E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

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Work Stream #2 – Remote Working in Social Business Is Dead!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Risco Blanco

After I quit IBM nearly three years ago, one of the first things I really wanted to do, before anything else, was to spend an entire month doing lots of thinking trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, as I was embarking on my next adventure as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of client work, but at the same time I decided to put together a number of other different work streams, just in case, to see which ones would click and focus on those from there onwards. And what happened next, over the course of last couple of years, is something that, to me, has been totally unexpected and mind-blowing altogether, to the point where I haven’t been able to figure it out just yet, nor do I comprehend it entirely, to be frank, what’s been going on all of these years, unless we may have been deceiving ourselves all along and we just didn’t know it: remote working does not exist! Get on with it! It’s dead! 

Ha! I know what some of you may well be thinking out there right now when I said all of the above, I have just jumped the shark and gone crazy altogether. Is remote working dead? Really? No way! I bet a few of you are remote knowledge Web workers, or digital nomads, or, perhaps, folks who have got the luxury of being capable of working remotely, wherever you are, every now and then, while you combine commuting to the office and you are looking at me as if I am totally insane! ‘Of course, remote working is very much alive and kicking! No doubt!’, you may be screaming out loud! And you are probably right since you might have been doing it yourselves already for over a decade, if not more, I am pretty sure!

So why have I said remote working does not exist in today’s business world then? At least, in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation, which, if you ask me, I find it a bit too ironic altogether, if you know what I mean. Well, because here I am, nearly three years on as an independent adviser, and I am still waiting for my first gig of remote work around the world of Social Business with a particular client, wherever they may well be. It just hasn’t happened, not even a conversation. Not even part of the client work contracts I’ve been doing so far, unless I first work co-located with the client for whatever the initially specified time frame, before we can move on to remote work. Who knew?, apparently, working face to face with people still is a thing. A huge thing. And a critical one, too, apparently, because unless you are willing to work on site the chances of working remotely alone are pretty slim. And here’s where the irony kicks in because with all of these social, emerging digital tools we keep advocating for about how work is no longer a physical space, but more of a mental state, and yet we still have got to commute to the office to show our work with our mere presence. Isn’t that a sign of how little people still are trusted n their respective workplaces based on the work AND results they provide, regardless of wherever they may well be? Hummm …Maybe. Just maybe.

Now, like I said before, I haven’t been able to figure out just yet why that happens, specially, in the field of Social Business & Digital Transformation, where advocates and digital nomads like myself have been pontificating and praising the perks of working remotely and becoming even more effective with the smarter use of the digital tools at our disposal for well over a decade, if not longer! ’Telecommuting is the future of work’, we have been saying for a good few years already, right? Yet, it hasn’t happened and there doesn’t seem to be an indication that’s going to happen any time soon. So time to shift gears, I suppose. Time to re-focus… 

I always thought how for my work stream #2 I would be focusing on remote work around Social Business & Digital Transformation, but when I started to realise that something else was coming up, on a rather regular basis, instead of remote work, I figured it would probably be much better to apply one of my favourite enhanced skills as a freelancer that I have learned to master over time: adjust and adapt accordingly to the new conditions. And those new conditions are what nowadays have become my #2 work stream: hosting face to face workshops.

Indeed, whether it’s happening at conference events (Usually, the day before or the day after the event), or at on-site client events around a particular theme, over the course of the last couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to put together a number of different rather interactive workshops to always deliver them face to face, in small groups, of between 10 to 25 people at a time, where over the course of either 90 minutes, 3 hours (half a day), 6 hours (one full day) or 12 hours (two full days) we get to cover a particular topic that ranges from some light touches to full in-depth discussions, knowledge exchanges and learning experiences. 

I can imagine how you may now be wondering what those themes may well be for that workshop portfolio I have been capable of building up over time with clients, or at different conference events, and how I may keep refining them all depending on the specific feedback from the participants themselves or the needs and wants of potential new audiences. So I thought it would probably be a good idea to link to some of the different workshops I have hosted in the last couple of years, so you get a chance to see what kinds of themes have been getting the most traction so far, in case you may be interested as well to find out more. So without much further ado, here you have got an initial list of them I’m going to keep updating over the course of time with new additions, further information details, upcoming public workshops, etc. etc. 

  • The Top 5 Pillars of Social Business Adoption / Adaptation): In this particular workshop we get to cover the Social Business Adaptation Framework I’ve built over the years and that I’m currently using with clients who are about to begin their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys and which is based on these 5 different blocks: a) Business imperatives; b) Governance; c) Use Cases; d) Networks and Communities of Champions / Ambassadors and, finally, e) Education & Enablement.
     
