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

Personal KM

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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Why Looking After Your Personal Brand in the Social Era Still Matters

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga's SunsetI can’t remember when was the last time that I updated my Curriculum Vitae. Actually, that’s not accurate. Of course, I do. It was around beginning of 2009 and it surely sounds like ages ago! Either way, I can’t help going through a giggle or two every time folks ask me why don’t I update my resume more often, at least, for the sake of keeping it up to date. I keep responding back that I actually do update it on a regular basis. It’s just that for me the concept of CV has got a completely different meaning than to them. I mean, to them, it’s all about having an A4 page, stored somewhere in a static location, perhaps your own computing device, telling everyone how wonderful and skilful you are for whatever the job you may be applying to. To me, my CV though is nowadays pretty much my own online presence out there on the Social Web, where you constantly need to prove your skills, talent and expertise, so that eventually people can find you and corroborate whether you are fake or not, and whether your merit and online reputation clearly represent not only who you are, but also what you do: essentially, your own digital footprint, or, … personal brand.

That is one of the many reasons why I have truly enjoyed the Forbes article Dorie Clark put together, just recently, under the rather suggestive heading of “Reputation 3.0: The Internet Is Your Resume“, where she gets to explain how more and more recruiters and employers are starting to flock to the Social Web in order to find new talent and if that expertise cannot be found there, it seems you no longer exist, quoting Debra Feldman with the following paragraph: 

If the search inquiry doesn’t find you, there’s a void like you don’t exist. Your credibility suffers. You’ll never know that you were eliminated [from consideration for a position], or what chances you’ve missed…Anonymity and mistaken identity are the biggest threats to your reputation

Very powerful words, indeed. In fact, perhaps a bit too scary that your career, from here onwards, may well depend on the fact of not only whether you have a digital footprint out there on the Internet, but also whether you may have left a mark, a legacy, on that very same Social Web. 

I guess that’s one of the reasons why all along, and over the course of the years, every now and then I keep googling my own name, which I am sure you would know by now how much of a popular name that is, at least, in the hispanic world, in order to figure out what people are talking about around my online presence, my skills, my experience and expertise and essentially my digital footprint. Yes, I know most of you folks out there would be associating that activity towards doing some social ego searches just to see what people are talking about you, but the thing is that it’s one of those rather refreshing and mind-blowing activities I keep telling people to actually do in order to find out how others perceive you out there on the Social Web. You never know what you are going to learn about yourself from how others perceive you online…

So while you “consider your Internet search results “a perpetual resume – a dynamic record of achievements, affiliations and ideas””, I am sure you may be thinking about how can you keep feeding the beast, that is, the Internet itself, in order to make it easier for you to be found out there. After all, that’s all part of looking after your brand and while I have seen plenty of people thinking about using social networking tools to help amplify that digital footprint, I keep saying the most elaborate, powerful and relevant tool to help you manage that online reputation is probably your own blog.

In the past I have mentioned how Google Search is probably your best friend out there, too, how it’s your new business card and pretty much one of the best options out there to help you understand your visibility in the context of how people find you, which social networking tools you hang out at, what blogging platform do you use, etc. with the ultimate premise, perhaps, of providing the most powerful business reason to invest in the Social Web today, as a knowledge worker: 

““No longer can you plan on internal promotions for career progress. You must manage your own path and that’s best done through connections. Virtual ties can be as influential as in person relationships […]

Indeed, in today’s more complex, disruptive and uncertain business environment than ever, it’s something you cannot afford not having anymore. You can’t even ignore it. People would keep talking about you, your product, or your brand, anyway, for a good while, resulting in that urgency of having to come up with an strategy that would work for you to help you ramp up efforts and get things going. And that you is no longer the corporate brand. That you is just the individual you, craving for that attention and exclusivity when in reality social networks work in much different ways, because, after all,  “It’s better to have a strong network before you need their help“. 

And that’s the main reason why I keep telling folks how if they would still need to come up with a business reason as to why they would need to justify their Social / Open Business involvement and participation, let it be just this simple one: looking after your digital brand (One of my favourite online resources on the topic, by the way, put together by the one and only, Chris Brogan). Not necessarily because you may not need it now, but more specifically for when you really need it. Networks need to get ready. They need to know who you are, what you do and what you are good at, so that when you may need that help, they can highlight that sweet spot they can help out with and engage right away. 

