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

Open Leadership

Working Out Loud with Google Plus – Part Deux

One of the themes around both Social and Open Business I have grown rather fond of over the course of the last 2 to 3 years is that one of Working Out Loud (Other related topics would be as well narrating your work or observable work, a.k.a. #owork). From the moment that fellow Change Agent Bryce Williams coined the term, nearly 4 years ago, to today, a lot has happened, but, surprisingly enough, the interest around this very same subject continues to raise the stakes that perhaps the realisation of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise is no longer just around how social you may well be, whether internal or external, with your peers, your customers, business partners or, even, your competitors, but maybe about how comfortable you may well feel when showing your work, out in the open, in a rather transparent manner, for others (even total strangers) to benefit from. What do you think? Are you ready to start working out loud as well? 

I can imagine how throwing yourself out there into the unknown, hoping for the best, may well be a bit of a challenge in itself. I mean, if you look into it, within the corporate world, all along, we have always defaulted to work in private, close silos with team colleagues whom we knew rather well, or even just our very own selves, as we have kept protecting and hoarding our own knowledge thinking that would make us all become indispensable to the business. Remember the good old mantra of “Knowledge is power”? Well, it may well have its days numbered… 

I know plenty of you folks out there would tell me that knowledge is power is still very much alive and kicking and, in fact, it pretty much rules everywhere, even in our social, digital activities, specially, when we just keep talking, referencing and sharing other people’s content and work items vs. our very own. Mainly, because we just don’t feel comfortable and open enough to think AND act different; to shift and change our very own behaviours and mindset; to show how vulnerable and limited we all are, after all, as we move on and transition into “Knowledge SHARED is power”. Yet, let me tell you, based on first hand experience, there is a lot to gain. And we are no longer alone. Not anymore. By far. Yes! It’s time to open up!

Like I said, over the course of the last couple of years plenty of people have been thinking and talking openly about the whole concept behind Working Out Loud. It’s become a mantra as well, for a long while now, for my fellow peers and myself at Change Agents Worldwide with folks like John Stepper, Susan ScrupskiJonathan Anthony, Jane McConnell, Catherine Shinners, Simon Terry, Dennis Pearce, Christoph Schmaltz, Patti AnklamHarold Jarche, Jon Husband, Eric Ziegler or Ian Thorpe talking about it extensively and, much more importantly, walking the talk in showcasing how it could work not just for organisations but for knowledge (Web) workers, in general, even when doing client work.

Oh, yes! We are not alone in this. Far from it. Plenty of other folks (to name a few), like Matthew Partovi, Dion HinchcliffeRogier Noort, John WengerMarshall Kirkpatrick, John HagelEuan SempleStowe Boyd, Stephen Danelutti, Greg Lloyd, Sacha Chua, David Burkus, Maria Popova (Reflecting on Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work), Hugh MacLeodJanet Choi, Sunder Ramachandran, Jessica Grose, Moyra Mackie, Louise McGregor, Laurie Webster, Rick Ladd, John Buonora, Jane Bozarth, Michael Sampson, CV Harquail, Inge Ignatia de Waard, Lloyd Davis, Bernie Mitchell, Nick Milton, Sarah Lay, Ewen Le Borgne, Mike Taylor, Russell Pearson, have been talking and writing about Working Out Loud for some time now, demonstrating how it’s not as scary as it may look like. Quite the opposite. They have been sharing plenty of first hand experiences and insights on what it’s meant for them all along and, if anything, it’s been pretty inspiring overall seeing how this topic is picking up more and more steam by the minute by everyone else.

Even organisations are jumping into it. Examples like Grundfos (Read as well Thomas Asger Hansen’s take on it), Deutsche Bank, National Fluid Power Association, Lowe’s, etc. etc. have been embracing this mantra as well of #workingoutloud (#WOL). Even some vendors like Salesforce, IBM or Podio have been advocating for it, too! You would probably say that, at this point in time, it’s an unstoppable movement towards opening up organisations, business processes and technology while inspiring, throughout the knowledge workforce, new, innovative ways of thinking different while doing business.

But what is Working Out Loud exactly, you may be wondering, right? Well, instead of me detailing a short explanation of what it would be like I thought I would point you to a short video clip of about 3 minutes, put together by my colleagues at Change Agents Worldwide, for Salesforce’s Chatter, that pretty much explains what it is and how you, too, could embark on it without too much effort or disruption from your already existing day to day work routines. Have a look and see what you think: 

 

So, after watching that short video clip you now may be wondering why am I putting together this blog entry in the first place, right? Well, after having embraced Working Out Loud for a good number of years while I was at IBM, as both a Social Business Evangelist and Lead Social Business Enabler, more than anything else as an opportunity to show and demonstrate how it would work through pure hands-on, walking the talk, and leading by example, I thought it’s now a good time for me to pick it up again, even as an independent trusted advisor, and show what it would look like out there in the Social Web.

