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

Learning

Unlocking Civilisation Type 1 Through An Open Mind

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Today is my last working day of 2016, before I go offline (from work) for my winter holidays till mid January next year. Somewhere in between, I don’t know just yet when, there will be a major announcement coming through that will explain what I will be doing throughout 2017 and beyond. After 20 years in the IT industry, I can share ahead of that announcement there will be a massive process coming along of unlearning and relearning for yours truly. Yes, I am incredibly excited about it, because it’s about something I haven’t done for the last 20 years, so it will be a rather interesting rebirth (of sorts) upon my return to a new workplace. But in its due time, I suppose. For today though I’ll go ahead and try to summarise what this year has felt like so far and, when doing so, there is a single word that comes to the top of my mind that would describe, pretty well, what it has been like: humanise

I know, it’s a strange word to go for, but let me try to describe it further in detail with a story connecting three different tidbits that have impacted me significantly on what I have learned throughout this year, both at work, as an independent adviser / freelancer around Social Business and Digital Transformation, as well as in my own personal life.

Throughout the year I have been exposed, pretty much like everyone else, I’m sure, to thousands of different ads and marketing campaigns on any kind of topic or product you can probably imagine and through multiple different platforms (whether on TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet, etc. etc.), but there has been one of them in particular that has wowed me so badly that every single time there has been either a local or global event with a significant impact (whether positive or negative, although mostly negative, I must confess) I end up watching it over and over again. So far this year, I could venture to state I may have watched it a couple of dozen times already and somehow I never get tired of it. Quite the opposite, I almost always end up going a bit teary and emotional altogether. 

Both the ad and marketing campaign come from Momondo, under the rather suggestive heading ’The DNA Journey’, by starting to ask yourself perhaps one of the toughest questions out there: ‘Would you dare to question who you really are?’ Hold on, don’t answer that just yet. Wait for a little bit more… Try to go through ‘Let’s open our world’ in its entirety and then ask yourself, again, that same question and see what you can come up with as an answer. Something tells me it may surprise you and quite a bit altogether!

From that campaign they put together a truly amazing and mind-blowing short video clip (a bit over 5 minutes long) that will send shivers through your spine every single time you watch it. It’s perhaps one of the most emotional clips you will watch this year, if you haven’t just yet. The closing line is maybe one of the best sentences out there to describe everything we may have gone through this year. To quote: 

An open world begins with an open mind.’ 

 

Now I understand fully why nearly 4 years ago I decided to, at long last, ditch Social Business in favour of Open Business. Now you may be able to understand a bit better why humanise is the word that would pretty much describe what 2016 has been like for yours truly.

Are we then ready to evolve into Civilisation Type 1 yet?

That was my very first reaction when I first watched the short video clip I have embedded above around The DNA Journey. Why? Well, because while going through the clip I got reminded of this other video from Big Think by Dr. Michio Kaku where he tries to answer the following question: ‘Will Mankind Destroy Itself?’ Interestingly enough, that clip is from 2011 and yet, unless you have been hiding in a cave throughout 2016, it looks like as if it was shot just yesterday.

 

Flabbergasting and gobsmacking in equal terms, I tell you, but, don’t worry, Dr. Kaku’s discourse is not necessarily negative, nor pesimistic on its own. Quite the opposite. It poses a very interesting reflection with plenty of thought-provoking insights as to whether we, humans, are somewhat ready to make the transition from Civilisation Type 0 to Type 1 and in a world where we seem to have reverted back to Type 0, it’s probably a good time now to start questioning whether we, citizens of this world, are ready and willing to participate, getting actively involved, leaving behind both apathy and complacency, to change this world as we know it today.

 

 

Take out the word ‘US’ out of that tweet and insert whatever other country acronym and it would apply just perfectly all right.

I do keep wondering, seriously, as to whether we would be able to evolve accordingly into Civilisation Type 1, specially, after the many dramatic events happening this year, or whether, instead, we will be that generation that will contemplate, muse and witness the planetary suicide Dr. Kaku hints in the clip I embedded above as well. Will we be ready to engage in such an enduring test though to revert course and head on for Type 1? I just don’t know. I hope we do. Seriously, for our very own good as a species on this planet.

Maybe, it’s down to all of us. Maybe it’s all down to being human, after all, and about re-humanising ourselves, once again, through, funny and ironic enough, the various, different digital tools that have definitely transformed, for good, the way and how we communicate with one another not only on a local basis, but on a global, planetary one as well, pretty much like Gutenberg’s printing press did 576 years ago. It’s that kind of revolution we are after, folks, we should not forget about that. And while I realise this blog post may not have much to do with either work nor our personal lives, I actually think it does and big time. It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s what we fight for, it’s what we learn that makes us better at what we do already and if I were to describe what it is like it’s about being human, about accepting our very own vulnerabilities and learn to adapt and live with them with grace so that, eventually, they will make us all stronger as a result. 