On that Forbes article, Dorie takes the liberty of sharing across some of Debra Feldman’s tips on how to build a strong social presence, so that your own online CV looks healthier, stronger and more relevant than ever. So I thought I would also take the same liberty and quote those helpful tips as well, not only for folks out there to savour, digest and start thinking about them, but also for myself as I continue to work on that digital footprint, because, you know, it’s never good enough, right? Thus here they are: 

  • “Positioning: differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Distinguish yourself as a trustworthy expert within a niche market(s)
  • Identify the target markets or employers you’d like to focus on
  • Describe the unique contribution you can make in each target area
  • Prepare and publish examples demonstrating your expertise across all media channels
  • Direct your social and in-person networking towards attracting decision makers
  • Evaluate your current online persona and compare it to how you’d ideally like to be perceived
  • Establish social networking accounts, create profiles, and start participating
  • Prioritize your social networking activities to generate the best ROI for your career goals
  • Set up mechanisms to regularly monitor your reputation and address any negative or incorrect information”

The key message though when thinking about your online digital footprint and reputation, remember, your new CV, is not to think of personal branding as an external self-promotion campaign, but as an overall leadership trait. It’s not just that. It’s a whole lot more as well we need to start realising about, just as much. It’s essentially around that ability to recognise, and fully embrace, the fact that personal branding also happens on the inside, I mean, within the firewall, in each and every organisation, that’s where it all starts, because, after all, it does bring you one key aspect that we surely need more and more in today’s tougher than ever corporate environment: job satisfaction.

And that’s essentially why your personal brand matters, whether internally or externally, because whether you like it or not, if there isn’t job satisfaction coming along with what you do, there isn’t probably anything left out there. Yes, I know, there is always the money, but is it the only motivator that keeps you going in today’s Social / Open Business world? 

Probably not. Perhaps, what you may just need is some Arbejdsglæde

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Google Plus – Who Owns the Filter Bubble?

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas in the SpringFor a good couple of years I have been a huge fan, and big advocate, of what I think is one of the most empowering and refreshing social networking tools out there: Google Plus. Yes, I know I may have well been one of the very few, but all along I have always felt that in terms of features, capabilities, blending of online and offline interactions and, above all, the deeper level of engagement in conversations is what made G+ special. Very special. Till a couple of days ago, where I discovered, by pure chance, which is how these things happen usually, I suppose, how it has been hiding away the best part of that social networking tool: the conversations themselves. Remember the filter bubble?

From the very beginning, I read in one of the review blog posts around Google Plus how the Home Stream (All) doesn’t really display all of the various different posts that your networks get to share. It only displays a fraction that the system itself identifies based on whatever the algorithm. Now, I can imagine how plenty of people may not feel very comfortable with the fire hose of updates coming through, so they may actually appreciate, quite a bit, having Google figuring it all out how it would work for most people. Alas, not for me. I would want to see every single post that comes my way, so I can then decide whether I would want to read it or not. I have always felt that’s the ultimate choice from social networkers in terms of defining the amount of signal / noise they would get exposed to without having that social networking tool calculating automatically what may matter to you or not.

I am sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. So a few months back I started relying more and more on Google Plus Circles to the point where I became rather dependent on them. I created a bunch of them, that I check on a rather regular basis, but there are four of them that I consider critical food for my brain. You know, the One50, Two50,  and TheRest and a new one I created which is a combination of all three of those coming up to nearly 500 people in total, which is what I am checking out nowadays the most as my new timeline. Essentially, the one circle of those folks who I would want to receive whatever updates they share. 

Thus a little while ago I decided to try out an experiment, which was, essentially, keeping an open tab in Chrome throughout the day for Google Plus and, in particular, for that specific G+ Circle (That I called Everyone), and which would allow me to jump in every now and then and check what people may be saying, talking about or sharing across. You know, in between work tasks, coffee breaks, those spare idle moments in between meetings and so forth. The idea was to be able to catch up with everything that may have been shared across with an opportunity to do it at my own pace, and without any restrictions.

However, over the course of time, I started noticing how after a short period of time, without checking things out, the lovely blue box would show up indicating the number of new posts that I had catch up with since I last refreshed, and I started to notice how if I would have, say, 74 new posts, when clicking on refresh it would just display (I counted them!) about 36, which means that half of the content is gone. Just like that! WOW!!! 

And here I was thinking that G+ algorithm was only in place for the Home Stream (All) page. Well, apparently, not. I have actually raised this very same issue on my Plus Profile, on this post, where I talked about it more extensively, and a bunch of other folks have been very helpful sharing their insights, including reference blog entries like this one on that very same topic with the flair that it’s working as designed. Well, no, it’s not. At least, it is not my design. 

