Social Connections VI – From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement, while #WOLWeek Kicks Off

My goodness! Can you believe it’s now a bit over 5 months since I left IBM and moved on to my next adventure as a trusted advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation? Yes, I know, me neither! It’s just gone so fast it’s been a bit of a challenge keeping up with the pace into this whole new life of being an independent freelancer. Pretty much like when I posted the last blog entry over here in this blog a couple of weeks ago, before I disappeared into a business trip to Barcelona, followed by a long weekend break in the same city, to then come back and embark on my next business trip to Zaragoza. Phew! And yet, while the journey has been incredibly good fun all along, never mind the massive learning experience, here I am preparing, non-stop, for the next business trip just around the corner: Social Connections VI. June 16th – 17th, 2014. Prague. Yes, I know, that Prague.

It’s been a pretty wild ride, all along, since I left my former employer, but it’s been even more interesting participating in a good number of different conversations with former colleagues to get exposed to different perceptions and understandings while trying to figure out where to next from there. Indeed, over the course of the last few weeks I have been taking the time to converse with plenty of former colleagues to catch up with one another on what we have been doing and what we are currently working on and it’s been a bit of a surprise how, somewhere, someplace, there seems to have been this rumour that when I left the company I left in pretty bad terms, with resentment, and without a single intention of getting back in touch with any entry point into the IBM ecosystem. Never mind its extensive network(s). 

Very sad and untrue. I am not too sure where or why that rumour started in the first place and, frankly, I am not even interested in finding out more about it. But those folks out there who know me very well, or who have been working with me for the last 17 years, or any period in between, would probably confirm how, like with any other major corporation, there are always highs and lows, of course (no-one can, nor should, deny them), but, overall, my working experience at IBM has been, if anything, a true privilege. From day one. 

Not every day do you get to work in multiple dream jobs at the same firm, while living in paradise island, with your HR manager physically located in another continent different than yours and with your project manager working in one other (different) continent altogether. And all of that with a pretty good salary, lots of prestige and reputation going the extra mile big time and for a long while, and working with some of the most talented and wonderful people around the globe. If anything, like I said, it’s been a privilege. An honour to have stuck around for that long doing some pretty amazing things realising that, at some point in time, it was a good time to look for a change, to make yourself redundant, and start your new adventure. Whatever that may well be… 

 

Well, that’s essentially what I have been doing myself throughout this time, but, all in all, I also realised, way back after I made the initial decision to depart ways from my former employer, that I would not be going too far away and, instead, I would be hanging around the IBM ecosystem (From the outside, that is) helping facilitate potential clients beginning their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. And while I have been doing some work along those lines already (more on that coming up soon!), there is a special event in my mind that’s going to provide me with an opportunity to explore and experiment further how I can put to good use all of those 17 years of experiences and know-how at a large corporate environment like IBM’s. If I managed to make myself redundant, because I considered that my job in the company was done, it’s time now for me to move on into the next challenge: help clients now, who may have purchased an ESN solution like IBM Connections, adapt to the new reality of the Connected Enterprise.

That’s why I am pretty excited to share over here in this blog additional details about my upcoming business trip to Prague (From June 15th till the 20th) to participate at the upcoming Social Connections VI event. A conference event organised by Social Business practitioners for Social Business practitioners, where it looks like this year is going to be more massive than ever with over 225 participants from across the world. Both the agenda and the speakers line-up are pretty impressive altogether. The venue one of the most stunning places I have yet to visit and speak at. And Prague. In spring time and about to enter the lovely summer. Doubt it can get better than that, don’t you think?

That means we are just one week short for the event itself to kick off and I guess it’s now a good time for me to share with you all what I will be up to while I am there. I will be attending the entire conference, of course, so there will be plenty of live tweeting (and some blogging), but I have also been invited to speak at a couple of different sessions. To name: 

You can have a look into the links shared above for more details on each of the different sessions, and why I am so excited about the opportunity to participate as a speaker on a couple of the topics I am truly passionate about from over the course of the years. From the fast-paced panel discussion where you never have enough time to elaborate a thought or two around Social Business, so being sharp and straight to the point in your answers is an additional bonus, to venturing into exploring what the future of work may well be like for Socially Integrated Enterprises. 