This is why, as a moderate optimist, I would love to close off today’s blog entry with a song. A song that’s become my favourite tune for this year, and, probably, within my Top 10 from all times, because, if anything, it pretty well describes what 2016 has been like: new dark times, BUT with plenty of light in the horizon, inspired by understanding not only both our limits and vulnerability, but also what we are all good at to overcome those: caring more (for one another), becoming more empathic and, overall, more human.

Again.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy, Healthy and rather Prosperous New Year to you all! 

#carpediem

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Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails

 Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into one self and question whether either our mindset or behaviours, for instance, have got some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favourite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed that gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blame the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?

Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have got left. We will just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to deviate the attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #lesigh

You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher anymore. Well, perhaps we may need to start realising it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies, in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviours of how we adapt to them, or fail to, what’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves. 

Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire yesterday under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same good old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hummm, not really. It’s us the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether it’s us the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?

Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us all knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realise that different people have got different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they may want to execute on, whether individually or in groups?

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have got different needs to cater for; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviours, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single one tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better and how nowadays it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?

It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that could cater for distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposalThat’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e. *cough* email *cough*) and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st century thinking. 

At the moment, my current favourite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas van der Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at this year’s KM World conference in Washington DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect at the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater for, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that not a single tool in any organisation would feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of whatever the collective.

The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment as well when we will all stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along till today and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.

Work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Don’t you think?

 

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Teamwork Needs Healthy Friction to Collaborate and Get Work Done More Effectively

 Gran Canaria - Guayadeque

Who would have thought something so relatively simple and mundane as food would be the glue for your team(s) to work together more effectively? Who would have thought cooking together would provide just the perfect level of healthy friction you would need to help your team(s) members collaborate more openly and effectively to get even more work done? Who would have thought cooking food would help your team(s) members bond together in much more meaningful ways than whatever other team building activity you may have thought of in the past? Is your kitchen ready?

A couple of days ago Tim Beyers wrote exactly about that very same subject in a rather interesting Fast Company article under the suggestive heading ‘Why Teams That Cook Together Work Better Together’, where he shared a couple of relevant stories from companies like PLAE and Segment that are using cooking food as an opportunity to help their teams get together and collaborate more effectively in an environment that’s totally different than their day to day operations. To quote Milbank, from the article itself, here’s the main reason why they do it: 

Ultimately, it’s about teamwork, thinking creatively with one another and working under a time and budget constraint.

My goodness! I can totally relate to it and big time! Over 4 years ago, Bob McMilan once asked me, while he was interviewing me for his Wired piece on ‘IBM gives birth to amazing e-mail-less man’ (as part of the #NoeMail experiment), where did my inclination to connect, learn, collaborate and work together closely with other people come from? Where did it start exactly? What was the trigger? Well, my first initial reaction was to eventually mention the very first project I started working on at IBM back in January 1997, but he kept insisting to go even further back, before I started working in the IT industry. And I had to think… 

I had to think really hard, because it wasn’t very obvious at the beginning, but once I realised about it, BOOM!, it was right there, right in front of my face! Two different activities, one followed after the other, were the ones that triggered that spark towards understanding the importance of teamwork no matter what you were doing or working on. Funny enough those two activities were related to a couple of passions of mine that decades later are still pretty much intact: basketball and cooking.

I started playing basketball (point guard, in case you were wondering…) when I was 10 years old (Thanks to my older brother and his own school gang) and I continued to play it till I left my home country when I was 23 years old. Throughout those 13 years, and after having played in a good number of different teams across different divisions, you get to understand how you, as an individual, are pretty much nothing, unless you are a team player and help your team win collectively through each and everyone’s individual effort.

Yes, everyone knows it, basketball is a team sport, who doesn’t, right? But what most people won’t tell you about it is that in order to do something rather significant, as a team, you need to learn how and when to sacrifice the individual for the collective good (i.e. learning to tame the ego, as I usually call it), so you can win the game. That looking after one another, no matter what, helping each other address our very own weaknesses and turn them into strengths, as a team, is probably as good as it gets. It teaches you plenty of understanding of the conditions and constraints around your team, about building enough empathy to utilise it wisely when needed, about helping one another altruistically so that the team benefits in the long run and, finally, about learning to master the art of healthy friction and negotiation that comes through from compromise. Gosh, I still love the game, don’t you? 

After I left the country and before I started working in the IT industry, I was a cook, as I mentioned in another blog post last week, in several different types of restaurants in multiple countries (Spain, France, Germany, UK, etc. etc.). It was the experience of working as a cook in an Argentinian restaurant in London though the one that taught me the importance of diversity, of inclusiveness, of understanding everyone’s needs to be different, while still being together, of embracing different cultures, customs, languages, traditions and what not. All in all, you learn to embrace all of that, and so much more!, for the benefit of the cooking team you work with, because everyone in the team knows, no exceptions, we are all on a very specific daily mission: delight our clients (so they keep coming back and keep us employed!). 