See? If I create a new Circle in Google Plus because there is a list of contacts / networks that I would want to keep up with and get exposed to everything they share in G+ that’s what I expect the circle to handle graciously, not just show to me what it thinks is better for me. Never mind how much data you have about me. No, sorry, systems should not be making that choice for people. At least, people should be given the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of that model, which in this case it’s just not happening. And I am finding that incredibly frustrating and perhaps somewhat disturbing as well for that matter.

Why? Mainly, of course, because of that filter bubble. I would want to be the person in charge of what I get exposed to, how I would want to get exposed to, and, most importantly, how I would want to consume that content shared across. And let it be down to me to decide if I would want to mitigate, or not, the fire hose effect of content I get exposed to. It should be my decision, not the system’s. That’s actually one of the reasons why I have never been a fan of Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking tools that do pretty much the same thing: putting constraints in place by the system, within the streams, thinking it knows better than their end-users. Well, maybe not. 

Yes, I realise that I am perhaps making a big fuss out of anything. I mean, I am sure that you folks would be able to identify a whole bunch of various different areas of improvement for Google Plus in terms of missing features and capabilities, but, to me, it’s all down to this: can I use it for work? Yes, I know I can use it for personal use, which I have already for a long while, just like any other social networking tool, but, to me, Google Plus was special, because I could also use it for work. Or, at least, that’s what I thought, because, after finding out about that behaviour, I am just not sure anymore. I mean, think of this very same scenario happening with work email…

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. There is no way that you just can’t miss work related emails, specially, from a customer, or business partner, or from an urgent request from your boss or your fellow colleagues, only to find out the system thought about dropping it out, because it was not that important. Goodness! That would never happen with email. Period. It’s out of the question, even. So why should social networking tools be different? Why can’t we have that opt-in / opt-out option where we, the end-users, the social networkers, get to decide how we would want to process, consume and digest those streams? That’s a fair request, don’t you think? 

So what’s going to happen next then, you may be wondering, right? Well, for now, and while I am awaiting for an official answer from Google Plus Help and some other folks, G+ has dropped out to the same level of attention, engagement, involvement and relevancy as plenty of other social networking tools, because no matter how hard you would try it looks like with Google Plus, just like with plenty of others, you will always  be missing stuff and, to be frank, if that’s going to happen, I rather prefer to focus my attention elsewhere. It’s not even worth the effort anymore. Does that mean I will be ditching Google Plus for good? No, not yet. Like I said, I like it quite a bit. I am not going to give up on it that easy or that soon, even though I fully realise I will never get an answer from the Help & Support team(s), which is also another one of those issues with all of these public social networking tools on the Open Web. I will continue to make use of it. It’s just that instead of spending a substantial amount of time in it every day, the level of attention has dropped quite a bit, to the point where it no longer has the priority on my external social networking activities as it used to have. That focus is now gone. 

And that’s a pity. I know and I fully realise about that. But I guess that’s what happens when you, Google Plus, in this case, make the assumption you can own the filter bubble of those who have given you the mere existence of your own being, ignoring their voices and opinions, thinking you know better than them. Perhaps you don’t, perhaps you shouldn’t have. Perhaps you need to address the issue before I will be coming back. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, I still want to own the filter bubble. My filter bubble.

Thank you very much. 

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Life Without eMail – Year 6, Weeks 21 to 24 – (Newcomer Challenging for King Email’s Crown)

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the WinterAfter having just returned from another business trip to the US (Westford, MA, this time around, to participate on a client workshop on Social Business and Knowledge Management to figure out whether they could blend and become one and the same, but more on that one later on…), I guess it’s probably a good time now to share another blog post over here on that progress report around Life Without eMail, specially, after my last article on the topic, where I was mentioning what it was like going back to basics through that massive hard reset I experienced earlier on this year. I am sure plenty of folks are wondering where I am with it today and whether I am back on track, or not, right? Well, yes, I surely am! In fact, today’s entry will be about a Newcomer Challenging for King eMail’s Crown

If you would remember, about a month ago, I put together the last progress report to date where I was indicating how for the first 20 weeks of year 6 of Life Without eMail I was noticing a rather steep increase in the incoming number of emails received. Nothing to do much with the fact I moved on to another job (Although it contributed as well somewhat!), but, essentially, that intriguing trend of how both my social networking activities, as well as my incoming email, grew up further along hand in hand highlighting perhaps another interesting trend I have noticed as of late: over-sharing of information and knowledge all over the place, just for the sake of making yourself visible and ensure everyone knows you are out there, working really hard, whether on social spaces or in email, so that people would not jump into the wrong conclusions of you slacking off while at work. I guess tough times and work pressures are kicking in stronger and harder than I ever thought they would. 