The interesting thing is that this is not the first time that I do it. I have done it in the past through Twitter multiple times, and even through Google Plus itself as well, as I have blogged about it a couple of years ago over here. That’s essentially how #elsuasworkbook was born in the first place and while I am just about to get things started with client work around Social Business and Digital Transformation and things are beginning to settle down a bit with my new life of being an independent I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show everyone in my networks (and anyone else who may be interested for that matter) about what it is like Working Out Loud for yours truly. 

It’s bound to be an interesting experiment, since I know I will be trying hard to be as open and transparent as I possibly can, through my Google Plus profile, to describe the kind of work that I am currently involved with at the moment. Oh, don’t worry, radical transparency is a bit too far away for me at the moment, specially, while I am trying to taste the waters of a new working life, but over time, as I, too, myself get comfortable with the uncertain, the level of transparency will keep increasing more and more by the day. 

After all, if you would remember, transparency is one of the 10 Principles of Open Business and, to me, one of the key mantras I decided to adapt to over the course of time in my transition journey away from Social Business into Open Business. From not only talking about social, but also doing / living social AND Open.

Thus, if you would want to find out some more how things will work out for me from here onwards, check out my Google Plus Profile or just keep an eye on #elsuasworkbook every now and then to get a glimpse of what’s happening. Oh, and if you decide to jump in as well, let the world know (me, included, please!) about how and where we can find you, working out loud. For now, I will leave you all with a couple of rather inspiring quotes on the topic, as well as the prospect of enjoying the lovely weekend ahead of us. Mine is just about to get started now! 

Have a good one everyone!

 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business – Finally, A New KPI in the Making

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would notice how there is a certain topic that keeps coming back time and time again, as one of my main key focus areas I have always felt would help advance our overall efforts of pushing the boundaries of our various different social business transformation journeys: the overall client experience. And I am not talking about the traditional concept behind a customer. To me, everyone is a client in some form or shape: your very own colleagues, your managers, your executives, etc. are also even your clients. You keep serving them for whatever purpose through your specific cooperation and collaboration efforts. They are also the very same ones that keep you employed for many years to come, just like any other customer would do. Are you paying attention to them as well just as much?

While I was at IBM, working during those 17 years in multiple internal projects within 6 different business units, one comes to realise that even though you are working on the blue dollars (vs. the green dollars), there is always something you can do to focus on that client experience: delighting your clients. That is, help them achieve their goals and objectives, address and fix their potential business problems, and eventually help enable them to excel at what they are already rather good at. It’s an interesting, and a rather fascinating experience altogether, because, amongst several other things, it always manages to keep you sharp, in your toes, about the client value you can provide, even to your peers. To the point where, to me, it became my new KPI over the course of time in terms of how I would value and measure the success of my own work across organisation(s).

How delighted are your customers with your own work over the course of time is probably as good as it gets, whether internal or external, in terms of proving and demonstrating your value and overall contributions, so when the smart folks at CMSWire invited me to write an article around the whole topic behind “The Search for ROI in Social Business” I just couldn’t help writing about the need, for me (Perhaps for you, too), to create that new KPI that would help me successfully identify whether I am on the right track, or not, in providing value to the customers I interact with, specially, now even more so that I am an independent trusted advisor and have shifted focus from internal into external work. 

That invitation from CMSWire to write that article has also helped me frame something that has been in my mind for a long while, whenever I embark on the conversations of how do you measure the value of your own Social Business initiatives, and whether it’s time to go deeper, moving further beyond the overall low hanging fruit of just measuring the usage of social technologies. To me, we are witnessing the unique opportunity of not only going more in-depth into the overall value proposition of Social Business, but perhaps re-define a new KPI around the client experience which, more and more, gets defined itself by the overall employee experience.

In case folks may have missed that article over at CMSWire, I have now taken the liberty of also reproducing it here below, so you can all have a look and comment on whether there is a need to go deeper and reframe altogether new KPIs to help evaluate more effectively the overall customer value propositions around the Social Business Transformation journey or whether we should just stick around, with the easy part, i.e. with the low hanging fruit. Something tells me we shouldn’t, but I would let you be the judge of that sentiment while going through the article itself… 

How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business

“I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ….

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore — and that’s a good thing. We have *finally* moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins…

There may be a better way. Let’s explore it.

A New KPI

The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn’t. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!”