Of course, there are different kinds of pressure: time, stress, hectic (crazy) schedules, impossible goals to achieve, multitasking, not much thinking (just execute), yelling and screaming at others, and the list goes on and on and on. If you have ever worked in a kitchen environment I bet you know exactly the kind of pressure you are exposed to on a daily basis. The thing is all of those pressures are easily tamed if the team stays and sticks together, that is, if the whole team understands that healthy friction of rubbing it against each other has got one specific purpose: get the work done, effectively, as a team, delighting your clients, whomever they may well be. Yeah, indeed, I still get goosebumps, wouldn’t you? 

And then fast forward to 1997, when I started working for IBM as part of the IBM.HELP.NET project team. A team of teams of about 450 people from 40 different countries, 5 continents, speaking multiple languages, doing customer support for the mainframe and PC environments. A melting pot, indeed, of cultures, languages, customs, traditions AND, of course, people, vast majority of them without prior knowledge about the IT industry (Had to be acquired while doing the job after a couple of weeks of training) and yet working really hard every day, neck and neck, to address and fix as many business problems from our customers as we could possibly do.

You knew there always was something up in the air as you would enter the building and meet your colleagues: an inner urge to help them become successful, because the moment they were successful you, too, would be successful for that matter. Part of that collective team of teams effort, hard work and energy, for sure, but there was something else special that glued everything together in a very engaging manner. And it was food. 

At one point in time, one of the teams decided that every first Monday of the month, they would gather together for lunch on a single table and each team member would bring in with them a typical dish of their country. The purpose was to lay on that big table some pretty amazing, colourful, incredibly tasty and overall gorgeous dishes everyone in the team could nibble on, while standing and moving around, talking to one another, sharing experiences, recipes, childhood memories, weekend activities, personal hobbies, hints and tips, tricks, perhaps the odd customer problem that needed fixing right after lunch in a timely manner, etc. etc. It was just buzzing altogether! 

Soon enough, on that first Monday of every month, another team joined in, and then another, and then another one, and another one, and before we realised it, we had an entire floor of multiple large tables with all sorts of wonderfully yummy dishes from all over the world, literally, waiting to be enjoyed and talked about by everyone who wanted to come along. Yes, that was a very important aspect that most people kind of took for granted, but that those of us who knew what was going on appreciate it the most: it was an open environment and everyone was welcomed! Even people from other floors, other projects, other parts of the business. You can imagine what happened next.

You can imagine the huge impact in the overall team building activities that we had that such a small initiative of gathering people around some delicious food did have over the course of time in terms of helping just that, build community, because that’s exactly what was happening back then and that most people didn’t even notice. We just took it for granted. Yet, whether we like it or not, we are all, after all, social beings eager to connect, learn, share and work together with others and if food can help us achieve that, why not embrace it, right? It’s what makes us all human, that strong sense of belonging, of connecting, of caring for one another. I tell you, it was just mind-blowing altogether!

You know, all of that happened nearly 20 years ago and I still remember it today as if it were just yesterday! I bet that some time soon we may be having a few of them dropping by this blog post and leave a comment to say ‘Hi!’ It pretty much reminded me of this wonderfully inspiring short blog post by my good friend Tony Holder under the title ‘A sense of community’ where he pretty much nails it in terms of defining succinctly what it is like building an engaged, sustainable, committed, involved, open and overall participatory community: 

All it takes is a smile, a cheery greeting and a few seconds treating people like you want to be treated, as a human being.

Well, if on top of that you add some really good food (and drinks, of course!) I can imagine only great things will happen: some bloody good conversations. Conversations through which we can master the art of collaboration and fine, healthy friction.

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When Context Transcends Change Management

Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogán at sunset

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong? What if research keeps telling us, over and over again, how ’most change efforts fail’ ? What if we have been approaching change initiatives from the wrong side of the spectrum and we never realised about it till now when it might be a bit too late already? Isn’t it time for us all to shift gears and, at long last, change? Oh, the irony, right?

Over the course of the last few months there have been plenty of really interesting articles around the discipline of change management itself (out of the several dozens of millions of publications, practices, methodologies, processes, and what not), whether it’s been talking about its many different mythsits various principles, along the science behind change in itself, or perhaps some forgotten questions, or comparisons between leading and managing change, where does it belong within the organisation?, how it tights everything up altogether around technology (as its main key enabler), or, questioning, as McKinsey put it recently, how, in a nutshell, we may need to change change management itself after all, given that massive statistic of how over 70% of change programmes fail to achieve their goals, whatever those may well be. Ouch! That hurts. A lot! 