But that’s not all of it. The good fun continues on Wednesday, June 18th, as well, where I will have the pleasure of hosting a one day masterclass around Social Business Adoption & Enablement under the heading “From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement”. And for this one full day workshop I am truly ecstatic about the prospect of packaging up and delivering accordingly 15 years of experiences, know-how, hints & tips, good practices, use cases, community building techniques, lessons learned, show stoppers, inhibitors, benefits, and overall mindshare of what it is like embarking on that so-called Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. 

In case you may not have seen it just yet, here’s the description of the workshop quoted below: 

What if instead of “driving” adoption within your organisation, you could inspire and facilitate adaptation instead? What if you would have the means to re-define a new way of working with your fellow colleagues and peers through that very same adaptation to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? What if that methodology, good practices, extensive expertise and know-how would all be at your fingertips, so you could apply it right away? What if you knew the nuts and bolts of getting your management and senior leadership teams all involved right from the start to help facilitate the final social business transformation you have always been looking for? Are you ready?

Come and join us on this one day masterclass to find out and learn how you can get the most out of your IBM Connections deployment to begin, or continue, that transformation journey into becoming a successful Social Business.

Agenda:

09:00 – Welcome and Overview
09:10 – IBM Connections and the Connected Enterprise
10:00 – Use Case #1: From hierarchy to wirearchy (IBM Connections Profiles)
11:00 – Morning Break
11:30 – Use Case #2: From document centric to people centric (IBM Connections Files)
12:30 – Lunch
13:30 – Use Case #3: task centric computing (Getting Work Done through IBM Connections Activities)
14:30 – Use Case #4: Networks as the new production line (IBM Connections Communities)
15:30 – Afternoon Break
16:00 – Use Case #5: A Day in the Life … Making sense of it all in the new way of working
16:30 – Closing discussion
17:00 – Workshop ends at 17:00

Whether you are just getting started with your Social Business Adaptation Journey, or whether you are already a very well seasoned 2.0 knowledge worker, this workshop will provide you an opportunity to learn with other fellow practitioners through plenty of practical, hands-on advice, good practices, lots of hints and tips and, most importantly, all of the necessary knowledge resources available to date. It will help you as well to even break free from the email yoke: Outside of the Inbox 

As you can see, it’s going to be a pretty packed up and intense one full day workshop, but, at the same time, it’s going to help me understand whether it’s something that I can then port over to other cities, other venues, other events, even online!, and make it one of the various work streams I’m currently working on as an independent freelancer. It’s bound to be very interactive and overall very engaging, since I’m hoping to collect plenty of feedback from participants to keep improving the overall user experience for future instances. 

The good news is that if you are around those dates there is still time for you to sign up and join us. But if you can’t make it to Prague in just one week from now, don’t worry. Submit your city in the comments to this blog post and, who knows, before you know it, we may be able to host it around your neck of the woods. After all, it’s just such a small world, eh? :-D And, while I am busy working on the last minute preparations I can guarantee you that the overall masterclass will become available online as a virtual, interactive, workshop some time soon, too!

See? This week is #WOLWeek (Working Out Loud Week). And my good friends Jonathan Anthony, Austen Hunter and Simon Terry, along with a whole bunch of people and the rest of the folks at Change Agents Worldwide (@chagww), have already kicked things off with numerous blog posts, tweets, plus sings, etc. etc. so I guess I have already started with my own share of working out loud practices by letting you all know folks what I will be spending my time on, and a large chunk of it, for sure, for the rest of the week: Social Connections VI and the Masterclass “From Adoption to Adaptation, from Enablement into Engagement”. 

Hope you will have a chance to join us, whether at Social Connections VI, or the Masterclass I will be hosting on June 18th in Prague following the #soccnx event itself, or, eventually participating further along into #WOLWeek. All in all, it’s bound to be good couple of weeks of fun, learning, knowledge sharing, and, why not, visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At least, you shouldn’t miss on that, right? :-D 

 

PS. Ohhh, and before I forget remember that, as I mentioned on my last blog entry over here, all of my #WOL (Working Out Loud) activities will also happen over in my Google Plus profile from here 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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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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Relentless Networking and the Power of Now

Even though I am now an independent freelancer working as a trusted advisor to clients around Social Business and Digital Transformation, after 17 years of corporate life at IBM, there are still some things that I guess don’t change much, or, at least, not as fast as I would have hoped for. One of those areas is business travelling, that, although not happening as often as it used to be, it’s one of those activities where I still see plenty of room for improvement, specially, when trying to combine being on the road and still keep up with my digital activities. You would think after all of these years, and several hundreds of business trips, I would get the hang out of it already, but, alas, it doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, not yet. It’s just like I disappear into thin air, except perhaps for Twitter, for a good few days and, before I realise and try to make an effort about coming back into the Social Web, I am then back home from travelling, and we are back in business. Goodness! Will I ever be capable of reconciling business travelling and digital interactions? Probably not, and here is why.