  • From Adoption to Adaptation, From Enablement into Engagement: Pretty much the very same kind of workshop in terms of covering the Social Business Adaptation Framework as the one referenced above, but in this case with IBM Connections as the Enterprise Social Networking platform to use as a practical, hands-on example of getting things started with your own Enterprise Social Networking platform. This is a workshop I have been able to provide to clients using other different ESNs as well, so you may be wondering why I am picking IBM Connections to quote this instance. Well, more than anything else because I have been a power user of Connections way before it even became a product back in 2007 (I was, for instance, a very heavy power user of its grandfather ‘Fringe’ back in early 2001) and I have got tons of extended experience with it. In fact, when I work with clients within the EU it’s my preferred method of collaborating offline with IBM Connections Cloud, as I have mentioned and blogged about a fair bit on a recent blog post.
     
  • Leadership in a Connected Enterprise – From Hierarchy to Wirearchy: I am a wirearchist. I had the true honour and immense privilege of co-authoring a book on it, and for well over a decade, when I was first exposed to the concept of Wirearchy (coined by my good friend Jon Husband nearly two decades ago) I realised we are fully immersed on that transition from the traditional command and control, top down hierarchy into a much more flexible, lenient, porous, pervasive, open, collaborative, connected way of organising and getting work done through social networks and (online) communities. Yet, I don’t feel we are truly prepared for it just yet, specially, (senior) management, judging from what we are seeing in this day and age. It’s a tough transition, you know, to go from being right at the centre of where everything happens and where everyone listens and obeys to what you have got to say and command without having a say about it to just be a node in the network who needs to earn every single day the merit of your peers, i.e. other nodes, while you keep demonstrating and showcasing your thought leadership skills, including, of course, the traits and qualities for which everyone thinks you are a leader. A connected leader.

    So with that premise, I decided to put together a workshop to help identify the number #2 business problem most organisations have got today, while I also help identify the huge opportunity and potential behind it to demonstrate with practical hints and tips and good practices, if anything, the different traits that the connected leaders of the 21st century need to exhibit if they would want to thrive in a work environment they no longer control, nor command, i.e. their own social networks, to work smarter, that is, more effectively, but not necessarily harder.  
     

  • Working Smarter with Less Email: Yes, as you can see, I’m still a huge advocate of #NoeMail. I keep practicing it every single day for the last 8 and a half years and counting. Going #NoeMail back then totally transformed the way I work AND live nowadays and while I realise I haven’t posted an update on how things are going for a really long while (Stay tuned, please, for an upcoming blog entry where I will try to summarise what’s been going on in the last few months!,) you may be pleased to know that more and more businesses are starting to question today their own addiction and overall (ab)use of their email practices at work, and for plenty of good reasons!, so I have developed a workshop that amalgamates all of those experiences and good practices for going #noemail that I have acquired over time and have packed them in either a 3 hour or 6 hour workshop with a guarantee methodology to help you reduce your email volume by 80% in just 5 weeks. Yes, you are reading it right, a guaranteed methodology, that I’ve used with a few clients already who have embarked as well on their own #noemail journey.

    Not to worry, I’ll be blogging plenty more about all of this over time, including the stories of some of those clients, so you can see how if there is a will, there is a way. Always.

And that’s pretty much it, in terms of describing a little bit what my #2 current work stream is at the moment and how, regardless of what my initial intentions were around remote work for Social Business, I had to learn, and rather quick!, that the moment you get things started, whatever those may well be, one has got to, again, learn and really fast, how to adjust and adapt accordingly before one becomes obsolete. And iterate again and again and again, till it clicks.

It’s that constant pursuit of ‘living (work) life in perpetual beta’. That’s how I roll nowadays, and you?

Mind you, I still believe it is very much possible to work remotely around Social Business and Digital Transformation (After all, I have been doing it myself since early 2003, while I was at IBM), specially, if we all start believing plenty more what we have been preaching and advocating for all along: work, in the Social / Digital Era, is no longer a physical space, but a mental state. So, perhaps, it’s a good time now, a decade on, to, finally, start putting our actions behind our fancy words around digital transformation, don’t you think?

Prove me wrong.


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with in this kind of change and transformation work around Social Business by hosting face to face workshops with clients or at conference events, and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Work Stream #1 – Learning Is the Work

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

Ever since I went independent, nearly three years ago, there have been a few people who keep asking me, on a more or less frequent basis, why haven’t I put together a regular Web site where I could list and offer my services as an adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation, so that everyone would have a pretty good idea as to what I am up to and see how I may be able to help other people. Time and time again my answer has always been the same, at least, so far: ‘No, thanks! I don’t need it at this point in time’. I guess the growing amount of surprised faces I keep seeing to such reply is triggering, most probably, the urge to put together this blog post explaining a little bit the main reason as to why I haven’t gotten one so far: it depends!

