms with the fact and comprehend how plenty of people move on from you, once you stop being enterprisey with no corporate tag attached at the back of your neck, and, how, instead, you meet up other new, but equally interesting and fascinating people you feel you would have never met working in a corporate environment. The “in transition” period fully kicks in by then, as I started working on the pipeline of my own business; trying to figure things out, as I go along, as an independent freelancer, realising the massive learning curve I had just embarked on. Things will never be the same anymore. Excitement is peaking up by the minute as the first potential client prospects help me build that so-called pipeline. No income yet though. Uncertainty makes an entrance. Again. Do I need a Web site to describe my services and myself and hope for the best or will just my Social Web presence (including this blog) be good enough? I still don’t have my site up and I keep wondering whether it’s necessary, or not, in the age of the Social Web, specially, for the kind of work I do.

[Oh, don’t worry, there *is* a Web site in the making, right as we speak, so I guess I may have answered for myself that question… Yes!, you do need a Web site for those people who do not know you just yet to get to know you eventually before they will engage through other digital channels!]

April

Resumed travelling for business (to a couple of conferences, mainly), but this time around, and for the first time since I can remember, as an independent advisor. The business world changes around you. Or you change. Or both for that matter. I don’t know. Things are no longer the same, that’s for sure! You start seeing things through a different lens and all of a sudden you notice how your opinions, thoughts and reflections run free, unbiased, uncensored. Liberating to no end. Hugely refreshing and soul rewarding at the same time. The pipeline for potential work keeps growing, but still no income. Excitement still high though, mainly through the rekindling of those personal business relationships, while forming new ones, as my close social networks morph along to meet, connect and share (with) the new me. Uncertainty starts crippling in, but it doesn’t bother me. Still doesn’t today. A new world to discover and enjoy opens up every single day. Opportunity takes a new meaning. Self-discovery regains strength on everything I do as I try to figure out the what next and, most importantly, the whom with. 

May

Travelling for business to present at conference events continues to take place, although starting to appreciate, and quite a lot, how the frenzy of biz travelling from back in the day (i.e. almost always on the road) is no longer there, so I can start enjoying travelling again with a pace that just feels right! Yes! The every other week on the road mindset, all of a sudden, drops almost dead and, instead, I get to appreciate how wonderful it is to travel the world, still today in 2014, to meet up some rather beautiful and amazingly talented people. Still one of the things I appreciate the most from my past corporate life, even though it’s no longer happening with the maddening frenzy as it used to be, which means that every time I travel nowadays I enjoy it even so much more. Pace is everything. Pause is the killer. Time is all we got left as the new currency, so making the most out of it, day in day out, takes a whole new meaning altogether. Apparently, I have become a nowist. And I am enjoying it quite a bit, because who knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after? That’s just too far into a future we can never grasp, nor comprehend accordingly, so why bother? Why not enjoy the now as much as we possibly can? And let the worrying about the future for a later time…

Pipeline work continues to build up helping me realise, finally, how important it is to constantly keep moving, regardless. Multiple touch points, follow-ups, conversations, social networks and other groupings or associations, etc. No waiting times. If it comes, it comes, if not, we’ll just keep moving along. It will come back at some point, eventually, if it needs my attention, help and support or further involvement. Still no income. Uncertainty grows on the third month in a row without revenue starting to make me wonder whether I made the right decision back in January about moving on. The excitement of the new adventure, the unknown, and what may potentially lay ahead, day in day out, still keeps trumping it all though. Life moves on and so do we. No turning point back. That’s what decisions do for you. You just keep moving on. The constant learning never stops. Regardless.

June

Surprise, surprise! Huge month ahead! Finally, I got to discover and fully experience what, till today, have been my two main sources of income as an independent advisor: 1) Client work and 2) Hosting face to face workshops around Social Business Adoption & Digital Transformation. Yay! We are back in business! Phew! Was starting to get worried to see how some work streams I initially thought were perhaps going to help me generate some earnings didn’t produce a single dime. Nothing. Zip. Nada. And, yet, on the other hand, and all of a sudden, BANG! first round of revenue kicks in from a work activity I never thought I would be able to pull it through, but there it was … Extremely happy AND hugely relieved. The adrenaline rush of your first client kicks in confirming what you initially felt may have been the right move from the start.