And that’s essentially what we want for our customers — to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that’s when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It’s good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there — only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that’s not a worrying sign, I don’t know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren’t there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today’s No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise — whichever moniker du jour you favour).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It’s a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies — giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do — you start to realize you’ve entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them — out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes — a.k.a. revenue. I know what you’re thinking — wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The *real* action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.”

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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


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From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez

Language matters. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself about how important it is to build a narrative you would feel rather comfortable with when interacting with other people, whether your peers, your customers, your business partners, even your competitors. It’s something that has been in my mind over the course of time in terms of how we get work done more effectively through these digital technologies. You see? I cringe a little bit every time that someone mentions the word “drive” (Specially, when you are not in a car!), or “adoption” or the combination of both: driving the adoption (of Social Business). So whenever someone invites me to help inspire a new narrative within their organisation(s), as they embark themselves on the so-called Social Business and Digital Transformation journeys, it’s an opportunity that I just don’t let go that easily. Why? Well, because having a good, representative narrative on what matters to you and your business is no longer down to some fancy words, but more down to actions. Essentially, walking the talk, leading by example.

That’s why when the European Commission invited me last week to go to Brussels, and spend a couple of hours with a representative group of middle managers, to help them understand the role they would need to play, when embracing digital technologies, adjusting accordingly their management and leadership capabilities to the new reality, I just took the opportunity to demonstrate how important having the right narrative would well be for their own efforts to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. Regardless of the organisation or the management layer.

So, instead of driving the adoption of middle managers from the European Commission, we talked about business purposes and how social technologies could act as a rather valuable and unprecedented enabler towards achieving a certain number of goals. We talked about the need to move away from adoption and into adaptation, understanding that they are the group that, beyond early adapters, everyone else is looking up to when embracing these emerging social tools while at work. 

You see? While most people out there would consider that middle managers are the main hurdle or obstacle towards the successful adaptation of businesses to this new way of hyperconnected, networked, smarter work, through social networks, here I am thinking, instead, they are your best ally beyond the first and second wave of “early adapters”. Most people may not realise about this, but middle managers are the social bridges within organisations. They are well connected to people down the trenches, while, at the same time, they keep close ties with those on the top. They essentially talk to both groups. They understand the needs and wants from both groups. They know, very well, how to get the most out of each of them, and if they have traditionally been perceived as rather static, hierarchical and overall disengaged, is because they have always been perceived as the main problem, when they are eventually the solution.

Middle managers are that specific group of practitioners, because, yes, they are also practitioners, just like you and me, that have been caught right in between this digital revolution of social technologies just as disengaged as everyone else. So when looking into a business purpose or problem to tackle with the emergence of Social Business employee disengagement is just as good for them as for everyone else. Remember, currently 87% of today’s knowledge workforce, according to Gallup’s recent research, is disengaged at work. So if you have got a group of 100 middle managers, that means that about 13% of them are the ones executing on the work they have, because they feel motivated enough to make it happen. The rest will just continue to struggle along generating perhaps even more disengagement amongst the rest of the workforce. And that is the main business problem we are currently facing and why we need to keep inspiring a next generation of leaders, not just senior or executive leaders, for that matter, who are willing to change their own narrative and understand that effective leadership in this so-called Social Era is not about empowering people around you, it’s about enabling those around you.

It’s about helping them understand how, as a leader, you will be offering your own help and support to provoke that transformation. How the time for command and control, or micro-managing your employees is a thing of the past. How to become an effective leader you would need to acquire a new set of skills and capabilities that would help you transform yourself from being just another middle manager doing their (disengaged) work into the new kind of Open Leadership that’s very much needed to help re-engage a knowledge workforce that right now is on the brink of collapsing on its own. 

That’s why words no longer mean anything on their own. That’s why actions do mean everything. That’s why leading by example, walking the talk, exhibiting those new leadership capabilities and competencies would help you, as a (middle / senior) leader, understand the new dynamic of what it is like thriving in social networks, being part of the pack, one of the nodes, one that can act as the main catalyst to connect the dots across the organisation understanding that the days for the good old strict and rigid hierarchy are well numbered and how it is time to transition into a hybrid approach of combining both hierarchy and wirearchy to then eventually transition into a wirearchy inspired organisation. 

A lot has been written in the past about the critical role that middle managers play when embarking on the Social Business Transformation journey. However, they also have got business problems of their own that they would need to solve first, as my good friend, and fellow CAWW member, Simon Terry quoted just recently: “Middle managers like to complain about being squeezed by pressures from above and below. Their organisations love to blame them for all the ills in the place”. Perhaps it’s now a good time to understand that we should probably stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in an organisation and, instead, help enable them to understand their new critical role in the leadership ladder to become the social bridges to effectively make change happen. 

