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

Life

The Innovation of Loneliness

Leon - The CathedralOne of the really interesting things in the world of social networking is how every now and then you bump into a specific resource, an online video clip, a blog post, a mainstream news article, a dissertation or whatever else, that is just so thought-provoking and rather mind-boggling in challenging your own notion, experiences, know-how, skills and expertise on the topic of social networks that surely makes you think about your own experiences twice, to the point where it makes you pause and think, really well, whether you are doing it right or not (and whatever that means with “doing it right“). Gary Hamel calls it “changing the way we change“. I call it growing-up, although my notion of growing-up is a completely different kind of growing-up than the one Euan Semple blogged about just recently as well. Indeed, welcome to the disturbing world of Loneliness!

Euan, in a rather inspirational short blog post, puts together all of his hopes around the Social Web (and our societies, for that matter) on those people who “are brave enough to be naive, foolish, enthusiastic, and open – because maybe that is how real grown ups should be?“. I would put my hopes on those, too, although I would also include those who are always open to exercising plenty of critical thinking, in a constructive manner, of course, but always willing to challenge the status quo to help us move forward, to progress further, to grow, to keep learning, to understand how we should strive for avoiding becoming a commodity and thrive in the new Creativity Economy (Yes, another economy to add into the mix) as empowered knowledge (Web) workers. 

And then you bump into absolutely stunning video clips like the one put together by Shimi Cohen on the Innovation of Loneliness (Vimeo link, if interested) that starts off with a rather evocative and refreshing question that I doubt most of us out there on social networks have ever even dared to ask ourselves: “What is the connection between Social Networks and Being Lonely?

I am not going to spoil the contents of the video for you. Not even going to give you a teaser or two, like I typically do to entice you all to go and watch through it. This time is different. This time I am too shocked to even muse about what I thought about some of the key messages coming through after I watched it. It’s a little bit over 4 minutes long, and it’s one of those wonderfully troubling videos that would not leave you indifferent. On the contrary.

It will help you question, and big time!, not only your own notions of what social networks are all about, but the role we all play in them. I can tell you that after I watched it I just couldn’t utter a single trend of thought that would be meaningful enough to share across other than “WOW!! Is this really where we are heading with our very own social networking experiences out there on the Social Web? Please tell me it isn’t. Please tell me we are aiming higher, bigger, better, because otherwise I know we are going to be in trouble, in deep trouble altogether“. If not, judge for yourselves on what I mean and watch through the video clip itself below. Let me know what you think in the comments. Yes, I know, I’m, too, still coming to terms with it myself on how brilliantly poignant it is altogether:

 

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Finding Time to Reflect while on Vacation

Leon - CathedralOnce again, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since my last blog post over here on The Perks of Being an Early Riser  and I am sure at this point in time folks out there may be thinking that, once more, I have failed to keep up with restoring my social presence as I mentioned on that last article. Far from the truth, I am afraid. Over the last few days I have been doing something that I have been looking forward to for quite some time and that it’s always something that I can never get tired of: Vacation. And this time around a very special kind of holiday, because it’s been a rather disconnected one, too! Not by choice though, although the world works in mysterious ways, so perhaps that was what I needed all along in the first place: a time to strike for “the best opportunity to take a step back, inhale, exhale, think about life, and ask: am I happy?

Indeed, every year, during the course of the summer I have been enjoying tremendously that pilgrimage back home to see my family in León, Spain, where I was born and raised, and catch up with them for a few days to see what they have been up to. And time and time again, it’s been a fun experience, specially, when this time around you try to explain to your mum what you do for a living and you realise that she has never seen, played, enjoyed the Web. Quite an interesting and thrilling challenge I would encourage you all to go through, if you haven’t just yet! 

Even worse when you try to show her what it is like from your laptop and there isn’t any ADSL or wi-fi around. Or you try to show her on your mobile smartphone and tablet through a so-called rather robust 3G network and you see that it fails to keep getting connected to the point of embarrassment. And you eventually give up, because you know that so-called pervasive connectivity isn’t just coming around. Yes, indeed, someone had to say it out loud, I guess, there are parts in this world where broadband and the Internet are just … not … there! 

Goodness! I can’t believe that I am writing about this in 2013, where everyone keeps claiming that we are now more connected than ever before in our history through the (Social) Web, where wi-fi and ADSL lines are pervasive enough to make it an enjoyable experience and where, as a last resort, 3G may come to the rescue. Well, not really. Not everywhere as I have been able to experience fully in the last 10 days or so. And this is happening right here, in Spain, not some kind of remote island, in the middle of the ocean, where the 21st century may not have arrived just yet! 