And while email seems to be Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online (Very worth while reading Wired article, by the way, on the power of email in terms of its successful conversion rates vs. what social networking tools out there are doing), we should not forget though how emailing gives us all a false sense of progress. And if there is anything that I have learned during the course of the last few weeks from year 6 of having ditched corporate email is that realisation that I am now more convinced than ever about the paramount role that social networking tools will play in a business context in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate helping accelerate both our innovation efforts and our decision making processes, to the point where email still is a massive disruptor of that free flow of knowledge and information across the board. And it shouldn’t be. 

Indeed, email fosters closed, private, secretive interactions amongst a few people, what I have been flagging all along as sharing your knowledge across on a need to know basis vs. what social networking tools do, which is promote that wonderfully inspiring mantra of default to open. It’s been rather interesting to note as well how email is pretty much used nowadays as a way of managing your employees and your knowledge workflows vs. perhaps walking along the virtual aisles of social networks to find out what your team members are doing in terms of opening up the conversations, narrating their work or working out loud. And all of that without having to even ask a single question once. Somehow the latter approach sounds so much more of an effective use of our time than the selfish, egotistical use of email just to fit our own individual purpose(s).

So while that transformation keeps taking place I am sure you may be wondering what has happened in the last 4 weeks since the last progress report I shared over here, right? Well, like I hinted above, at the beginning of this article, things are slowly, but steadily, coming back on track. As you can see from the attached snapshot, after the massive peak of email activity for Week 20, with the highest amount of incoming emails for a single week that I can remember in years!, there has been a steady decrease on the amount of emails received for the following four weeks, which I can think can only be, but some really good news. For a moment, I thought all of that hard work of over the course of the last 6 years around Life Without eMail was just gone! Well, not really. We were just having a break, apparently…

 Life Without eMail - Year 6, Weeks 21 to 24

As you can see, the average amount of incoming emails is still sitting on 31.2 per week, which is pretty much the very same volume of incoming email that I was receiving back in 2009, but the good news is that over the last four weeks you will see a decrease on the total amount of emails received, and that is a good sign that things are going back to normal, the new normal: a Life Without eMail.

Yes, this year it may well have been a bit of a bumpy road, but that’s a good thing, because, amongst several other things, it’s allowed me to revisit, review and reposition the whole movement since I started it, and, if anything, I have also learned that I may have gone back to levels of email activity as I had them in 2009, but I have got plenty of years of first hand experiences of how to turn it back on the right track, once again, by living social, by living Open. And I know I am not just ready yet to let things go away like that forgetting everything we have done in the recent past. There is still a good fight out there to go for. One where we transition from closed systems of record into open systems of engagement. One where we continue walking the talk, leading by example on what really matters: a much more purposeful, meaningful work where openness and transparency through social networking tools help us all become more effective and eventually more productive at what we do, i.e. get our work done collectively as teams, networks and communities. And that can only be a good thing for businesses that want to promote sustainable growth as their primal reason for survival in today’s Knowledge Economy. After all, when was the last time that you could do your job without the help or support from your (extended) team(s)?

And talking about that Openness and Transparency, I just couldn’t help closing off this progress report post sharing across a recent article I had the privilege, and true honour, of writing it for The Times where I basically shared some additional insights in terms of how king email’s crown is getting more and more challenged by the day by a certain newcomer that’s transforming the way we work: social networking for business. Indeed, over at The Social Business report, pages 12 and 13, you would be able to read “Newcomer Challenging for King Email’s Crown” where I mentioned the larger impact all of these social technologies are having around how we get work done in a business environment nowadays:

Social sharing, when occurring in the workplace, is becoming more focused, purposeful and is making a meaningful contribution to productivity. […] 

Knowledge workers are more comfortable with sharing work-related items in the open, but they are also encouraging transparent working. There is an understanding that the more business-related information available out there for practitioners to benefit from, the better the decision-making. It is increasing the ability to share responsibility and accountability

Yes, I know, I just couldn’t help teasing you all with a couple of paragraphs from that article, so that, if you would be interested, you could have a look and read on, specially, if you are keen on finding out plenty more how that openness and transparency are challenging the traditional role of management, decision making, knowledge sharing and, eventually, executing work. Resulting, all in all, in helping us address what I still think is the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee engagement

Because, after all: 

Socially integrated enterprises have been empowering happy employees to create delighted customers, all through the clever use of digital tools. Social technologies have just become the new overlord. It’s about time.