How? Well, probably by exhibiting, through actions, not words anymore alone, a new kind of leadership capabilities, associated with the whole notion around both Social Business and Open Business under a new, rather specific, framework: Open Leadership. To that extent, a little while ago, I put together a presentation at Haiku Deck where I captured my interpretation of what those new leadership traits would be like putting them in context about the main business purpose behind them when embracing the emergence of social technologies at the workplace: eventually, re-engage the knowledge workforce. Yes, to me, still, and by far, our number one business problem in today’s business world, whatever the industry, whatever the sector, no matter what organisation.

Can you imagine the huge potential of transforming our work environment from having just barely a bit over 10% of the employee population doing all the hard work, where we are just about to enter the stage of mere survival, to eventually have a much much higher level of purposeful participation and overall engagement? I know how plenty of folks have been talking all along about social networking’s capabilities to democratise the workplace. To me, it goes well beyond that. It’s about that unique opportunity to democratise how we work, how we connect, collaborate and share our knowledge more effectively, so that we can get work done without all the unnecessary stress and ill-behaviours we are currently exhibiting that are managing, little by little, to destroy everything that we have been building up over the course of decades, and, to such extent, that’s the main reason why middle managers are the main enablers of that transformation journey. 

 

From Adaptation into Engagement. From being blamed from all sides for everything that goes wrong, to become the catalyst enablers helping transform not only the way we all work, but also, essentially, the corporate cultures we breathe in day in day out. After all, they always had the authority to act. Now they just need to show what Open Leadership truly means in the connected workplace and demonstrate it accordingly, not only by their words alone, but also by their own actions, too! 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Why I Fired Myself from IBM

A couple of days back, my good friend and fellow CAWW, Ayelet Baron put together a rather interesting, inspiring and very thought-provoking article over at The Huffington Post under the suggestive title “Sometimes, You Need to Fire Yourself? Don’t Wait to Be Picked”, where she comes to reflect on, perhaps, one of the main expectations from knowledge workers in today’s workplace: being validated and waiting to be picked up. And from there onwards she goes on to muse about the reality of what next when that doesn’t happen. Interestingly enough it’s a story I can relate to,  specially, since I’m currently in transition myself trying to figure out the what next. Except that this time around I didn’t wait. I decided to shake off those golden handcuffs I put on myself back in the day and break free.

Most people may not know this, but back in June 2005, while I was still an IBM Netherlands employee, I got laid off and after having received the well-known compensation package I decided that I wasn’t ready, just yet, to leave the company. At the time I felt I had a lot more to offer and work on still. 9 years later, 4 different Lines of Business, and multiple other projects certainly would testify that it wasn’t my time just yet. So was it then my time, beginning of 2014, when I decided to quit IBM and move on? Maybe. I don’t know. Yet.

What I do know though is that it’s a decision that 3 months later, which is starting to look and feel like ages ago, I don’t regret a single bit. It wasn’t an overnight decision either. It’s been in my mind for about 2 years when I first started contemplating the thought of making a move and figure out what I would want to do next with my career. Somehow I felt The Call was near, so I may as well embrace it. As my good mate Rob Paterson wrote not long ago “Now the real adventure of your life begins”. 

You can imagine how shocked and surprised (in equal terms) my boss was when I communicated to him, while I was still enjoying my holidays back in January, that February 3rd would be my last working day at the company after 17 years of work in there. We had to talk, he said. Of course, we do, I responded back. And the week after we got together on the phone for a 2 hour long conversation where we got to spend some time to talk in-depth about the decision. 

This time around I was not going to wait. See? Once you have been exposed to a layoff, even if you manage to escape it, you know that things will never be the same. The whole concept of company / employee loyalty changes and while the motivation and purpose to do a professional job may well be there, very much intact, because, after all, you were hired in the first place as a hard working professional, things are no longer going to be the same. So, while we were talking, he asked me why I made the decision of leaving IBM after everything I have (helped) build over the course of time. He just couldn’t grasp such crazy idea and I understand perfectly why he would think that, specially, in today’s turbulent times. 

Well, as Ayelet mentioned on that article, referenced above, I had to start thinking about firing myself, which is eventually what I did, after two years of waiting for the right moment to do so. I told my manager than I had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact IBM would not allow me to retire after another 25 odd years of work I have got still as my working life. Now, I could have stayed at IBM for another 5 or 10 years. Sure. No problem. But I know that it wouldn’t last forever (till retirement, at least) and, unfortunately, I happen to live in a country where after you reach a certain age, being unemployed and finding a new job takes the whole concept of a chimera into a new level. Thus, eventually, the older you get without a job, the tougher it is to find a new one. 