See? Disconnected holiday not by choice, but then again perhaps it was better that way, because I had a real blast altogether! And for a good number of reasons, starting off with having an opportunity to do a proper catch-up with family and friends face-to-face and without any smartphone or tablet devices getting on the way. Never mind that wonderful opportunity as well to find plenty of time to pause and reflect wondering about things, in general, whether I have been enjoying work, my personal life, and so forth. You name it. It’s amazing to see how much one gets to think when you do have all of the time of the world without the so-called distractions we are all pretty familiar with. What Ted Leonsis brilliantly described on a recent article under the suggestive heading “Find Time to Reflect“.

Anyway, I am not too sure whether I eventually succeeded in explaining to my mum what I do for a living, or not, but I can tell you she was right on when she threw back at me a rather short, sharp question that I guess summarises everything and that it certainly puts things into perspective: “Are you happy, son? (Because that’s what really matters at the end of the day, you know)“. 

Whoahhh!! Mums are wonderful, aren’t they? They just know us inside out, and without having to say much, to find out really quick everything they would want to know and in just 4 words she was capable of detailing whether I am on the right track or not, and not just in my professional career, but also on a personal level. The intriguing thing is that I failed to utter some words as a response. Instead, I just got a huge smile coming across my entire face that she received warmly with a nod of approval and That’s all that matters, really, that you are happy with yourself and those around you and that you keep smiling. The world needs that, son“. 

You can see why I am getting goose bumps all over again as I get to write down those few words of wisdom, right? And she didn’t even need to be aware of what the Internet is or have access to it or for me to explain what I do for work. Some things are just so profound, so touching and mind-blowing altogether, yet so simple and uncomplicated that it’s incredibly difficult to not just feel overwhelmed by that feeling of immense gratitude. She has done all right with all of her children all along throughout all of these years. And me being worried all along about not being connected to the Web to be in the know and everything, when all I needed was just right in front of my face! Right there! How could I possibly miss that? 

I guess that’s what I meant earlier on in this post when talking about taking that disconnected holiday to visit my family and to pause and reflect on things, the smallest things, you know, the ones which seem to be the ones that keep driving us towards whatever our goals may well have been all along, but that, for whatever the reason, we may have deviated a bit in our directions and / or intent. I suppose that’s, amongst several other zillion things!, what mums are really good at over the course of time when they keep reminding you what you are here for in this world and everything, helping you focus on what you really need to focus on… those around you who you care for and … yourself.

In finding time to reflect Ted talks about several common steps that would surely help us all towards becoming happy and successful. To quote them briefly: 

  1. “Goal-Setting
  2. Communities of Interest
  3. Personal Expression
  4. Gratitude
  5. Empathy and Giving Back
  6. Higher Calling”

It is a rather fascinating and inspiring read all along for sure and I highly recommend going through it, specially, if you are still enjoying some time off and could do with some additional hints & tips on what that thinking time could be like. I can tell you, after the 10 days I have spent back home, with my family, in mainland Spain, there are a couple of them that truly resonate with what I have experienced during that time: personal expression, gratitude and empathy and giving back, understanding fully that all of the above will eventually help me figure out the biggie, that is, the higher calling (Whatever that may well be, whenever … time will tell). 

Ether way, you can probably sense from this blog post how after that holiday break my batteries are fully charged, and ready for plenty more to come along! I will be back to work next Monday. That outrageous, heretic, corporate rebel optimist, that hippie 2.0, is back in full throttle and interestingly enough with a new focus (I told you, that thinking time was going to have its toll as well! hehe) that will start unfolding itself from next week onwards, when as an early riser back into the social grid, will start unleashing his personal expression. But for now, I thought I would share over here a couple of photos I had the chance to take as well of the town where I grew up back in the day… 

Leon - San Isidoro

Leon - Cathedral

Leon - San Marcos

León - Casa Botines

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The Perks of Being an Early Riser

Gran Canaria - Charca de MaspalomasI have been a remote knowledge (Web) worker for almost 10 years now (Back in November 2003, when I was still living in The Netherlands) and over the course of time, while I shifted from European based projects into worldwide ones I have been doing plenty of adjusting of work schedules to meet the demands of work and therefore become a night owl of sorts, but at the same time ensuring that work life integration is there, right from the start. It’s been an interesting journey all along and even more so when it has given me the opportunity to live fully key concepts like flexibility and negotiation in a collaborative workplace. Well, it’s now a good time perhaps to take things into the next level and become an early bird, once again. 

Indeed, for a good number of years I used to be an early riser, and I mean, a really early one! However, and like I mentioned above, over the course of time, and as I have shifted into more global working schedules, I became more of a night owl, starting work at around noon, my local timezone, and then finish work related items late in the evening, never mind adding up after-work related activities, of course. All in all work life integration has always been a key theme for yours truly, since I have never believed in the so-called work life balance that plenty of people have been talking and writing about for a long time, more than anything else, because I have always believed, and rather strongly, that balance is just a myth. Why? Well, because work always wins. 