Relentless networking. A rather short and straight to the point description as to why I would never be capable of reconciling my online social interactions with the offline world, while I am on the move. Never mind that as soon as I leave the country, my mobile phone turns itself into a brick. A rather expensive brick. Somehow my motivation then to remain connected just disappears, since I can’t come to terms with the fact of paying hugely expensive roaming charges for something that it is starting to feel more of a right, yes, the Right to a Decent Internet Access, even for road warriors like myself, when we are away from our traditional work locations. 

Twitter is perhaps an exception to all of this. Its mobile immediacy and ever growing global reach, along with the very little consumption of data while on the road, allows me to still keep an eye on all things digital. But it’s rather interesting to see how I essentially morph, on purpose, how I use this social networking tool whether I am working at my home office or while on the road. At home, it’s my preferred and most energising, inspiring, serendipity-prone, personal learning network. When I travel it’s my main method of how I connect and reach out to people in my network(s). And that’s where the relentless networking I mentioned above kicks in.

I guess, all along, my main focus, when I am embarking on a business trip, is to essentially put an emphasis on connecting with people and reach out, whether they are part of my network(s), or not, through face to face conversations. Late last year I went through the Strengths Finder assessment (More about this one item coming up shortly as a new blog entry, by the way) and I ”discovered” how the number #1 top strength from yours truly is that one of Connectedness. It didn’t surprise me. Perhaps it confirmed my ever growing inner urge to connect with others through face to face interactions, when I am in the road, sensing I may not have the chance to meet up with those people in the near / short term. So better make the most out of it while we are enjoying the now. The present. And then continue to make use of digital technologies, when back at the home office, to help enhance those already existing personal business relationships. 

I suppose that’s how I roll and I venture to state that pretty much describes what I have been involved with last week, when I travelled for a good few days to Brussels to do a workshop and a remote presentation for two different events (I will be blogging shortly on a different entry about this as well). And then I decided to spend the rest of the time meeting up good old friends, or new ones, who may be around and who would be able to meet up for a drink, or a meal, or both. Understanding that, you know, your online social interactions will always be there. However, the connecting with others in the now is just a split moment in our life times. You need to be at the right place and at the right moment with a specific purpose, that one of letting serendipity do its magic. And from there onwards go with the flow and enjoy it.

That’s something that I have learned, of all of unexpected places, and I am sure it may well be a bit of a shock for most of you, specially, if you won’t have one, but from my dog, a Belgian sheepdog: Boira, who happens to understand and embrace the now pretty well. To him everything happens in the moment, so you may as well be ready to enjoy it and make the most out of it, because thinking about the past or wondering about the future just doesn’t fit, or as Bil Keane would say: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present“. 

That’s probably the main reason as to why after all of these years, perhaps it’s now a good time for me to stop, once and for all, trying to find a balance between offline and online interactions while I am travelling and focus perhaps on the now, i.e. on what I can do right there, right then, at that very moment, when connecting and reaching out with other people face to face, understanding that online digital interactions, after all, can wait, while the ubiquitousness of the present moment, right when serendipity is just about to strike, can’t. And that’s when it hit me last week, while in Brussels, because, in between events, I only had a single thought in mind: network, network and network again.

Relentlessly. Non-stop. You know how it goes. You are your network, your network is you. It’s what you build and nurture over the course of time. It takes an awful lot of energy, effort and intent. But it’s just totally worth it. And sometimes it’s good to have a reminder to Look Up, to pause and reflect from all of the hectic digital interactions, and let the world slow down for a bit having some bloody good conversations, as my good friend Euan Semple would say. Well, that’s just what happened last week while enjoying one of my favourite cities in Europe, Brussels. And, now that I am at my home office again, it’s time to go back to all things digital to keep cultivating those already existing interactions and newly built (offline) relationships. 

Till the next business trip … 

 

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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