[What were those other work streams I thought were going to generate $revenue$ but didn’t? Well, I will blog about them on a separate entry, as I think they deserve their own attention and perhaps additional discussion. You will see what I mean when I share that post across. It will be a bit surprising and very much thought provoking, at least, in what’s meant for me ever since I went independent]

July

Client work continues. Incredibly exciting and enjoying it tremendously, realising how lucky and privileged I have been to have worked with such a group of rather smart and talented group of clients, and very excited at the same time about helping them accelerate their own collective digital journeys starting it off as a personal transformation. Business travelling for client work picks up a notch or two as well, summer holidays kick in and that feeling that August will be a slow month starts to settle in. Unfortunately, life, once again, had other plans in the making…

August

Home care for a loved one. Again. Seriously, 2014 has been one of those years that will be rather tough to forget and for a good number of reasons! I couldn’t wait for it to be over, done and dealt with and off we go into 2015. Being stranded at your own home place takes a whole new meaning for the following three months of daily home care for the rest of the family and yours truly. Priorities get reshuffled big time: home nursing, looking after the household, Boira (our Belgian sheep dog), shopping, day to day work (to keep paying bills) and that strange feeling of a much more profound change in the making, building up more and more by the day, once you realise the village you once loved and moved into, because of how much you enjoyed the atmosphere and sense of closeness and proximity, is no longer as charming as it used to be. Quite the opposite.

I lost 6 kgs that month. Running every day for an hour kept me going as that was the space where I could get back my sanity from the frenetic day to day craziness of life taking over. It felt great, as it helped me go back to my expected weight that I lost during the course of the Christmas period just a few months back.

September

Still heavily involved in home care, although the worst was already over (Thank goodness!). Business travelling, after the summer break, resumes itself and additional client work comes along at a nice pace. The reshuffling of priorities and focusing on other more mundane work streams / aspirations, essentially, coming back down to earth, so I could keep paying the bills, results in me having to move on from Change Agents Worldwide. I will miss them, I still do every day, but, you know how it goes, life goes on and has got other plans for you that most of the times you just can’t control, nor manage, but embrace them and hope for the best of potential outcomes. This was one of them that I needed to prepare myself for. Time is the new currency, remember, and massive disruption starts lingering around in the horizon, right as we speak: after 10 years, we are, at long last, moving! Oh, the adrenaline rush of a much needed change kicking in again! Gotta love it. Yes, house hunting begins… A new home beckons a much needed change. A new light. A new life. Eventually, together.

October

Revenue keeps coming along nicely, helping me not having to worry too much about how we’re going to keep paying the bills. Grateful to no end. Eternally. Work is pretty much focused on helping clients achieve their goals in their own digital transformation journey(s) as well as face to face workshops (as already mentioned above). Things are starting to become more steady and pipeline continues to consolidate with 2015 already in the horizon and looking very good. Or so it seems…

For the first time in over 10 years though, it’s time to move on again. Change happens in many ways and this one of finding a new home was no different. It was the end point of the period I have been calling in this blog post as “in transition”. By the end of the month, after two to three weeks of heavy search all over the place, we, finally, had a new home. Boy, do I love this place! We were born to live in it right from the start for real! Just brilliant! Just what we needed to conclude that phase of our lives and move into the next one, whatever it may well be.

November

Within just a few days since we found the bungalow, i.e. our new home, we finally moved in! I still can’t believe how lucky we were in finding such a gorgeous place! Of course, I will be sharing some pictures both in my Flickr and Instagram accounts. Perhaps it was our lucky shot at that point in time, but so very much needed altogether, after such an interesting year gone by so far!

Conference month kicks in in full force so it looks like moving in needs to slow down a bit while I get to do a bit of business travelling around Europe. After Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid, London, Prague, Zurich (twice!) it is now time to check out Stockholm, Madrid (again) and Zurich (for the third time!). Not sure why there seems to be this obsession by conference organisers to put together all of their tech events either in March or November. It must be the winter! Do them in March to get people out of their homes right as spring kicks in or by November before everyone hides for the remaining of the year as winter approaches fast and furious. It’s crazy! Either way, loved the travelling to all of those cities and even more when the prospect of coming to a new home made it all really worth it.

But then another nightmare came through. As if I didn’t have enough with the rather tumultuous personal life throughout the year, my daily work was just about to be hugely disrupted. To the point where I haven’t recovered just yet from it and it may still take a while. Apparently, I have been forced, to put it mildly (by my telco / ISP) to go through this excruciating and horrifying experience of not having a landline, nor ADSL connection, at the new place, meaning that every single day that has gone by since November 7th (When I requested a landline / ADSL transfer) I have been losing revenue for not having worked with clients while collaborating remotely through the Social Web.