What I am finding truly fascinating from this journey as a remote knowledge (Web) worker is how time and time again we all get to redefine and redesign our very own work habits and mindset to meet up a new set of behaviours that would allow us reach our business goals: mainly, get work done in both an effective and productive manner through the use of social technologies. You know, the good old mantra I have been talking about over here for a while now around working smarter, not necessarily harder. But what happens when, all of a sudden, everything gets disrupted because you end up finding out it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with both worlds: internal and external? Is that something that has happened to you all as well? 

What I mean with that is simply how ever since I moved into this new role as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections within the CIO organisation, my external participation on social networking tools has become more and more scarce, not necessarily because of a time issue, or intent, or motivation, or willingness to do it. But more than anything else because both my brain and body seem to have had enough with it all. No, don’t worry, this is not a blog post where I am going to announce I am going to give up on external social networking activities. This is more of an article to reflect how the time that I used to allocate for those external activities needs to shift accordingly to match a new reality: at the end of the day, both my body and my brain are just wonderfully fried.

Why? Well, because I am loving what I am doing. I am having a blast helping my company understand and embrace that new brave world of Social / Open Business. I am enjoying tremendously the huge amount of interactions I have daily helping fellow colleagues adjust their habits and mindset, and eventually adapt to a new set of behaviours, a new wave of interactions to do business, where they themselves become more open, collaborative and transparent on what they do. And it’s that passion that shines through that keeps me going at a rather full throttle pace that some times it’s hard to keep up with. The immediate result? At the end of my work day, I am wonderfully exhausted

Indeed, it just doesn’t feel like work, this job role is truly aligned with my core values, even if that means that I get to fully challenge each and everyone of them, on a regular basis, in terms of what I have always believed over the course of last 13 years around social networking for business, so, yes, I am very willing to suffer as a passionate method into learning how everything flows around me and those I interact with, understanding fully where the limits may well be in terms of commitment, involvement, engagement and what not. Hopefully, it does get noticed as time moves on realising how pretty much that exhaustion, that fulfilment, that readiness to come back tomorrow for more pretty much drives what I do nowadays. 

You could say that I have turned myself from a first thinker (around 2.0 matters) into a powerhouse practitioner in full mode for executing, and walking the talk, on the Social / Open Business mantras and philosophy. Am I enjoying it? Yes, you bet! I surely am! Is it having a price, a toll, on yours truly? Yes, it is! At least, on my external personal, digital brand / footprint. Am I really willing to sacrifice it for the greater good, i.e. helping everyone else get there? Yes, very much so! That was one of the main reasons why I took this new job in the first place! Will it mean that over time I will keep fading away till I pretty much disappear from the Social Web? I just don’t know. I haven’t explored that yet, or the implications of such thought, but I do sense how I am slowly going into oblivion, to the point that I am not too sure anymore I may be able to recover that external social presence anymore to what it used to be. I guess I will have to take that risk and, yes!, I am willing to take it. It’s perhaps all what I have got left, if I would want to grow further along on that learning path of becoming a fully engaged and empowered knowledge Web worker.

The trade-off is huge and rather risky, but quite an adrenaline rush all along. At the same time, I feel though how I am starting to miss those thinking times where you would pause and reflect on what’s happening around you, that is, your own thought leadership, in order to develop some ideas around it and share it across with everyone else to keep improving things for you and, hopefully, for everyone else. Yes, I am starting to miss that thinking time for reflection. Why? Mainly, because as soon as I start my working day at my home office, there is no time for a pause, or a breather. A constant influx of internal social interactions, instant messages, phone calls, videoconferences, meetings, conference calls, *cough* email *cough* , etc. etc. you name it, take over and by the time it’s all done and dealt with both my body and brain are so exhausted that I cannot longer think and reflect properly to interact in a meaningful way out there on the Social Web in conversations where I would want to share my ¢2 and still make sense out of it.

So I just go elsewhere and do other things, typically, what most people would flag as private quality time with your family, friends and relatives. Basically, enjoy the other side of life. Still my external social presence gets to suffer on this one quite a bit, because that time that I had allocated for those external social interactions is now a thing of the past, since it is used for something else now. Still, like I mentioned above, I do miss the thinking times around Social / Open Business, perhaps as an opportunity for yours truly to keep advancing and learning plenty more, since we are just at the tip of the iceberg, right at the beginning, of this fascinating business transformation journey. Thus time to take action then, I suppose: become an early riser!

Indeed, there have been a good and rather extensive, varied number of different articles, blog postsdissertations, research and what not, that talk about the various different perks of being an early riser. All packed with plenty of helpful, practical and rather relevant hints and tips on how to make it work accordingly. Well, to me, there will be a new one out there that I would be adding into the mix: my own thinking time.

Indeed, that time where you just kick things off with your day, where you just focus on what you would want to do, that may not necessarily be even work related, but that can certainly give you that opportunity to work on something you would want for yourself in terms of your own thought leadership, effectiveness at achieving something or just plainly personal productivity. In my case, an opportunity to pause and reflect on interesting and rather inspiring links I may bump into from my various different social networks or perhaps an opportunity to blog on a more regular basis, shorter pieces, maybe, as I will just be capable of focusing on that particular writing activity without constantly being pulled off in multiple directions. 