Yes, I know, the links I have shared above are just a glimpse of an entire industry talking and writing extensively about what change management has always been all along: an obsolete change methodology using 20th century mindset, processes, tooling and practice while trying to address plenty of the organisational challenges from the 21st century in a more complex business world than ever. And, somehow, technology seems to be making things much worse, like two completely different worlds colliding with one another! 

What if all of that literature around change management could be smashed with just a couple of tweets? Yes, indeed, two different tweets, with a few weeks in between each of them, that have recently captured my attention, more than anything else, because of how both of them have undermined, and challenged at the same time, in a very healthy, disruptive, enlightening and rather provocative manner, everything I have known about change management in the last 10 to 15 years. So much so that after reading the second tweet shared across just last week I’m going to start challenging, not only my very own change practices, but also everyone else’s who may keep neglecting the fact we are living and working in completely different times, and therefore we need some fresh new thinking around change altogether coming further along.

Indeed, I love Twitter, specially, when people use it to school me, and everyone else for that matter, directly or indirectly, about things I stopped challenging myself some time ago, because I started taking them for granted and let inertia do the rest. Complacency can be so brutal, so lethal, so deadly, it’s not even funny anymore. The thing is, when looking into those two tweets, in the context of change, with new, fresh eyes, AND thinking, you wonder why you didn’t do it much much sooner.

Unlearning old, useless, obsolete stuff we keep clinging on to no matter what (even if we are wrong) to then relearn again about new ways of getting work done, specially, in change initiatives, is really hard, we all know that, but, at the same time, making it happen successfully can be rather intoxicating and enticing altogether, if anything, because it helps us all open up a new window of opportunity into thinking AND doing things differently, which is exactly what I will be doing from here onwards as a result of those couple of tweets I have mentioned above already. 

At this point in time I bet you are all wondering about those rather impactful tweets, aren’t you? The suspense may even be killing you, right? Well, let me share them over here with you all, so you can see what I mean about how a couple of sentences may be able to challenge every single change management programme you may be involved with, or know, out there within your own organisation, to the point where it may take you back into the drawing board and start again. I know it has done that with me big time. You will see what I mean shortly. 

Ok, here we go then. Both tweets come from Sonja Blignaut after having attended two different events in time around complexity and change from the one and only, Dave Snowden. To quote each of them: 

And here is the second one, shared a couple of months later, perhaps even more wonderfully poignant than the previous one:

As you can see, there is a lot of meat to chew on for a good while with regards to both tweets, but, on their own, they remind me of a superb recent blog entry Dave himself wrote where he pretty much nailed it in terms of why change management needs to shift gears of its collective mindset and change (pun intended). To quote him: 

Now there are a whole group of consultants in this field who focus on the idea that changing individuals is the best way to change an organisation. The worse ones come with a ideological view of what sort of people they want to create and a process of self-reflection that draws on the worse excesses of the counselling movements that took off a few decades ago. […] It’s the preacher man phenomena, in which the preacher is the privileged interpreter of the word and has achieved a heightened state of enlightenment to which they invite to you to seek to attain.

But it gets better, much better, because from there onwards he shares a rather thought-provoking reflection that has intrigued me to no end and I am pretty sure it’s going to make lots of people out there rather uncomfortable, but, hopefully, in a good way, that is, unlearn to relearn effectively about change and its many nuances too often ignored, or neglected. To quote him again: 

Now don’t get me wrong, individual change is important, meditation has huge value (I am less sure of mindfulness as that has become a simplistic fad), most practitioners are well intentioned. But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right. But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.’ [Emphasis mine]

Whoahhh! If neither of those tweets, nor Dave’s quotes, shared above (never mind the fantastic blog post he put together), don’t persuade you to help evolve your own change management practice, I don’t know what would, frankly. Do we still think that organisations can change? That we can change people, even one individual at a time? Hummm, we may need to think again… And think hard! Seriously. 

You would remember how a few weeks back I wrote about the Social Business Adaptation Framework I am currently using with my clients to help guide them through their own Digital Transformation journey and that has evolved over the course of the years; well, next to each of those different five pillars I covered back then I shall be remembering, from now onwards, those terrific tweets and noteworthy quotes, put in context, where it matters, to essentially do just that: override the change management practice from the 20th century and fast forward into the 21st century. 

It will be high time to start catching up with this rather complex business world we live in, don’t you think?