I am sure that scenario could hold plenty of truth for various other countries, no doubt, but, in my case, I figured that before I would be getting too old, and after 17 years of big, corporate multinational work life, it probably was a good time to make a move, while I am still relatively young. That’s why I quit IBM on my terms and decided to become an independent trusted advisor around one of my all time passions (Social Business and Digital Transformation) and give it a try for 2 or 3 years to see if I could make it work and sustain that financial and emotional independence. 

If that didn’t work out, for whatever the reason, I would still be relatively young 😉 to look up for another career opportunity. Perhaps to even go back to big corporate world, although plenty of people have been advising me that once you become a freelancer and you get to experience freedom, there is no way back. I suppose then that’s why I started working my way towards that system of me and put together multiple plans where I could continue to “dream big and have a purposeful and meaningful life”. Will I succeed? Who knows… What is success anyway? Waiting for another Call

The reality is that while there is plenty of excitement about this new life as an independent freelancer, there is also a bit of uncertainty, about facing the unknown, at a very peculiar time where we may be going through the deepest, most profound financial econoclypse in our recent history. I guess that puts things into perspective as to what lies ahead and that I can summarise in a single sentence: I just don’t know. I’ll take it all as it comes. 

I will make of it all a learning experience, why not, right? I am sure it’s going to be a rather interesting one. It’s the least I could do and see how things will pave out further along over the course of time on whether I’ll be sticking around with plan A, B or C. Plan B, if you remember from a previous blog entry, is essentially go back to basics: teaching (I am an English teacher, after all 🙂 and I have always loved, and enjoyed very much, helping enable people to deliver their best at what they do -that’s what, to me, teaching and learning have been all about all along). Oh, and today’s snapshot, shared above, is a hint of Plan C, in case you are wondering… But somehow, I need to come down to earth again and be reminded of Ayelet’s wonderful piece of advice that keeps coming back ringing true more and more by the day: 

What I know today is that if I focus on why I am doing something and identify the core problem that needs to be addressed, I can go out and solve it. I can ask for help. I can connect with other smart people who choose to work with me to make a difference and get shit done.

Thus, I guess I will just start there: get shit done

#Onwards


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Why I, Too, Killed My LinkedIn Account

Back in the day, when I was just getting started with my early days around social computing evangelism, I must confess that I used to think that people who didn’t have a social profile in all of the major social networking tools out there just didn’t get it. You know, you had to have a profile out there all over the place. Silly me. I guess it was my inner self trying to rebel against that good old notion of people saying one thing and doing something completely different. As in never walking the talk, something that I know still bothers me from all of the so-called social media “gurus” out there who tell you about all of the wonderful things around the Social Web to then be stuck themselves in their Inboxes for the rest of the day, processing email. It’s funny though how I keep getting irritated by all of those “gurus” who behave that way and yet I have become, over the course of the years, a whole lot more understanding of practitioners who somehow don’t see the need to be everywhere on social networking tools. I guess that’s what reaching a level of maturity is all about. Let people figure out what they would want to do. After all, it’s their choice. 

Is that the main reason why I then went ahead and deleted my LinkedIn profile for good over a week ago? Was it my personal choice? Will I be telling everyone else to be doing the very same thing? Is it time to think smarter about how we make use of these social networking tools? Will I survive as an independent trusted advisor on Social Business & Digital Transformation without having an active LinkedIn profile? Lots of questions looking for an answer, I suppose, but, for now, what I do know is that deleting my LinkedIn identity was an educated and informed personal choice. And if I were given the chance of doing it again, I would. Without a single doubt. 

Why? For a good number of reasons, but, essentially, to me, for perhaps the main one: it’s 2014 and it’s now perhaps a good time to put your actions behind your words. And make it count. To you, to me, and maybe to everyone else. In a previous article I pointed folks to a superb read by Heather Bussing under the rather provocative heading of “Why I Killed My LinkedIn Account”. It’s an eye-opener. Perhaps one of the most important reads you will do this year around something that we may all have been taking for granted for far too long: our individual rights as customers for the services we decide to make use of and invest our time, energy and effort.

You see? We are just not end-users anymore. We are just not the product, either, even if it is free. We are customers. Your customers. We make a very conscious decision to use one service over the other one, whether it’s free or not. It’s a choice that people go for LinkedIn vs. XINGViadeo or Somewhere (or whatever else, for that matter, to name a few). And the least that LinkedIn, as well as other social networking tools, could very well do is to treat us all, as their customers, with something so powerful, engaging and, equally, inspiring as respect. But LinkedIn has forgotten about that as they keep positioning themselves on that mindset that they know way better than all of us, their customers. How? Well, mainly, through a rather draconian terms of service that, if anything, confirms how toxic some social networking tools can well be without most of us perhaps even knowing about it. Right from the beginning. I mean, after all, who reads the terms of service nowadays, right? Well, maybe we should! Starting the sooner, the better.