Somehow I feel rather enticed by the idea of whether I can change my own habits from being a night owl into an early bird. To see whether I can regain that productive time (not related to my internal work) to focus on my external social presence and to whatever the level. Remember, no need to be constantly over-sharing stuff all over the place without thinking the potential purpose and additional for that activity, i.e. your audience and yourself. I can see how some times I may be able to spend the odd hour here and there, perhaps two!, or may be just 30 minutes, or even less, after all, don’t forget that we are all in here for the long run, so the important thing is just to kick things off, learn from that new experience and I guess that with this blog post I have just done that! 

So, any other early risers on my external social networks … ? 

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There Can Be No Resilience Without Transformation

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringIt has been nearly two weeks since the last post that I put over here in this blog, so I am sure that plenty of you folks out there may have been thinking I have been on holidays, or taking the typical summer break, and that at some point in time I may well be coming back to blogging on a regular basis, along with picking up my external social networking activities. Well, not really. I have just concluded, and be dealt with for good, I hope, what I think is the first time ever in my 13 years of social software exposure what I never thought I would be confronting: a week of denial of the Social Web.

Goodness! That was intense. Indeed, to the point where it nearly broke me apart and made me gave up on the whole thing altogether. Those who know me well, specially, fellow colleagues, know that the last two to three weeks have been incredibly emotional at work and with quite a draining toll that I don’t even have the energy just yet to write about. And those two last weeks of July finally paid off with this last week of denial for the Social Web where I just basically withdrew from the whole thing. And it was painful. Very painful. And it was ugly. Very ugly. With the end result that at the end of the day I just had to bounce back. That’s just what passion does for you, I guess. It lets you go through your odd moments of weakness, so you can do plenty of thinking and reflection on what’s going on with you, your surroundings and whatever else you may be interested or rather passionate about, to then help you re-focus and bring back the phoenix in you, restore the faith, restore the commitment, the urge, the purpose and meaning of wanting to still make a difference and, in a blink, just like it started, that week of denial is just gone. Gone to never return!

Perhaps what kicked off that week of denial was that article I put over here under the heading “Google Plus – Who Owns the Filter Bubble?“, more than anything else, because my last haven for hope for the Social Web out there just vanished into becoming what most social networking tools are nowadays at best: vulgar and ordinary, just to help us continue being stoned with that digital bliss where it seems to be the only model that works is to have you glued to your computing device(s) hitting refresh constantly, so that you wouldn’t miss a single thing happening from what’s delivered to you by those so-called social networking providers that keep claiming they know better than yourself what you need, when they themselves refuse to engage or provide you with support, thinking that, after all, you are just that, the mob. And you know how it goes. We don’t talk to the mob. We just keep it entertained and hooked, so that we can get away with our own agenda(s). Well, I have got news for all of you. Enough is enough. It’s time to wake up, everyone! There is just a whole lot more in life than just being an ignored product of the system. Life is too precious to waste it just like that. 

See? The reason why all of these social networking tools are so popular with 2.0 practitioners is not necessarily because of the technology, which is, as I have said above already, rather vulgar, ordinary and miserable, if, as a result of it, your own health is at risk. It’s actually the people who keep dragging us all into the whole thing. Vast majority of practitioners don’t really care what features a social networking tool may well have or not, if the community is there. You stick around because those people who you have built wonderful personal (business) relationships with over the course of time they keep coming back, just like you do. That’s actually one of the reasons why I haven’t been actively sharing content across, but I have been observing how my networks have been interacting during that week, without me, and, interestingly enough, things have changed quite a bit and not sure it’s for the better. But I think I may know why that’s happening, because I am starting to see it at work as well. And it’s not pretty. 

A couple of days back, I celebrated my fourth month on the new job as a Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM and it just feels like such a long long time ago already. I guess time flies when you are still having lots of good fun enjoying what you do the most: enabling and helping practitioners adapt to a new way of working where collaboration and knowledge sharing through social technologies take a new meaning by becoming more open, trustworthy, public and transparent. Essentially, more effective and productive at the same time by understanding that the corporate world is no longer ruled by the scarcity of knowledge stocks but by the abundance of knowledge flows through multiple social networks.Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring

The thing is though that, while I have been getting more and more involved with the new job, where scalability has taken a new meaning for me, I have had a chance to witness, and experienced fully!, how the 2.0 bubble I may have lived in for the last 6 to 8 years may have already burst. For good. Why? Well, for multiple different reasons that I am going to be blogging about over the course of time, but mainly because of a single one to kick things off: knowledge workers are no longer allowed to Play, Learn, Work, as my good friend, Harold Jarche blogged about beautifully just recently. No, they are not. They are just told, advised, and encouraged to just carry on their work into exhaustion, as if they were androids. And what would you expect they would do? Indeed, they have, eventually, become commoditised robotic entities that do their work and once those resources are no longer deemed helpful or relevant they are easily disposed of. 