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Happiness at Work Starts with #NoeMail

Gran Canaria - The Monk

After nearly 9 years of actively advocating for #NoeMail I guess I can now say this pretty safely: doing #NoeMail all along (and still going rather strong at it, by the way, in case you are wondering!) has always been an excuse, a distraction, an icebreaker of sorts to entice people into stopping for a minute in whatever they are doing and ask themselves, and those around them, why certain things work the way they do within the workplace and yet, in our personal lives, they just don’t happen anymore? I mean, when was the last time you sent out a personal email to your kids, or your spouse, or a close relative, or even a good friend? I bet it’s been quite a while, isn’t it? Why is it so difficult then to challenge the status quo of corporate email and somehow accept its extended (ab)use as a necessary evil? Is it inertia? Is it because it’s hard to break away from our (good old) habits? Is it perhaps because it’s just too easy, pervasive and inexpensive, so that we can keep justifying how busy we all are, after all, despite the harm it’s doing to our very own health? Or is it, maybe, because, you know, changing the nature of work is really hard, so why bother doing it anyway in the first place, right? Well, there you have it. Just like that, all along, it’s been our choice to do something about it, and yet, are we up for the challenge? I think we, finally, might well be…

It’s been a long while, since the last time I wrote a blog post over here about the latest status of my #NoeMail journey, and very often nowadays, not sure why, I keep getting asked about how things have progressed further along over the course of time and whether I’m still doing it and what not, as more and more companies are starting to challenge that same status quo of corporate email I mentioned above and plenty of Messaging & Collaboration, as well as Enterprise Social Networking, vendors begin to market and sell their products as an opportunity to also reduce your inbox clutter. Not to worry, at some point in time I will write as well about all of those different companies and vendors that are starting to not just talk, but also practise actively as well #NoeMail, so you can see how we, true die-hard advocates of new ways of working, are no longer alone by ourselves out there. For today, though, I will just focus on giving you folks an update on how things have progressed since the last time, so you can see what I have been up to, even as I went independent nearly three years ago.

But before I go ahead and do that, I’m going to do things slightly different this time around. I will start by saying that I’m still, indeed, practising it every day. I am still keeping track of the incoming email volume and the great news over here is that when I was a salaried employee my weekly average of incoming emails usually was around 16 emails per week. Fast forward to 2016 and that weekly average is at 2,8 emails per week, as we speak. Yes, you are reading it right: 2,8 emails per week, which I guess is not too shabby, right?, more than anything else, because it confirms you certainly can live without work email either as an employee of a firm (no matter how small or large it may well be!), or if you decide to go and do freelance work. Remember, currently, 2,8 emails per week and still going down…

Ok, since I mentioned how I got things started with A World Without eMail as a rather unique, thought-provoking and somewhat mind-boggling opportunity to open up the conversations and start the dialogue about what I have been really interested in all along, that is, Social Business and its Adaptation Framework, I think it would make sense to put it together into the larger context and start connecting the dots as to where it fits in that Digital Transformation journey itself, so instead of updating you all on what’s been happening around it in isolation, I’m going to start, with today’s blog post, putting it into a larger context of a number of different conversations I have been having over the years with other people on this very same topic and see where we ended up eventually. That way you can see how I have used it as an initial conversation starter to then converse and learn plenty more about other related aspects of that transformation process, and the corresponding change initiatives, that have emerged over the course of time.

Yes, indeed, this means, from now onwards, I am planning to start sharing some additional insights about presentations, interviews, recordings, vlogsvideo clips, etc. etc. I may have done in the recent past on this topic and link to them accordingly adding, hopefully, some additional input into the mix from when I last did them. That way, it will help me keep you folks in the know, so that you can see how close, eventually, #NoeMail is to the overall Social Business journey, to the point where, sometimes, it’s even a tad scary how deeply ingrained it is into the overall transformation process.

So, let’s get down to it then. I shall start today with one of my all time favourite interviews I recently did around mindful social marketing, (and mindfulness, in general, for that matter) and happiness at work. Now, who would have thought both of them would be related to #NoeMail, right? Well, they certainly are! Hang in there for a minute …

Back in July, Janet Fouts kindly invited me, as a guest speaker, to her wonderful #MindfulSocial interviews to talk about a good number of different topics over the course of one hour: employee engagement, mindfulness, happiness at work and, of course, A World Without eMail. Those of you who may be interested in going through the full interview can start playing the recording shared below:

 

For those of you though who may not want to jump into the recording itself just yet and may be looking for a teaser or two, I have also taken the liberty of re-listening myself to the entire interview and take some copious notes about some of what I think would be interesting and relevant insights worth while mentioning in this article as well and share them across, so that you can judge for yourselves how #NoeMail is all tied in to those same topics I have mentioned above and many more! At the same time, and where appropriate, I have added additional links and reading materials that hopefully will contribute to enrich the actual conversation itself I had with Janet as I keep reflecting on what we talked about back then. See? That’s one of the many reasons why I quite enjoy as well going through the rich media recordings I may well have done over time, because I can remember then other interesting thoughts and reflections I can add into the mix, but that I forgot to mention during that time. Yes, I know, my short term memory is not very good sometimes. Thank goodness we’ve got blogs, right?