Yes!, 45 days and counting… Apparently, this is what you get in exchange of 10 years of customer loyalty spending about 175€ to 200€ per month steady for all the services I have contracted with them. And the worst part of it all? Well, that it is not over yet. 45 days later, I am still waiting for someone at that ISP to fully understand and comprehend the kind of damage they have done to this independent freelancer who happens to live off the Internet (as a remote knowledge Web worker) for his day to day work. Apparently, as a customer, that’s not important. After all, it’s not their revenue (they still get paid for not providing any kind of service!). It’s my own. Yes, you are guessing it right. There is a blog post coming up where I’ll be detailing what it is like living without access to the Internet when it’s your primary means of income while a Queen Between stands in the way not wanting to address and fix the issues sooner rather than later.

December

Phew! 2014! The Year That Was, indeed! Still without connectivity at our new home and surviving on a hugely expensive data plan for my mobile which runs out incredibly fast given the demands of my Web work and where my telco / ISP has decided that, as a token of generosity, they have extended my monthly quota of 4GB at a lovely price increase I just can’t resist paying for it. Yes, I guess gratitude from their side is taking a new meaning I should fondly remember over time. Anyway, that separate blog post will detail plenty more what’s been happening so far, or better said, what’s not been happening…

For now I bet I will be spending the remaining of the year musing about the new exciting adventure(s) at work. The amazing people I have been meeting throughout the year and who have made it a rather special one (Yes, you know who you all are!). The excitement of doing what I love doing, finally, has kicked off the uncertainty into no-man’s land. And although current pipeline work for 2015 has been abruptly halted to a standstill by my local ISP blocking me from accessing the Internet to do my job, I am hopeful the issues will be sorted out soon enough to be able to enjoy a Christmas break I will be treasuring to bits after everything that has happened this year: 2104. The Year of Change. Massive change.

Finally, the most important thing, at least, to me, that clearly helps me understand what we are all up to in our personal lives with the odd distraction here and there: caring for one another. Indeed, home care, at long last!, is also now over! A thing of the past and, thank goodness!, everything worked out all right in the end, despite the initial hurdles and health scares! Our new wonderful home has done the rest in the healing process making up for a superb end of a rather interesting and challenging year, both on the professional and personal levels, and where I have learned perhaps the most important lesson to date: life has its own plans and ways of developing things further and only thing we can all do is to adjust and adapt accordingly, and make the most out of it all, while having plenty of really good fun!

Life is just too short not to enjoy it the fullest. Today. Don’t leave it for tomorrow. And if that means I am a nowist, be it. After all, it’s Christmas and a good time to get back plenty of the social life we just didn’t get a chance to invest in this year with all that’s happened. It’s never too late, I know. Life keeps moving on and with it all of us, whether we like it or not.

I guess it’s now time for you folks and me to move on, too! I suppose it’s good enough for today as a yearly catchup update of sorts, where I can share with you all what’s been happening so far this year and why there has been, at times, extensive periods of silence from yours truly while I was focusing and spending my time fiddling with other priorities. For those of you who have stuck around thus far into this blog entry, please do allow me to share with you all a sincere token of gratitude for sticking around. It’s hugely appreciated and I’m certainly looking forward to resuming plenty of the online interactions we used to have in between those periods of quietness. 

I’m now back business as usual (At least, for as long as I can without blowing away the monthly mobile data plan) and while I get to put together the next blog posts over here, as an opportunity to resume my blogging mojo, I thought I would share with you all one other major highlight that I went through earlier on this year that I think you might find interesting as well. It’s a podcasting recording. Perhaps one of the most thorough and intimate interviews I have recorded in a good few years.

The interview was hosted by the wonderful and incredibly smart Michael Hicks from the My Way Podcast show. During the course of an hour we got to discuss plenty of the key experiences that throughout the years, starting off at a rather early age!, have shaped and nurtured who I am today: Luis Suarez. It’s that kind of a rather personal podcasting episode where plenty of the nuggets I talked about may not well be known, if only, but a few rather close friends. My Way Podcast is “committed to telling people’s stories” and I guess that’s just what we did: narrate my story.