And that’s exactly what Heather’s tremendously insightful article did for me, when I first read it. I eventually made the conscious exercise of reading it multiple times to digest something that I never thought I would be internalising this way: there is a great chance that 99% of the times that you may have used LinkedIn you may have violated their terms of service. Yes, that bad. And I am sure at this point in time you may be wondering why, right? Well, let’s have a look and revisit LinkedIn’s Don’ts that Heather mentions as well on her blog entry:

  • “You cannot post any inaccurate information,
  • You cannot invite people you don’t know to connect,
  • You cannot use a content field to post information that doesn’t belong in that field– i.e. publish your real contact information anywhere on Linkedin,
  • You cannot “duplicate, transmit, distribute, or display” any information found on Linkedin except your own content,
  • You cannot use any information you see on Linkedin to provide any service that competes with Linkedin and Linkedin gets to decide what “competes” means.”

If that short list doesn’t act as an eye-opener for you in terms of how we, as customers, have consistently broken LinkedIn’s ToS then I don’t know what will. Well, yes, I know what will. Read the remaining of the article to see how LI is currently abusing your choice (and trust!) in making use of their service, even if you are a Pro customer. It won’t leave you indifferent, I can guarantee you that.

After reading that piece it was a no-brainer for me to go ahead and delete my account in there. For good. And never look back, as I am pretty sure LI’s lawyers won’t be very keen on adjusting those ToS to treat their customers better. Otherwise they would have done it already. So why give in to their game? Yes, I know, I am fully aware and realise that this is a decision that may cost me some business (in terms of social presence -as my good friend Gautam Ghosh annotated rather accurately not so long ago, potential client prospects, future collaborative initiatives with other customers, etc. etc.), but then again I think I may have reached the point where one has got to back up their words with their actions, act accordingly, and stop behaving like plenty of those so-called social media gurus who preach one thing and then do rather the opposite. That’s not how an Open Business operates, I am afraid. 

I wouldn’t want to treat my customers like LinkedIn’s treating theirs, that’s why it’s my informed personal choice to have deleted my profile in there and figure out how I can move on without it. I know it may well prove to be a challenge, but then again enough is enough. If you can’t treat your customers with respect and appreciation for making use of your service(s), then I don’t want to be your customer. It’s that simple. I’ll just move on elsewhere where I am valued and respected as such. 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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The Future of Collaboration Lies in Human Resources AND Management’s Hands

A few weeks ago I put together the attached article for CMSWire where I tried to reflect on what I feel is the number #1 challenge for today’s corporations in terms of embracing a much more open, transparent, knowledge sharing culture through the emergence of social technologies behind the firewall. Indeed, Human Resources is right in the eye of the hurricane in terms of trying to figure out whether it stands, that is, whether it would want to continue sustaining a rather sick, corrupted and disturbing system of mismanaging resources commanded by senior management or whether it would finally want to transform itself into what it should have been in the first place: (facilitating) Human Relationships.

Here we are, 2014 and still wondering what the future of collaboration is — as if we didn’t know already.

Despite all efforts to trump it or get rid of it altogether in favour of other noble concepts like cooperation, the hard truth is that collaboration has always been here. And it will continue to be here for many years to come. It’s a human trait. It’s our capability of getting work done together. Effectively.

So why is it that even today we are still questioning its inherent value within the business world? Is it because of technology? Or certain business processes? Maybe it’s the people after all? In reality, it’s none of these. It’s because of Human Resources and its inability to get it right by empowering knowledge workers to excel at what they already do: collaborate sharing their knowledge more openly and transparently.

We human beings cannot deny helping others when in need. It’s in our genes. It’s part of our DNA, always has been. Yet, in a business environment, knowledge workers typically keep hoarding and protecting their own knowledge as an opportunity to not relinquish their own power (i.e., that very same knowledge), thinking that the less knowledge they share, the more indispensable they become.

But it’s not really all that. It’s because all along, knowledge workers have been encouraged to compete with one another versus helping, caring or collaborating with one another. It’s easier to manage individuals than to facilitate communities and/or networks working together towards a common set of objectives. And that changes the entire game, because when both technology and business processes are no longer a barrier, there is still a bigger hurdle: incentives.

An End to Unhealthy Competition

That, to me, is the biggest challenge of the future of collaboration. And HR is at the forefront of determining whether collaboration will keep flourishing with the emergence of social technologies or whether it will bury it for good. I am not saying that to be an effective collaborator you need to be incentivized. I am saying that for collaboration to be effective within the workplace HR needs to fast forward into the 21st century and understand that the only effect of recognizing the performance of the individual versus the group is to evoke unhealthy competition.