It’s certainly, extremely worrying, how all of that passion, enthusiasm, energy, and huge effort by early adopters and first thinkers on helping set the stage, act as pathfinders, provide the initial roads to get started with that wonderful journey of becoming a Social / Open Business are now things of the past. That’s what I have been noticing these past few days while going through that stage of denial of the Social Web. You see? People nowadays are just putting check marks on their massively ever growing to-do lists that they have tweeted, plussedfacebooked, linkedined and what not, so that they can move back into their real work: the one that doesn’t require critical, constructive thinking, engaging, conversing, caring, or helping others and so forth for that matter. Essentially, people are back to what has gotten them to the stage of being androids: their meetings and email Inboxes. Those wonderful hide-out places where you can just get by, good enough, pretending you are working, when you know you aren’t. But, hey, that’s what your boss wants you to do, right? Why change? Why bother? Why trying to look for new, better, more effective ways of working if your boss and your senior management / leadership team(s) keep accumulating fatter and fatter bonuses anyway? You know, you are just sitting inside of your own little mental cubicle, your own comfort zone, that one that doesn’t require you to think much in order to go through 12 to 14 hours of hard automated work each day for who knows what business value. 

It’s really interesting to see what you get to learn when you start questioning everything you have believed in over the course of the last 13 years, in this case, for me, around social networking, but even more interesting when instead of going into broadcasting mode, that is, that industrialisation of your social activities, just like everyone else is doing, you decide to pause and reflect and see how people really interact. Don’t worry, you won’t have to look into it with much detail. Actually, people just don’t interact anymore. They post whatever they have been told they need to share across, or, even better, they scheduled it all, so that they don’t have to leave their Inboxes and really important meetings, then they place the check marks on their to-do lists and the whole thing dies. Right there. But, you know, that’s all right, because they have done their work already, that is, put a check mark in their lovely spreadsheet, so that it all shows lovely green even though no-one else would be looking into it anyway.

You see? This is what’s happening right now. And not just externally, but also internally, behind the firewall, with all of those Enterprise Social Networking tools and across the corporate world. We have defaulted to stop learning, to stop with all the play and, eventually, we have stopped to do our real work more effectively (The work we are truly passionate about), when we all know we can deliver and so much more, but, yet, we don’t, because we no longer feel engaged employees anymore and our managers, bosses and senior leadership teams are right there ready to remind us through our monthly paychecks and bonuses what happens when you are not heads down supposedly. 

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring Exhaustion and overwork, but, specially, fear (I will be blogging plenty more about this one, not to worry), are not helping people go out and play with other fellow social networkers, in order to promote and engage on meaningful conversations to get work done. Instead, people just keep putting on more and more hours of work, just because they want to keep up with those extra work pressures that have been imposed on them, as they wouldn’t want to lag behind their colleagues. See the trend? It gets better. Managers and senior leadership only care about how much money you have made for them today. Anything else is redundant and they will keep reminding you of it, in case you didn’t deliver the fat bonuses to their front door. So when they come to you telling you you need to be social they all make it look like it is, yet again, another spreadsheet to fill-in, put the checkmarks in place and move on. It’s easier to manage individuals as exhausted and overworked androids than to treasure and nurture powerful networks that thrive in free flows of knowledge where the hierarchy is no longer the one that calls the shots anymore. You need to earn both the merit and your reputation with total strangers. Every day. Every single day of the year. Year in, year out. And that’s pretty though, you know, specially, when you are not used to. So what do you do? 

Very simple. The same good old thing you have been doing all along, except that at the moment you have got a new spreadsheet with a bunch of to-dos where it says “Be social or else. Spread around my own messages, so I don’t have to do the homework. Represent the brand according to the corporate branding guidelines, never mind your own personal brand, we don’t care, and, above all, ensure our customers know about our same good old messages, because we still know more than they do“. Whoahhh! I know! That’s what I keep seeing, more often than not, when I hang out on both internal and external social networking tools nowadays as I watch, learn and observe how people pretend to interact on the Social Web. 

My goodness! Where did we go wrong?!?! How could we possibly waste 6 to 8 years of some wonderfully inspiring 2.0 thought leadership that we knew was going to change the business world for good? Where did we get off the train? Why have we stopped this absolutely inspirational journey to go out there and keep making a difference? And instead go back right into our comfort zones, our spreadsheets, meetings and email, where little thinking is required and minimum action is encouraged so managing things still is relatively easy.