So, if after reading this rather long post you still feel like going for a good listen of what I have been up to in the last two decades, with lots of personal touch points, and hilarious anecdotes, feel free to head over to the podcasting episode and have a listen. I can guarantee you would have a good laugh or two in between some pretty interesting insights we talked about and shared across around “confidence, working in a team, why it’s important to work in customer service, how and why he no longer uses email at work, working remotely, pursuing multiple interests to find what you are really passionate about, how he uses his blog as his external brain, his recent switch to freelancing, and so much more”.

Hope you enjoy it and from here just a special thanks to both Michael Hicks and Amber Robbin for making it possible! What a wonderful finishing touch to quite an exhilarating year and here’s to plenty more for 2015 and beyond!


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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The Call to Adventure – On Doing What You Love

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras in the Summer at SunsetOver the course of the last six months it’s been quite an interesting experience, to say the least, being asked, on a rather frequent basis, why did I leave big corporate life at IBM, specially, with the last round of dream jobs, to instead build my own business into the unknown with that inherent flair of uncertainty, specially, given the current times we are living in, and still have no regrets about moving on into that next adventure, whatever that may well be like. Well, after all of that time I guess I am now ready and have a proper answer that I can go by with and that pretty much describes the main reason(s) why I decided, after 17 years, it was time to move on: doing what you love.

Well, those words are not really my own, but from the one and only Jim Carrey, when earlier on in the year had the wonderful opportunity, for all of us to witness thanks to the wonders of the Social Web, to deliver the commencement address at Maharishi University of Management’s class of 2014 doing quite a phenomenal piece of work in terms of describing what life should be all about. At least, what he himself makes out of it. I tell you, you got to love commencement addresses. They can well be quite an inspiring and motivational round of resources to remind you why we are all here in the first place in terms of finding our very own purposes and meaning on what we do. Jim’s is right up there in terms of how it can elevate your spirit(s) to think different AND act different by reminding each and everyone of us as to why we make certain decisions the way we do and describe pretty much how vast majority of that decision making process is, actually, driven either by love or fear. Here is a snippet of what I mean and that pretty much describes that whole process in the words of Jim’s own father, which are, if anything, nothing short of pure brilliance. If not, judge for yourselves: 

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

Whoah!! Can it get better and more profound than that?!?! Oh, yes, it surely can! Take a look into this link that contains the full commencement address (A bit over 26 minutes), and which will be totally worth while watching in its entirety. And if you would want to, you can also take a look into the Transcript of Full Commencement Address where you will be able to read through his entire speech. Absolutely stunning! 

I’m not going to tease you much longer nor to spoil it for you by sharing plenty of the golden gems he shared across that 26 minute long speech, but while watching it through I just couldn’t help remembering a very recent blog post that my very good friend, Rob Paterson, put together under the rather thought provoking title “The Call to Adventure – Is This You Too?” and which pretty much describes that inner urge from each and everyone of us of “becoming the change”. At the heart of the matter though is for us all to figure out if our decision making process strikes either for love or fear, for that matter, and how we learn to live with that decision, regardless of the outcome.

I guess 3 years after I wrote Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening I am only now starting to comprehend the reach and full potential of the disruption of all of these emerging technologies and social networks not only in a business environment, but also in our society as a whole. I can probably say that it took me 14 years to perhaps realise about it, but then again, I suppose that, subconsciously, back then when I wrote that piece, I was already telling myself something that stroke my brain really hard as well when a couple of months back Seth Godin wrote: “It’s probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.

And forget about everything else, because, regardless of what people may well tell you, it’s no longer worth your time, effort and energy to pursue those endeavours you may well not be truly passionate about. Yes, indeed, it’s all about the passion, after all, about figuring out what kind of passion you have, its real true meaning, along with purpose, how eventually you get to find it, and how you, at long last, put it into action

I guess that’s essentially what my “in transition” period has been like, since I went independent, if I were to describe it in just a few words, but perhaps much more interesting and intriguing is the overall journey itself, that call to adventure that Rob referred to in the above shared link, of doing what I love doing, even though I’m only now just getting started with it. You see? One of the things I have learned over the course of the years and perhaps I am now fully embracing in its whole measure is how “Life Is Too Short For You To Get Good At What You Don’t Want To Be Doing”.

And whenever that happens, it’s time to move on and become the change, because, eventually, it’s not the final destination what really matters, but the actual journey. That is, that awakening phase we all get to define for ourselves. And, remember, we are not alone. We have never been alone, since our networks are just within reach of a post, a phone call, or a simple face to face conversation. In short, it’s our collective choice of whether to go for rather a conservative decision or a bold move and from there onwards make the most out of it.