We have had that for decades. And it’s probably the main reason why we are still questioning collaboration today and its inherent value. Yet we all understand we can’t get work done anymore by ourselves. We will always need the help and support of others, and this is where political games, managing up, bullying or even extortion (to a certain degree), amongst several other issues, keep playing a key role in terms of how and why we do not collaborate as effectively as we could and should. And because it’s happening inside the firewall, the vast majority of knowledge workers don’t notice. Or care. HR is at a critical crossroads in terms of figuring out how it’s going to transform itself to recognize people for doing their work collaboratively. And while that takes place there is an even greater pressure out there that’s going to help accelerate that shift: your customers.

A Challenge, An Opportunity

With the emergence of social networking tools the good old concept of the firewall is becoming thinner and more porous than ever, because more and more customers are demanding (and rightly so!) to participate actively on the collaboration AND co-creation process with other knowledge workers. And all of that corporate kabuki around internal politics, the constant stabbing between teams, the always awkward hoarding of one’s knowledge are now becoming — at long last — a thing of the past.

Why? Because it’s all exposed beyond the limits of the firewall not only to their clients and business partners, but, more importantly, to their potential competitors. And eventually knowledge workers understand that in order for them to be more successful to meet and address their customers’ needs, open knowledge sharing and collaboration is a must. No longer a nice-thing-to-have but an imperative to getting work done.

It’s that massive tidal wave of co-creation with your customers and business partners in the external world that’s demolishing HR’s stronghold position in terms of how they evoke bad behaviours that, if anything, keep slowing businesses down. It’s no longer the IT department, or sales, or marketing, but HR that needs to be at the forefront of the Social Business transformation journey. HR needs to understand that collaboration is at the epicenter of this journey and this requires a new method and business principles, perhaps a new business ethos, of how evaluation of overall performance and business outcomes would be delivered and recognized by those networks of true hard working professionals.

An interesting emerging (or worrying) trend — for HR especially — is that if it fails to inspire a work ethos of “How can I help you today?” (versus the good old standby “What do you want?”), knowledge workers will start looking for opportunities to move on to greener pastures, the ones where they can focus on providing business value to their customers rather than fighting an obsolete, corrupted system, sponsored by HR, that fosters unhealthy competition that takes focus away from what our goals and mission should be in the first place: delighting our clients with not just better products, but better conversations, too!

It’s a fascinating challenge for HR to embrace. While everyone else keeps watching out for how social technologies and business processes can help collaboration flourish and move forward from its current impasse, I will focus on what I feel is the future of collaboration itself: the tremendous transformation that Human Resources needs to go through to become, once and for all, Human Relationships, because that’s where collaboration begins …

The people.

As usual, the comments have been absolutely a delightful and rather thought-provoking read and worth while going through them (if you haven’t done so just yet). One of them in particular, caught my attention to highlight an issue that perhaps has gone by unnoticed for far too long. The comment was shared by Mike Kennedy and it reads as follows: 

It’s not HR that’s the problem – they’re implementers, like IT. It’s the LOBs that consolidate power and make it hard to collaborate and share knowledge. Irrespective of function, the culture needs to change first or collaboration will never work regardless of process and technology. Its always been and forever will be about the people.

Right there, Mike, perhaps without not knowing, nor realising about it, may have highlighted what’s the main issue why HR still behaves as HR = Human Resources (20th century) vs. Human Relationships (21st century) and why they seem to be perceived as always coming late to the party around the Social Business Transformation Journey. I thought though it’s perhaps a good time to bring up something that has been in my mind for over the course of the last 2 to 3 years in terms of thinking further along why the adaptation to Social Business has been perceived relatively slow at times, or either inefficient or ineffective

It’s a culture issue. Yes, I know what you are all thinking about… it’s always a culture issue, isn’t it? It’s the perfect scapegoat altogether. Blame it always on the culture, since it’s the most difficult one to quantify, embrace and live through. But hang on for a minute, what would happen if that culture issue would be just championed by a single group? A group that has always been rather comforting in terms of supporting, sponsoring and “getting out of the way” when  helping knowledge (Web) workers adjust to the new reality of social collaboration? The whole game changes, doesn’t it?