Exactly, that’s why I needed to finish off with my own week in denial of the Social Web. That’s why I needed, I wanted it!, to bounce back. I had enough of it. It was just killing me to witness how all around me, both inside and, most worryingly outside!, over the course of the last three weeks, I have spent far too much time experiencing what that exhaustive, overworked, under pressured work mentality can do to the corporate world. To all of us, me included. And, in essence, it’s managing to do one thing very well: kill all of our passion, all of our critical thinking skills, because we just want to fit in, all of our motivation and purpose to want to do interesting and relevant things, and, eventually, become, at long last, an engaged employee

That’s why instead of giving up on it altogether and move on with the flow (with that rather dangerous inertia of just wanting to blend in, not being noticed) I decided, over the weakend (while I have been on full recovery mode from some rather exhaustive and emotional work experiences through multiple interactions with the business 1.0 world, but equally inspiring and rather thought provoking – I am really looking forward to blog some more about) to … bounce back!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringTo keep up the fight. Because, amongst several other things, there can be no resilience without transformation. And this is what it is all about, folks: transformation and our ability to shake up everything we have been experiencing and living over the course of the last 150 years and realise that in order for us, knowledge workers, to survive in today’s corporate environment, the sooner we adapt to living the values and philosophy of Social / Open Business and how they apply to how we work, the sooner we will finally transform not only the way we work, but also the way we live. And that’s just so important.

Why? Well, because since a few years back it’s a matter of our own mere survival: that one of the Knowledge Web Worker, finally, fully embracing that digital transformation we all keep talking about, but that we keep seeing slipping away from our fingers time and time again, because we refuse to change. 

Change is hard, I think we all know that, but it’s now time to take a new grip. And don’t let go. Play, Learn and Work like you have never done before! It has always been part of our human nature, an integral part of who we are, so we might as well awaken ourselves and embrace what’s inevitable: our very own human digital transformation. 

Boy, I am game. And you? 

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The Power of Networks in a Complex (Business) World

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the SpringOne of the things that I am continuing to find rather fascinating and intriguing altogether is how, time and time again, even now in 2013, I still keep bumping, every so often, into various different people who keep questioning the validity and (business) value of checking vanity pages, as they usually call them, when referring to social networking profiles from knowledge workers / practitioners. To them, social networking is just a complete waste of time. A passing fad. A wonderful opportunity to goof off at work and get away with it. It’s that activity you would do whenever you would have some free, idle time in between workflows. And that’s about it. And since they are all incredibly busy and hectic processing 4 to 5 hours of email they just can’t seem to go beyond their own eyes. In reality, little do they know that, after all, whether we like it or not, that knowledge is hyperconnected and that everything around us is a network, a giant network, that’s been with us for millions of years interconnected through one of the most amazing networks of species: Bacteria.

Excuse me? What did you just write above, you said? Bacteria? Did I just read right that we, networks of species, are connected by bacteria with one another throughout our very own history, from way back at the beginning of time? Yes, indeed, I wrote that. Apparently, it’s been documented and confirmed how 90% of our bodies are made of bacteria, just like pretty much any other creature in this world. The remarkable thing from that discovery is not necessarily the realisation that we, human beings, at the top of chain of the so-called evolution, are just made up of bacteria. The amazing thing is that all of that bacteria is interconnected and therefore we are all connected. No matter what. Whether we like it or not, that’s who we are and it’s a fascinating journey to realise how the new specialisation of today’s complex world seems to be that we need to know a little bit of everything in order to make sense of the environment, the context and the connections we are surrounded by.  

Goodness! Truly mind-blowing, don’t you think? Well, those are some of the main conclusions, amongst many others, that you would be able to get exposed to, if you decide to spend about 11 minutes watching the absolutely stunning and rather inspiring RSA Animate video clip on The Power of Networks by Manuel Lima. It is definitely a must-watch video, not only from the perspective of getting a glimpse of the hyperconnected, networked, complex world we live in, but also from the point of view of trying to help us understand our (distant) past, to live and experience the present in order to understand the future (we are heading to). 

It’s one of those video clips that would not leave you indifferent. Quite the opposite. Lately, it’s one of my favourite weapons, whenever I bump into those skeptics, those critics or those laggards who keep saying that (social) networks are just a complete waste of time, resources, energy and attention. You see? They have got work to do. And yet they are missing a brave new world out there that social technologies are, finally, helping unleash some of its true potential in helping us understand how network thinking goes well beyond a business context. It’s what we are, it’s who we are, what we will become and what we have been all along: 

A complex network of interactions, relationships, contexts, systems and what not that we need to start learning how to manage them to make some sense out of it as we progress further into that Open Business world where we are, finally, starting to come to terms with what my good friend Esko Kilpi brilliantly wrote about at “Social Business and Complexity” not long ago and which I am going to take the liberty of quoting over here as well: 

We are the result of our interaction. We are our relations

To then finish off with a short note on the impact of social technologies in today’s complex, more interconnected world than ever: 

“The new social technologies have the potential to influence connectivity and interaction as much as the sciences of complexity are going to influence our thinking. The task today is to understand what both social business and complexity mean. The next management paradigm is going to be based on those two, at the same time

Oh, boy, I just can’t wait for that one to unleash and disrupt for good, and rather massively, the way we have been doing business for decades. And you? 