Indeed, it depends on what you want . Over the course of the last 20 years I have been acquiring a number of different skills and experiences in the corporate world around Customer Support, Knowledge Management, (Remote) Collaboration and Virtual Teams, Learning, Online Communities (and Community Building), Change Management and Social Networking for Business (i.e. Social Computing, Social Business, Digital Transformation, or whatever other monikers you may want to use), which means that depending on what kind of business problem(s) you would want to tackle, or depending on the business opportunities or potential new markets you would want to create, I may be able to help one way of another. Like I said, it just depends.

Perhaps I could describe that ‘it just depends with a description of the kind of work I have been doing in the last couple of years to help everyone understand a little bit more what it is that I do for work and get an idea of the kind of services I could potentially offer that people may find useful.

At this point in time there are a number of different work streams I get to execute on as part of my daily work routines, and since there may well be quite a few, based on the skills and experiences I have been accumulating over time in the different various fields I mentioned above, I have decided to split them up in multiple blog posts where I can expand on each and everyone of them further along to add some additional insights and perspectives, so I’ll start this series of blog posts with what’s perhaps, right now, my number #1 work stream at the moment: client work. 

Over the last three years I have been working with clients from both the private and public sectors, and from multiple industries as well, both nationwide as well as internationally. Some of those clients have been small, medium businesses up to 1,000 employees and some other clients from major big corporations with over 40 or 50 thousand employees (or above, up to 100k). And, typically, after an initial round of conversations, I would work with clients based on two distinctively different contexts:

  • A customer may have recently purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever that may well be) and may need some initial advice about how to get started with their own Social Business and Digital Transformation adaptation plans. So I’d get together with the client in an initial round of meetings and discuss the 5 step framework I have developed over the years around Social Business Adaptation Techniques, to get the conversations going, which covers the following areas: business imperative(s), governance model(s), use cases, networks and communities of champions / ambassadors and, finally, enablement. And begin work with them in executing such initial framework as we move further along, if the client agrees, of course.The most important aspect of those initial meetings is for me to state very clearly how I may be able to help out, based on what the client wants and needs, and over what time frame and what fees would be incurred, accordingly, but also to clearly showcase the kind of transformation work that lies ahead for them to work on together with me by insisting on using the co-creation approach towards adapting that framework I mentioned above to their own doing around adaptation. That basically means, not much talk, but tons of action, that is, real work from both of us.
  • A customer may have purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever may well be) and after a certain period of time (usually between 6 to 18 months, if not longer) of excitement with tons of exhilarating, frantic activities around their change and transformation initiatives, their adaptation rates plateau to the point where there is very little progress further along. This usually happens when second, third or fourth waves of knowledge workers don’t follow the initial rage from the so-called early adopters group. Or when a number of different barriers, obstacles, inhibitors and what not, come along and are just plain tough to overcome them successfully on your own, specially, if you haven’t been exposed to them in the past and don’t know for certain what you are up against. Typically, one of those major obstacles is direct management and senior leaders / executives (I’ll explain further in detail on an upcoming blog post what I mean in this regard).In this particular scenario I’d first spend some time trying to figure out what’s been happening all along since they purchased that specific ESN, why is there such a sudden stop to those change and transformation initiatives, what are the main obstacles and what are they trying to achieve, and, most importantly, figure out how to fix them accordingly, so that things can move on further along, once again. There is a great chance that in my 16 years of first hand working experiences around social and change initiatives in the corporate world I may have seen quite a few of those barriers and could share how we overcome them together as part of that co-creation process I mentioned above.

You see? It depends. It depends on your needs and wants based on what you, my (potential) client, may want to work on, not on what I would want. I know what I want. I have it very clear right from the start: help you become successful at whatever you would would want to achieve and that I may be able to help you out with, either by addressing your business problems or by making the most of new business opportunities creating new markets. And along the way, something else very important to me as well, learn. Learn from you, learn with you, on what it is like becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. It’s how I work, it’s who I am, it’s what you get, more than anything else because a long time ago I realised the moment I stop learning that’s the moment I stop living a little bit. ‘Learning is the work, after all.