[Oh, and before I forget, here’s a friendly reminder, in case you may want to find out further more, to come and join us at the Life Without eMail Google Plus Community where a bunch of us (Including the coiner of the well known mantra I have been reusing for years > “eMail is where knowledge goes to die”) have been having some rather interesting, refreshing and thought provoking conversations of how social technologies are reshaping the workplace by helping email repurpose itself into better things…]

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Blogging and Corporate Hippies by Luis Suarez

Gran Canaria - Roque BentaygaYou gotta love Twitter and those wonderfully inspiring serendipitous knowledge discoveries that it helps you bump into, time and time again, because most of the times they surely help you make up for whatever the tough situation(s) you may be going through. And bring you back on track, of course, to what your focus area(s) may well have been all along. Well, I have just had one of those the last couple of weeks (Which I am hoping to be able to blog out it at some point, since it’s still burning inside my brain like hell), but since we are just about to wrap it up for another week at work and move into the weekend, I couldn’t help blogging about that delightful serendipitous moment I experienced earlier on this week, because it surely has been quite an interesting learning experience and a superb reminder, perhaps even to us all: never, ever, lose track of your purpose, and your focus, on what drives your passion(s)

It’s not even worth the effort, nor the energy, being sidetracked, just because it may well all seem more enticing altogether. It won’t. It never will. That’s why I am really glad that a few days back, my good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Ben Martin, introduced me to Bernie Mitchell, who along with Andy Bargery, they run the absolutely delightful London Bloggers podcasting series. Bernie invited me to participate in the recording of an episode around blogging, after having read a recent article I wrote on the topic under the title “Why Blogging Still Matters“. 

Of course, I couldn’t reject such a generous and enticing offer and earlier on this week, the three of us, Bernie, Andy and myself got together to record “LBM Audible #9: Luis Suarez from IBM on Blogging and Corporate Hippies” and while the main topic was around the purpose of blogging and why it still makes plenty of sense as perhaps one of the most powerful tools out there to help enhance your own personal brand and digital footprint out there in today’s Social Web, mostly dominated by social networking tools, we eventually ended up talking about pretty much everything around Social / Open Business. 

It was a rather enjoyable, gratifying and delicious podcast recording, more than anything else, because, while we were going through a rather fast pace and jolly dialogue, it helped me realise how much off track I have gotten from my core beliefs around Open Business over the course of the last few months. It felt like my own reckoning that I may have been losing, slowly, but steadily, my hippie 2.0 mojo, and that, somehow, I needed to get it back at some point. Well, that some point is exactly that podcasting episode I did with both Bernie and Andy, because they helped me recover from the back of my mind a good number of ideas I have been rather passionate about over time and that, for one reason or another, they went into hiding, because of other things.

So, what did we talk about then on that podcast, you may be wondering, right? What were some of the themes that helped me get back on track on keep on pushing for Open Business with that rather well known, by now, flair of being the outlier, the corporate rebel, the outrageous heretic and free radical optimist, and, essentially, that hippie 2.0 practitioner. Well, like I said, we talked about lots of various different subjects, but here are some keywords that hopefully will help describe what we discussed and talked about as a brief teaser for the longer piece, in case you may be interested in listening in: Open Business, Adaptation, #lawwe, business blogging as your personal / digital footprint, being bold, fear and reluctance, trust, relinquishing control, leaving a legacy (i.e. a digital footprint), executive (lame) excuses on doing both social and open, ghost writing, authenticity, honesty, best practices don’t exist for knowledge work, blogging101, employee engagement, sustainable growth, evolution vs. [r]evolution of social, servant leadership, managers vs. leaders, hierarchy vs. wirearchy … phew! A lot of topics, indeed, but above them all, we talked extensively about passion for what you do and for what you have always believed in!

The podcasting episode lasts for a bit over 30 minutes and you can listen to the podcast here, if you would be interested in tuning in further: 


Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did going through that interview with both Bernie and Andy, and from here onwards I just want to take the opportunity to thank them both sincerely for having me in the show and for allowing me to participate on one of the most fun interviews / podcasts I have participated in that I can remember.  More than anything else, because it’s helped me realise how I need to re-focus on doing what I know best: change the business world, one step at a time, continuing to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen in order to let that passion do the magic of realising what a Socially Integrated Enterprise is all about in a world dominated by Open Business. 