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Open Business – From Adoption into Adaptation

Gran Canaria - Ayagaures in the SpringAs I have mentioned in a recent blog post, you would remember how I have now moved into a new job role within IBM, as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections (both internal and external), where I am much more heavily involved with IBM’s knowledge workers’ own adoption efforts of social business and social technologies. So far, the journey has been incredibly fascinating, if anything, because we are just about to enter the last stage of Social Business Adoption and Enablement: Adaptation. And this is the best part, frankly, I am not really too sure we are ready for it just yet.

If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you would know how I have been involved with social networking tools since early 2000 to 2001 when I was first exposed to instances of wikis and people aggregators. And throughout all of that time I have seen a good number of different tipping points and different phases of adoption that have marked a rather interesting evolution into helping social networking for business become the new fabric, the new DNA, of the company in terms of how we collaborate and share our knowledge. There have been plenty of interesting and relevant challenges, and yet, the toughest is still awaiting us.

Having been involved with social networks inside the company from right at the beginning has given me the opportunity to witness how different waves of adopters have been able to embrace social technologies, at their own pace, in order to help themselves become more collaborative and effective by ways of opening up their knowledge sharing processes. At the same time, it has allowed me to witness how over the course of time those waves of adopters are getting narrower and narrower. Early adopters, first, second, third waves of adopters have all gone through that transformation of how they work and everything. And while there have been some good challenges, I feel the most pressing ones are yet to come. And for two different reasons:

The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics

The first one is that the one or two waves of adopters who still have got to make it across are probably the most intriguing, because they are the ones whom in another blog post I have called The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics. Yes, these are those knowledge workers who have already tried and played with social networking tools in some form or shape, and who have definitely heard and have been exposed to social networking and they weren’t very convinced. In fact, quite the opposite. It just didn’t click for them. They saw it, they dived in, it didn’t meet their needs and wants and they moved on back to where they were. 

Slowly, but steadily, they turned themselves into skeptics with the earned right to voice out their concerns, issues and what not, in order to make the point across that they are not going to make the change over, no matter what. At least, for now, or till the point where things have changed and shifted so radically they won’t have a choice anymore.

And while I think you folks may highlight that as a potential issue in terms of the overall social business adoption strategy, it’s perhaps the one group left we should not try to keep convincing of what lies ahead, but let them re-discover it at their own pace and everything, over and over again till it hits, if needed be, at their own time, at their own pace. Indeed, there will always be different waves of adopters and each and everyone of us, social software evangelists, should be ok with that. The sooner we are, the much better of we will all be eventually. If not, we are the ones who have got an issue, because we are just not working hard enough to understand their context and different working styles and adjust accordingly. 

Social Business Mandates

The second reason, which is the one that has got me extremely worried at the moment, is that one where we have failed in inspiring to transform our very own knowledge workforce and switched gears thinking that Social Business Transformation can be accelerated by mandating its adoption, whether you, the knowledge worker, like it or not. Yes, I know we are all excited and rather committed to provoke the change, no matter what, even if we decide to go ahead and mandate such shift. But it is just so flawed, it’s scary. Very scary altogether, because it just shows how we haven’t learned much in the last decade. 

Social Business transformation is not a project team, it’s not something that you start by date X and you finish it off in a year or two. And then you are done and time for you to move elsewhere. It’s not something that you put together with a group of folks picked up by you to force it down to the rest of the employee workforce, just because you are in one part of the organisation that feels it’s entitled to push down those corporate mandates. Specially, onto those who still haven’t made the switch-over. Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the Spring

It just doesn’t work like that, I am afraid. Even more so when those corporate mandates are pushed down into people’s throats by that executive hierarchical structure understanding they are entitled to do so, just because of who they are and the position they hold. No, I am really sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that. Today’s corporate environment is a whole lot different than what it was 10 to 15 years ago.

In the world of social networking for business it’s never been about mandating and forcing certain behaviours or a specific mindset (That one of Openness, for instance). It has always been a personal, individual choice of the knowledge worker him/herself to have a play, to try things out, to find new ways of working where openness, transparency, trust, etc. become the norm in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate effectively together. And it will always be that: *a* personal choice.

So I cringe, and I die a little bit inside as well for that matter, whenever I bump into a group of fellow colleagues who have been mandated by their corporate executive(s) to use social software tools, or, else! Or, even worse, when knowledge workers are expecting to be told / mandated by their management teams that they must do it, or else. Yes, I admit it, it drives me a little bit crazy as well, because it sounds as if they have failed to inspire to transform and, instead, use their position, power and entitlement to enforce it, so that they could put a little checkmark, right next to their yearly performance evaluation, that they have been social and time to move on. 