Mike’s comments reminded me of a recent interview I did for the smart folks organising the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris where I reflected on the following question posted across: “What are the biggest challenges the projects are facing at the moment?” This was my answer: 

“While I know that this may sound as a cliché, throughout my over 15 years of experience with social networking for business, I have always believed it’s all down to a single aspect: corporate culture. And in this case from one particular group: Management / Leadership. They are starting to become, if not already, the main obstacle towards the realisation of the full social business transformation, because the traditional hierarchy and status quo of how things get done at work *do* certainly understand and comprehend what social networks can do for business, yet, they neglect not only supporting and sponsoring the effort, but also their active involvement in the process, mainly because they think the moment they do, they would lose their power, i.e. overall control of the information to make business decisions. Management needs to understand that this is no longer about command and control, managing your employee workforce to make the decisions for them, but it’s about how you lead them, as a servant leader, to make proper business decisions with the information freely available through networks by providing proper counselling and support vs. becoming the main obstacle. The rather high rates of actively disengaged employees would certainly confirm that challenge as the most critical one for the successful adoption of the social business philosophy and mantras.”

That’s why, as we move forward into 2014, I am starting to strongly believe it may well be a good time to begin upping the game in terms of the so-called involvement and true leadership from (senior) management in helping facilitate the adaptation to Social Business and social networking tools for that matter, both inside and outside of the firewall. I am sure time and time again most of you folks working in both Adoption & Enablement of Social Business keep being confronted with the one of the main show stoppers from practitioners telling you that they totally get it, but their (senior) management don’t and therefore need to be educated to get them on board. Otherwise the whole effort stagnates or ends up on a complete stop.

Really? In 2014? Still? I mean, 20 years after the first instances of both blogs and wikis becoming available on the Web and we still need to justify the inability for (senior) management to get on board leading by example on their own social business transformation (even as a personal journey), arguing that they just don’t get it and therefore need to be coached, mentored and educated on the topic? I am sorry, but things don’t work out like that anymore. Their time is running out and pretty quick, if not already!

You see?, as a (senior) manager / executive, who is leading whatever the business and has been doing that for a while, We are going to start questioning your skills and ability to both manage and lead your firm if you are not leading by example on helping your business transform into becoming a successful social / open business. Oh, and please, don’t use the excuse of ghost writing. It lacks authenticity, uniqueness, engagement and honesty.

We don’t want to talk to your hand. We want you to finally understand and embrace the power of open, transparent, engaging conversations through social networking tools, where knowledge flows, both inside and outside of the firewall, with your employees, your customers and business partners (Oh, and don’t forget about your competitors!), and where you get to sense and feel the pulse of your organisation and the ecosystem around it in terms of what’s happening, and what is not! happening, so you can act together accordingly helping solve plenty of the potential business problems you may well have, like a bleeding and rather discouraging percentage (13%) of actively engaged employees, which on its own would probably be a good enough reason to start considering whether social networking tools could help improve the way they collaborate and share their knowledge out in the open. With, or without you.

There is a great chance that both social and open business would eventually help you and your company address those poignant business issues and pain points, like re-engaging your knowledge workforce or retaining your talent, as they continue to flock massively away on to greener pastures, and, eventually, get back on track. Remember that this is not about you. It’s never been about you. This is mostly about the kind of (business) world (and society) you would want to leave behind when you are long gone not just for your children, but for your children’s children. Your legacy.

But at the same time, it’s also probably a good opportunity now for you to stop thinking that HR should continue to be at your service vs. that one of serving the employees you have hired as hard working professionals in the first place. You know, the ones you took the trouble to court and entice over months and months of multiple interviews offering whatever perks to then be hired and join the company because they were, at one point, incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and truly committed to the mission of wanting to change the world for a better place. Through your business.

Something went wrong along the way though and I am starting to believe that it’s got to do more with your ability to put HR to your service vs. the service of the knowledge (Web) workers currently employed by your firm and, that, eventually, is the current business problem (senior) management would need to start addressing AND fixing pretty soon, because at the current pace we are going we may have run out of time already. Remember, only 13% of your total employee workforce is actively engaged at work. That’s a piece of data that you probably shouldn’t ignore for much longer anymore. 

Please, please, don’t get us to question your management and leadership skills by neglecting nor embracing social networking for business. Instead, join us, show us the way, lead by example, walk the talk, start challenging the status quo that got you there in the first place and look behind to those who are continuing to follow you through thick and thin and help them understand how if they would want to see the future of collaboration shine through, both inside and outside of the firewall, thanks to social networks, you would need to become the new leading shining stars. With them. For them.

After all, the future of work (not just collaboration) is the future of Leadership. And it’s up to all of us to define it, live through it and make the most out of it

Work is a human task. Leadership is the work of mobilising others to action. Leadership is how we help people to realise their human potential. Much of our network and collaboration technology is just an infrastructure for the work and leadership required. The network can magnify the culture of the organisation, but we need the right leadership models for managers to realise the potential of a network era of work”.

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