That, in a nutshell, agglutinates the main work stream I have been involved with ever since I went independent. There are a few other related work streams (i.e. KM, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities and Change Management) I’m currently involved with as well and I’ll definitely be blogging about them over the course of time, along with some other kinds of work I decided to embark on upon becoming a freelancer, but I’ll talk about those at a later time as well. Suffice to say that part of resuming my blogging mojo over here is to eventually blog about all of the things I have learned over the course of those three years, as a freelancer, as well as how it blends with everything else I have done in the past, hoping to share all of those experiences as to why I’m having such a fun time doing what I love doing: helping others become better at what they already do; working smarter, not necessarily harder, with social tools as key enablers.


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with in this kind of change and transformation work around Social Business with clients and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Trusting People in This Social Age Is a Tough Job!

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

As a result of the article I put together over here in this blog a little while ago under the title ’The Home You Never Left’, and after a bit of a conversation going on in Twitter on the same topic, Anke Holst put together this rather helpful and very insightful piece under the rather suggestive heading of ‘Building Circles of Trust’, in which she makes a pretty convincing case as to why all of these social networking tools are so powerful in helping self-empower knowledge Web workers to nurture and cultivate their own relationships (both online and offline) by building what she calls circles of trust.

I, too, used to think that very same way, and still do, to a certain degree, but recent work experiences have convinced me that, when talking about trust, words, perhaps, are no longer enough. They have never been enough. It’s actions the ones that matter the most, specially, when people can no longer stick to their word, whether online or offline, and you end up having to rely on their real behaviours and get ready for the disappointment, because, despite all of the kool-aid and all of those cool mantras about how social tools help people trust each other by getting to know them a little bit better, it’s actually their own actions the ones that’d mark the tipping point on whether you could trust that individual or not. And time and time again it’s those very same actions the ones that confirm that who you thought you could trust, initially, based on those offline / online interactions, you find out you just can’t. And you tried very hard, but, nevertheless, the disappointment settles in. I am pretty sure plenty of you know, exactly, what I am referring to as I write these words … 

Anke starts building up her blog post with a rather clear idea, which she describes on the following quote:

When I taught people how to be on social media, back before it was all marketing, it was very much about building circles of trust. It was just like building friendships as opposed to giving fake attention, just to sell or influence’

 
If she were to have written that sentence, say, 5 or 10 years ago, I would have believed in it wholeheartedly to the point where I could justify the need to use social tools in this day and age as an opportunity to do just that: building friendships. Alas, fast forward to 2016 and for the vast majority of cases and interactions, that’s no longer the case. Every single individual wanting to make use of social tools has got an agenda, a different (most of the times very well hidden away) agenda, than whatever you thought they were portraying online initially. So instead of using social tools today to build friendships, I am afraid we are inclining more towards the giving AND taking of fake attention, just to sell, market or influence one self into doing something they very well know it’s not going to be in their ultimate benefit as a whole. Just a one way road, if I may add. But, either way, they would still carry on with it. After all, it’s in their own interest, not yours. 
 
But this is about relationships. Relationships are built on human interactions, on imperfections, not PR, on care, not follow-backs.’
Yes, indeed, this is all about relationships! And relationships built on human interACTIONS, which is where we get to experience vast majority of failures in this regard from how people behave online and how they totally transform themselves when interacting, or working together, offline, turning out to be completely different people than those you thought you knew, somewhat, rather well from over the years. Sadly, those interACTIONS are the ones that confirm, once again, you have been framed into believing you were a true friendship / relationship vs. just another individual waiting to be poached upon getting away with it. Once more. It hurts. A lot!
 
I know I may be sounding a bit too radical and negative in that description of how we eventually bastardised the entire notion of what social networks are all about and how to best make smarter use of them, and instead we decided to just focus on the phoney digital marketing techniques we all knew and learned to live without in the offline world, as if we were just bringing with us our bad habits and misbehaviours from the offline world into the online one. And that’s fine. That’s us, after all. Well, that’s not my intention, by far, in fact, following the discourse from Anke in her blog post, I think she is on to something with this particular quote where I feel she is clearly indicating the way forward to what we used to have in the past, say, 10 years ago, when social tools were emerging in the corporate world and people were genuinely trying to figure out what the fuss was all about and truly engage accordingly: 
 
My understanding of building a personal social media presence for us who don’t already have an audience, and using it well, is that we all, wherever we are, build a close circle of trust.
I couldn’t have agreed more with her vision and mantra as to how we could just go back to basics in terms of challenging and questioning the validity of our current social interactions and how much do they differ from, say, 10 years ago. Remember, for instance, when you were using Twitter back then? Ok, perhaps 5 years ago would work, too! Did your use of Twitter, for instance, change much from back then (or Facebook, LinkedIn, for that matter)? I bet it has and perhaps it’s turned itself into something you may not enjoy anymore, but, you know, since you have to be there, because everyone else is and you certainly don’t want to be either left out or lag behind, you are just thinking about carrying on as is, hoping one day will click again and re-engage yourself into the über-awesomeness it once was! Best of luck with that! I suppose those days are now long gone!
 