WOW! What a journey, indeed! 

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Mastering the Art of Creativity in the Workplace

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIf you would ask me what’s that single component I keep missing within the corporate world more and more by the day to help enhance both the innovation and open knowledge sharing processes, amongst several others, I would venture to state that single one missing component would be creativity. I am sure you would all agree with me that creativity on its own is perhaps one of the most precious things we have, as human beings, and which makes us all, each and everyone of us, for that matter, rather unique. Yes, indeed, we can all be creative on our own. Yet, if you look into the business world there is very little creativity going around apparently. Do you know why?

It’s as if we were educated, and told, consistently, over the course of decades, to not think out of the box, to stick to the given rules, to follow that inertia of accepting the status quo that has dominated that business environment as it is today and eventually to just keep quiet, since you never know what’s going to happen and for that matter you surely don’t want to stand out too much. It’s just as if you were told to even stop thinking on your own, because you might even get creative and that could well be frown upon with the argument that, you know, you are not working hard enough anymore. You are being creative, therefore you become dispensable. Careful where you are going… Your boss, all of a sudden, sadly owns your own decision making process. And you get stuck. For a (long) while. Does it ring a bell?

Over the course of the last few months I have been reading a good number of articles that, thankfully, are starting to question such status quo of neglecting creativity at work and we are seeing how there are more and more blog posts, articles, dissertations, inspiring presentations and what not that have helped us understand how Creativity (With a capital C) helps us accelerate, through both acts of playfulness and mindfulness, the process of how we share knowledge across and, more importantly, how we collaborate together in a much more effective manner by being capable of sharing ideas openly, build upon each other’s thoughts and eventually get work done in ways we would have never expected or assumed possible. Creativity is all about making the impossible today’s new reality, after all.

To me, it is, basically, just an opportunity to feel empowered enough about how your own thinking process, as crazy and wild as it may well be, can help make a difference in today’s corporate world by helping address and fix some of the most burning business problems. Yet, when you look into it, creativity is still not embraced as something very much necessary within the corporate world and I suppose after watching a particular short video clip, I am now starting to understand why: for creativity to flourish in a working environment the less constraints we have (As in the less right answers we have), the much more effective that creative process will be. See? That’s where the problem comes up, because, in general, the corporate world always aims at putting together constraints and live by them. Regardless. And the larger the corporation, the much heavier the constraints. 

But what would happen if that wouldn’t be the case? What would happen if, all of a sudden, businesses out there, in general, would tear down apart their own constraints and allow for knowledge workers to let creativity flow and thrive again? As usual, the answer is within our kids. Take a look into this particular short clip, that lasts for a bit over 2 minutes, and which explains, quite nicely, what I mean above with the kids always having the answer in terms of taking simplicity of a complex task into new levels: 

Goodness! Is that it? Can it be, indeed, so simple? I mean, can creativity make such a huge difference by just getting rid of the constraints, of the right answers, of not giving people enough freedom and autonomy and just let people use their imagination to achieve optimal results? Well, that seems to be the case and I am glad that video consistently demonstrates it rather well. 

It reminds me of an article though I put together over here as well, in this blog, about three years ago where I was also reflecting on the importance of creativity in the workplace but from a presentation that John Cleese, the one and only, I know!, did back then under the suggestive title of “The Source of Creativity“, where he talked not so much about constraints, but about boundaries, which is perhaps a softer concept in principle that helps expand further on with that flexibility towards the creative process. 

And this is just something really fascinating, because apparently those corporate driven constraints will eventually need to transform themselves into those human boundaries imposed by knowledge workers, who may have a better context for that creative activity anyway, resulting all in all in them establishing the rules, the guidelines and the modus operandi of what needs to be achieved, which also reminds me of this delightful blog post by Maria Popova quoting another two different video clips from John Cleese himself, once again, (Highly recommended going through both clips, by the way!) and with one killer quote that I think pretty much nails it in terms of how we can bring forward that whole creative process (And thinking) back into the workplace. To quote: 

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

Perhaps that’s what it is all about. That the corporate world, once and for all, stops resisting creativity and becomes a bit more gentle and friendly towards it, to then leave it down to knowledge workers themselves thrive on what they have already been doing since an early age: “a way of operating” from their unconscious.

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