Like I said, the interview itself with Janet lasted for a bit over one hour and it was mainly divided in three different blocks of conversations covering #NoeMail, Happiness at Work and Mindfulness. So here are some of the highlights on some of the things we touched base on:

  • #NoeMail: We talked extensively about the main three reasons as to why I got started with it back in February 2008 in the first place, as well as explaining some of the tricks that still help me today go rather strong at it; we discussed as well plenty of the scientific research coming out as of late about some of the different health risks associated with processing email; what current digital tools do I use the most often at the moment (Hint: IBM Connections, Twitter, Slack, Telegram); the importance of filtering; BACN, everyone loves BACN!; the loss of critical knowledge for good once your mailbox gets deleted confirming the good old mantra from Bill French ‘eMail is where knowledge goes to die ; the importance of building bridges between the old world and the new, that is, between email and whatever ESN option(s) you may have at your disposal, etc. etc.We conversed as well about the much needed transition from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows; about the ever increasing importance and relevance of networked driven, open knowledge sharing (That is, from ‘Knowledge is power’ to ‘Knowledge SHARED is power’); about the additional perks (visibility, digital footprint, stronger personal brand through blogging, etc. etc.); about exposing one self and one’s work out there in the open for everyone else to benefit from it through working out loud, narrating your work or observable work (#owork) techniques.We also mused about the many benefits of relinquishing control into your social networks to then regain it back at a later time a whole lot more amplified when you realise your knowledge is no longer yours alone, but your network’s; we listed some of the main use cases for #NoeMail (Finding experts, embracing the power of networks, answering questions, etc.); we talked about the power of #notknowing; about the perils of the Cult of Busyness; about how our perceptions of how people work define what we expect from them, something email has been really good at all along (Remember ’I sent you an email 5 minutes ago and I still haven’t got an answer from you just yet. I wanted it yesterday already, by the way!’?).
  • Happiness at work: From there onwards, we switched into the topic of Happiness at Work citing one of my all time favourite presentations ever around employee engagement. A presentation done by Alex Kjerulf (Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo inc) at #MeaningConf back in 2012 where he talked about what employee engagement is all about: Results and Relationships.From there onwards we talked about how we are currently going through a time where we have the lowest number of friends at work than ever before; how, more often than not, we work nowadays with total strangers, with no attachments; how we have stopped talking to people, conversing with them, learning from them; how trust needs to become, once again, the defining factor of fostering personal business relationships at work, which is why networking is so critical when nurturing relationships through conversations; how it’s much tougher to leave a company behind while your good friends are still there, rather than with total strangers, due to that natural, stronger sense of belonging, of bonding together, of connecting with one another. Eventually, we mused, further along, about how we can improve our relationships at work; rediscover why social capital still matters in the 21st century, and how, now more than ever before, it’s really important that we get  to know closer the people we work with.
  • Mindfulness: The last block of our conversation was perhaps the most exciting and re-energising one, because we ventured into potentially defining what the present of work may look like over the course of time. So we discussed how we may need to start fighting that Cult of Busyness I mentioned earlier on; how we need to live AND work in the moment, without having to worry too much about the future of work; how just being busy kills the conversations right there, right at the start, way before you even attempt to engage. Somehow, we should start growing the need to slow down; does mindfulness help employees become more engaged, motivated, involved in the work they do? Probably. What do you think?That’s probably one of the many reasons why we are witnessing a renewed focus around the wellbeing of the employee, about the overall employee experience itself, understanding happy employees = happy customers; how we seem to be transitioning from assets and resources to people and relationships; how meaning and purpose become the key drivers of re-engaging the employee workforce; what’s your purpose, after all? When was the last time you asked yourself that question?From there onwards we pondered about how multiples generations have different expectations, and how businesses need to meet them all up accordingly, as they may see fit. We talked as well, again, about an important topic, the perils of email inflicted upon our very own health, regardless of the mindfulness initiatives you may have in place so far; examples like Germany and France are just a couple of many attempting to forbid the use of email after office hours and do something about it. It’s just that bad, really.

    At the end of the day, we concluded we need to redefine work to respect people, and their own time, by regaining control of the interactions and the conversations; we also needed to stop appearing to be busy, because otherwise people think we are lazing about, even though productivity has been tanking already since the early 1980s!; working out loud can help out a great deal in showing your presence, showing you are there, available to help, caring for everyone’s time respecting each other’s, even your own. All under a pretty simple guideline, often either ignored, or neglected: if you care for me, I’ll care for you; if you don’t care for me, I won’t care for you (why should I?).

    At the end of the day it’s all about being more empathic about your colleagues while facing the situations they go through; ’how can I help my colleagues be less stressed out?’; ‘when did we stop caring for people?’; ‘What do you care about?’; ‘what’s your purpose?’; that’s where it all starts, challenging the status quo of how certain things operate and how we seem to take them for granted without questioning them. We need to shift focus and treasure the good habit of evaluating one’s strengths vs. our weaknesses and focus on what we would really want to do, following our passion(s).