Hopefully, the latter. Yes, that’s what I am currently working on… And you?

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Active Listening – When Shutting Up Matters

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere is a lot that the business world can learn from NGOs in general. And vice versa, I am sure. We all know that. But if there is anything that I have learned just recently that certainly has stroked a chord with me in terms of what would be rather critical and paramount for enterprises (whatever the size) to, finally, understand and embrace in equal terms, is to stop being both rather patronising or paternalistic and, instead, just shut up and listen. After all,  “[…] In economic development, if people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone”. Why? Well, it’s all about respect, really. 

Servant Leadership can take you, and will take you!, very far, if done correctly; that is, when it’s done around the passion of local people (i.e. employees, knowledge workers, citizens and what not), who have got a dream to become a better person. That’s why empowerment, as a concept, in the business world, is just such a fully loaded word and so very broken, as my good friend, John Wenger, wrote, not long ago, over at “Why you can’t empower someone”.

What we can do, instead, is go ahead and help people find the knowledge, so that they are capable of pursuing their own goals and outcomes based on their own passion(s). That’s why enablement trumps empowerment time and time again. After all, it’s pretty simple I suppose, if you look into it. You just can’t empower people per se and get away with it, as if nothing happened. Eventually, and perhaps without realising about it too much, that’s when you become rather patronising and paternalistic altogether showcasing you know way better than everyone else, when that may well not be the case, and therefore you think you can still retain that position of power, status, decision making and entitlement, and, therefore, respect, even if you never had it in the first place, because you never show it for others for that matter. See? There is a lot to learn from NGOs. At least, from some of them

What we can do, essentially, is to enable them (knowledge workers) to empower themselves to be the leaders of change they want to become. And become yourself, in the process, a facilitator, understanding that they won’t succeed alone and that they would need to find partners to be able to strike for the magic. And you are their partner.

Apparently, “planning is the kiss of death for entrepreneurship”, so what you would want to do, instead, is perhaps invest in the community aspect of getting work done together, as partnerships driven by openness, transparency, collaboration, knowledge sharing, respect, passion, common purpose, etc. etc. away from the traditional hierarchical silos, where applicable, and start working together towards that notion that work happens around communities and networks versus the traditional top down (now obsolete) hierarchy and that

“The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, energy and imagination of its own people”. 

Again, there is a whole lot the business world (And everyone else, in general, for that matter) can learn from NGOs and earlier on this week I myself had that very same wonderful opportunity while bumping into this particular TEDx Talk by Dr. Ernesto Sirolli (Special thanks to Roxanna Samii for sharing it along!) under a rather evocative and suggestive title (“Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”), where he comes to present with lots of charisma, humour, wit and plenty of drama, an overall incredibly passionate speech about the advantages of working in small local groups or local communities for maximum impact, through facilitators who help inspire entrepreneurship where it matters, as partnerships with different people who may well have different skills and talents, but with one key aspect in mind: that is, instead of you or me or us doing the talk we just keep quiet, shut up, and listen to those folks who we may need to help, eventually, find the knowledge as well as the resources they need for them to pursue their own passion(s) further along: 

 

There is a whole lot more than I could say and write about regarding this absolutely stunning presentation by Ernesto (roughly about 17 minutes long and very much worth while watching altogether!) with lots more to learn and reflect upon, but there is one thing that has stuck with me big time so far and that I am surely going to embark on from here onwards: you know what they say about doing plenty of research beforehand about your potential clients or new prospects, specially, with the emergence of all of these digital tools, so that you are as well prepared as you should, right? Well, to me, while I continue to do that, I am now also scheduling some time off to watch Ernesto’s presentation to remind myself, over and over again, how there is a great chance for me to help those potential customers succeed big time by just shutting up and listening with intent first to what they would want to do, what business problems to address or what new business opportunities to explore, than just myself doing all the talk, thinking that I know better than them.

The big ah-ha moment for me, after watching this talk, is that I don’t. I am just a helper. An enabler. A people enabler. One of the many out there who can, hopefully, help find the knowledge you may need through relevant networks and communities with a specific single mission and common purpose: to help you change your world with not only the knowledge and resources you may have available, but also through the communities and networks we are all part of. 

After all, you are your (social) networks, and the networks are you, so we better start paying more attention to them, keep quiet and listen both actively and carefully. Remember, “Hierarchies are only as smart as the smartest gatekeepers. Networks are smarter than the sum of their nodes”. 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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