And if there is anything wrong with that is that they have enforced the very same kind of mentality and behaviours that social business has been trying to fight all along: corporate politics, bullying, power struggles and hierarchical clashes. And it gets even worse when they have mandating their team(s) to become social and yet they haven’t even explored it themselves, can’t be bothered arguing all of this social networking stuff was not meant for them or whatever other lame excuse. Whoahhh? Really? Is that what *you* really think?

See? To me, that’s the main key difference between a manager, ruling by command and control using their position of power and entitlement, and a true leader, inspiring a new behaviour, a new mindset, walking the talk, taking the lead, while learning by doing, on what all of these social networking behaviours are all about and which this snapshot shared below (Courtesy of 9GAG) captures it very nicely: 

The biggest challenge with all of that is not that senior leadership, no longer believing in the power to transform through being a living example of the shift, but it is actually the folks, right underneath those executives, who execute those orders, because they want to please the command from the ranks above. Never mind thinking about questioning the validity of such assertions, or challenging the status quo of something they know it’s wrong, or even rebelling against it since they know very well it just won’t work. It’s just as if they have drunk so much kook-aid from the whole thing that they are still drunk with it and can’t see anything around them anymore. 

And this is where the corporate rebel side of me, the hippie 2.0, the heretic, the outrageous and optimist free radical me is coming back and in full force to fight it back as much as I possibly can, because I feel that if I don’t do it, no-one will question it, and everyone will just basically conform with it. No, we shouldn’t.

We should keep up the fight and help out our leadership, regardless of the company (As I am sure there are plenty of businesses out there going through the very same thing as I get to write these few thoughts), understand their new leadership role, that one of being servant leaders, that one of provoking that social business transformation by themselves and for themselves first, as a personal experience, so that they can comprehend better the new dynamics of engagement, those where “knowledge is power” transforms itself into “knowledge SHARED is power”, where traditional command and control management progresses through into doing is believing leadership.

And this is exactly what excites me about my job, that, 12 years later, I still feel like I am just getting started with my social networking evangelism efforts, that there is just so much more to explore, discover, play with, learn and experience that we are just starting to scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg. The difference between today and those many years back though, is that I have now got all of those years of additional experience, skills, knowhow, pragmatic way of 2.0 thinking and so forth that I can apply further along that I have finally decided to make the switch from Adoption and move on…

Earlier on this year, you would remember that blog post I put together on me making the move away from Social Business into Open Business, well, a mere 5 months later, I am making the move from Adoption into Adaptation, which I think is much more appropriate for what all of the business world is trying to do with Social Business. We are not doing Adoption per se anymore, specially, driving adoption. Instead, we open up the door to adaptation, where we help knowledge workers adapt to a new way of working, where we become more open by nature, more transparent, more trustworthy, hyperconnected, networked, engaged, participative and so on by doing something we, human beings, have always been very good at: sharing our knowledge.

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThe Industrial Age neglected our ability to adapt. Instead we became machines; robots and drones capable of putting together a massive amount of silly hours working really hard, without applying too much (critical) thinking, or even questioning the status quo, so that we could just get a pay check at the end of the month, hoping that one of those years we might potentially become part of the executive chain that everyone aspires to because we feel things would be much better. No, they were’t.

Indeed, things never got better for the vast majority, only for the very very few. In fact, they got worse, because with the current work pressures people are behaving even more like corporate drones understanding that if they don’t put enough hours during the work week (7 days a week!) they may get fired altogether together for not being productive enough. How flawed is that? I mean, how can we keep ignoring over 150 years of research on what’s obvious?

Perhaps we should get fired. Maybe we need to go through that massively rude awakening to understand how we need to go back to basics: our very own human nature. They say that we are one of the very few species in this world that can adapt adequately to any given environment, no matter how harsh it may well be. Well, perhaps we may not have adapted well enough to a corporate environment where we have been eaten up alive by the status quo, because we just haven’t challenged it well enough like we have done with other environments.

The difference between last 50 years and now is that for the first time ever, we have got the tools, the social technologies, to help us provoke that transformation of how we do business and how we should behave in the new business world that aims at sustainable growth, equity, parity, earned merit, digital reputation, etc. and how the sooner we may be switch from adoption to adaptation, from corporate mandates to servant leadership, from corporate drones into human beings with an ability to think and make beautiful things, the much better our societies would become as a result of it. Not just for each and everyone of us, but for many future generations to come.

It’s the least we can all do. Adapt for our mere survival as a species. The race has already started a while ago. The clock is ticking and faster than ever… Think, inspire and execute. Don’t waste any more time trying to conform with a status quo that was never meant to be. Challenge it by helping people understand and fully embrace how they can adapt to a new reality. Their own reality.

Remember that life is just too short to have to conform with a status quo you never believed in, nor adapted to, in the first place. It’s now a good time to level up the game and demonstrate what we are all capable of in terms of adapting social business gestures to how we work.

Indeed, doing is believing!


Adaptation: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

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