    At long last, after such wonderfully inspiring conversations, we convened change is all about providing the right conditions for people to decide for themselves, one at a time, as a personal transformation journey, whether it’s worth it changing one’s mindset and behaviours, for their reasons and theirs alone, or not; change is a personal endeavour while traditional change management is all about control by keeping people in little boxes, which is why social business adaptation plans fail big time, because the focus is more on managing change than in creating change; yet, control still is an illusion; we should focus, instead, on influencing (people) by mastering the art of persuasion; HR needs to step up their game in terms of treating people as hard working networked professionals instead of treating them as immature, incompetent jerks (or sheep); we need to get better at asking questions and it all starts by asking even more questions, tons of questions; how are we connected to the experts who may help us solve our business problems? It’s no longer about finding out who the experts are, but also about how we may be connected with them, and, if not, why not? What’s stopping us? How could we get connected? Bridging networks; be willing to always learn, live life in perpetual beta; the moment we stop learning, that’s the moment we start dying. 

    It’s our means of survival by frequently questioning what we know, why we do certain things the way we do, who are we connected with and for what purpose?; we need to, constantly, challenge ourselves on how we learn, or we will have a problem; in this day and age of machines and automation, what do we need to learn (as new skills) to make ourselves *not* redundant?; machines should augment the human capability, not necessarily replace it (and us!); need to redefine a new social contract: what would we do, if we no longer need to work?; can we transition successfully from homo sapiens into homo ludens? It becomes a bit ironic how we now have got an imperative to re-humanise ourselves, once more, but this time around through technology itself as the key enabler. An example: if billions of people become unemployed over time because of that automation, then what?; can (or will) work turn itself into a voluntary task, a hobby, a passion, perhaps even a calling, not necessarily something you just do, you know, to keep paying the bills…? 

     

You can see how the conversation ended up eventually … Whoahhh! I was completely jazzed up altogether! Pretty amazing to think that all of that happened as a result of that icebreaker of doing #NoeMail, don’t you think? Now you know why I got started with it back in 2008 and why I am still going strong at it. More than anything else, because it gives me an opportunity to keep learning, and iterate again, by always questioning and challenging the current status quo of how businesses operate while we get to redefine what open, transparent, engaging, meaningful, purposeful, caring, empathic, autonomous, motivating and involved organisations should be all about and if that means I will need to continue living in a world without email, so be it!

We are just getting started!


[A big thanks to the wonderful, very talented and incredibly smart Janet Fouts for the kind invite and for the superb, delightful and very much inspiring conversations!]

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Writing Ourselves into Existence through a Choral Act

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's surroundings

 

Earlier on this morning I spent quite some time going through a good number of the different posts I have put together in this blog over the course of the last three months and, to my surprise, it looks like I have been posting more entires in that three month period than the entire 2014 and 2015 combined! Whoah! How did that happen? Even plenty of readers of this blog noticed that as well as they decided to unsubscribe for new updates by the hordes explaining I have been sharing just too many of them to keep up with everything else that is going on. I think I know why there is just such a disparity between those couple of years and the last few months. It’s all got to do with my own mindset and how it’s shifted back over time into something I’m very familiar with, but that, somehow, I left it behind a few years ago. It looks like over the course of time I’m shifting away from social media first into blogging first. It’s as if I am longing for, once again, ‘writing myself into existence’.

Indeed, I remember very well the time when I first started blogging (internally, behind the firewall) around end of 2002 and all I could think about, while reading or conversing with other folks on a wide range of different work related topics, was along the lines of ‘Oh, I need to blog about that idea’, or ‘I need to respond to that blog post with another one as well to add further up into the conversation’, or, just simply ‘I need to write that down somewhere to reflect on it further along, so I don’t forget to come back to it later’, to name a few. Yes, indeed, I realise now how I was writing myself into existence as my good friend Euan Semple wrote a few years back quoting David Weinberger himself on what blogging was all about: ‘Writing ourselves into existence’.

Somehow, and over the course of the last 3 to 5 years I lost track of that while my mind switched automatically from blogging first into social media first, as I was spending a whole lot more time in several of those so-called social media tools while ignoring and neglecting my good old blogging mojo. However, at one point in time, this past August, to be more precise, I got too tired with just being the data, I mean, with always being the product no matter what. Frankly, I just got too tired with the surveillance state we are, apparently, creating with the current pernicious polarisation that keeps growing faster and faster than ever as we have confirmed that transition from making use of social media tools into just media tools, where we have become that, the media.

No, I am sorry, that’s not how I would want to spend plenty of my online time anymore. As Euan mentioned on that blog entry, I just need a space where I can be a whole lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and of the world around me for that matter, without having to jump into everyone else’s throats out there every time they are not politically correct agreeing with me anymore on absolutely everything I categorically state because, you know, I am always right and they are not. That’s how things seem to be rolling out there for everyone at the moment. I can, we all can, do so much better than that altogether, don’t you think?

How about blogging as a choral act?, as Bonnie Stewart wrote beautifully in a recent blog entry a couple of weeks back. A superb article, by the way, in case you may have missed it about the healing powers of digital writing. To quote her: 
 

Blogging is a choral act. Posts are commented on; ties are formed. Stories and backstories become known. As I connected with other bloggers and found community first with other parents and then with those whose writing, like my own, unpacked identities in various forms, I stumbled into something extraordinary […]

 

This is just too funny, and perhaps a tad ironic, too, because my last three months of blogging over here in this blog have helped me, once more, finally, comprehend (and come to terms with the fact of) how I no longer crave for attention, at least, as much as I used to back in the day. How I seem to have departed from me, me, me land into the we, we, we land. It’s helped me, at long last, understand as well how most of the times it’s the long-form reads with your own thoughts, opinions and emotions the ones that are the most powerful components towards building, nurturing and sustaining long term (online) communities, where you are just one of the community members, connecting, sharing, learning and collaborating together with others as equals, as a choral act.

Yes, indeed, that’s the underestimated power of blogging. It’s no longer about the self per se, but more about what you could bring forward as part of an already existing conversation that’s taking place in multiple blogs and blog comments from different people who have got a long term common goal: connect, share and learn more about a particular topic with other online partners. Now, when was the last time you had that wonderful sensation while interacting through media tools? Something tells me it may well have been a while. Is that how you see yourself continuing to make use of those media tools in the medium, long term? Think about it… Think closely. Where do you think you will be online in the next 5 or 10 years? Someone else’s home or your own? Hopefully, your own, right? 😀

I realise you may be thinking one of the several reasons why you are still making use of those different media tools (apart from just being there so you don’t appear to be the awkward one, the weirdo) is as an opportunity to showcase and promote some of your thought leadership and expertise on a particular topic by pushing messages out there about the stuff you may have shared or published elsewhere (like your blog) and therefore help others become more aware about what you do. That’s a good reason, indeed. I have used it myself a few times, but only to realise it no longer works. Over the course of the years I have noticed, I’m pretty sure you may have as well, how we hardly ever read anything else on media tools anymore other than our very own broadcasted messages. We are just too busy doing all sorts of other things to then have to stop and read what other people publish, share or would want to converse about. Well, here’s the thing, if that’s how we all feel AND behave, that attention you are craving is then long gone and pretty much dead by now. No-one will read your posts, never mind respond to some of them! And then what? 

Keep posting multiple times during the course of the day adding further along into the already existing noise, so that your audience? may, pontentially, see it and drop by skimming through it rather quick before they head back into their timelines? Yikes! No, no-one would want to have that, so why do we keep sustaining it? We shouldn’t. No-one reads our marketing messages anymore. Somehow, it feels a little bit like a waste of time, resources, energy and good effort. That is one of the many things I have learned myself, through trial and error as well, over the course of last three months where I, along with several dozens of other people, have used different media tools to share some of the blog posts I have put together over here that others may find somewhat interesting and relevant for what they do and, yet, vast majority of my blog traffic still comes through search engines like Google or Bing and not a single one of those media tools despite the thousands and thousands of people we tend to broadcast to. Quite revealing on its own, I tell you, as it reminds me of the long tail of knowledge: as long as you get to write good content, or comment on other people’s blog posts, care about what they post, or take a genuine interest in what they do, etc. etc. they will always find it, with or without making use of media tools no-one stops by anymore to read, accordingly, more in depth.

I know what you are all thinking, but ‘blogging is hard work’. It takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy to put together a blog post versus writing a tweet or sharing a short status update and you may be right. But then again we ought to realise we should never be too busy to blog. It’s just a matter of habit, really; in fact, it’s a matter of (re)building the habit of writing further along about the topics we are very interested in and are passionate about and see what comes out eventually (remember? Blogging is personal), as if no-one else is reading, just for you, perhaps even if you decide to start using rather helpful techniques like writing 750 words per day, you name it. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are willing to write ourselves into existence in a space we own AND partake in the conversations, all of us, as equals, as a choral act. As ever, it’s our individual and collective choice and ours alone. No-one, not even any media tool out there, should interfere with that decision. Ever. We are the ones who need to decide and define what our digital footprint should be like

That’s why I have now, finally, decided to spend more time blogging over here than craving the attention in media tools from an audience we no longer have, no matter what the numbers of followers may well say. They have now become redundant. Instead, I much prefer to crave the wonderful conversations I have been having over here already in multiple blog posts, because they help me learn and grow accordingly over time by caring even more about the topics that are dear to my heart (and mind!). To me, that’s what blogging has been all about all along for the last 20+ years and still going strong: an extended part of our reflective brains about what’s going on around us, and the world at large for that matter, and how do we make sense out of it all.

Why not make the most out of it then, right? Blog on!

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