But, fear not, there is hope, of course! Remember, I’m still an outrageous, heretic optimist, so, as such we can’t just give up like that! That’s why my favourite paragraph from Anke’s great blog entry is this other one that pretty much sums it all up on the kind of challenges AND opportunities that lie ahead, right in front of us, for us to act upon them accordingly…
 
If the real humanity of people is out there, if people truly appreciate each other, see more of each other, and as a result, care more for each other’s feelings, and don’t just use new media to do old-school exploitation, it can all be so much more useful, peaceful, harmonious for all of us.
 
Amen to those words, indeed! 5 or 10 years ago I would have signed up for that vision right away as an opportunity to showcase the true potential of emerging social technologies and, fast forward to 2016, I still do today, except for a couple of nuances, if I may add. Yes, I still strongly believe that emerging social technologies are incredibly powerful to help knowledge Web workers foster, build and nurture their own social capital skills to improve their trust levels wth their peers, their customers and business partners, and, why not?, their own competitors (Coopetition anyone?). We do business with people, because we trust them, and vice versa, we don’t do business with people, because we don’t trust them, or we no longer do. It’s that simple. It’s who are as human beings. Trust is the foundational trait that makes it all worth it, but in this case, for me, the additional nuance is that trust cannot longer be manifested via words alone, but actions as well. Gran Canaria - Artenara
 
Why am I saying all of this in this rather cryptic blog post? – you may be wondering, right? Ah-ha, you noticed it, eh? 😀 
 
Well, there is, indeed, a reason why I’m saying all of this here and it’s perhaps my biggest lesson learned as a freelancer coming close to my third year anniversary as an independent. And since I mentioned in a previous article I’d be sharing my own experiences about what freelancing was all about, I guess it’s a good starting point to share with you all what, to me, has been the hardest and toughest lesson learned as an independent and which I’m still trying to come to terms with, as it’s happening more often than not and I still haven’t been able to figure out how to address it nor fix it: you just can’t trust people through your mutual online social interactions despite years gone by! 

WOW! I know, I know, very harsh words I have just written above, but allow me to share some context in here, please, if I may. I have been involved with social technologies since early 2000 and throughout all of that time I have been able, like I’m pretty sure most of you folks out there!, to build and nurture some pretty amazing relationships / friendships over the years that have made all of these online interactions via social networks a real treat. Totally worth the effort, the energy and the time invested. However, ever since I went independent and became an independent freelancer around Social Business & Digital Transformation nearly 3 years ago, I’ve had, at least, 4 different rather nasty and disappointing work related experiences where people who I thought I could trust and rely on, based on our social interactions from over the years, both offline and online, have let me down big time to the point where I’m still in recovery mode trying to figure out whether I could trust them back again or not. Considering, even, whether that’s even worth the effort altogether. 
 
Yes, I know, we have all gone through similar experiences in our work lives, I am certain of that! (Wish I weren’t!), and I would say we’ll be seeing plenty more of that. Why people keep on behaving in such malicious ways towards others when everyone is just trying their best to make it through and succeed (whatever that may well mean for each and everyone of them), is something that I just won’t be able to comprehend in a long while, specially, when they misbehave and abuse, big time, your own good will, that good will from those who truly believe that we are living in a different world: one where are all are more open, collaborative, caring and overall more trustworthy with one another thanks to that enabling factor from emerging social technologies, as that’s exactly what we are trying to advocate for in terms of things that need to change at work, as much as in our personal lives. Yes, I know, I may well be a bit too naïve in this regard, yet, we keep getting betrayed left and right because of that good will of wanting to have a better (business) world with us not being able to do much about it other than try to learn better for next time around. The scars keep building up in one’s mind. Will they ever heal properly?
 
It’s tough. I mean, it’s really tough to trust people in this Social Age, unless you try to associate their online fancy talk with their actions, in which case you are bound to find out you couldn’t trust them in the first place. And that’s, exactly, what I’m trying really hard myself to do after these different work related experiences from people I thought I could trust, but I eventually found out I just shouldn’t have. I don’t know whether all of this happens more often with freelancers, but I can assure you that in the 17 years I worked at my former employer I never experienced such distrustful behaviours from fellow peers and it makes me wonder that perhaps the big corporate world is not the only one that’s totally broken and needs some serious fixing. Perhaps it’s us, humans, the ones who need fixing in terms of how we need to substantiate our words with our actions. The latter should speak more often for us than our very own words, alas the current Social Web focuses much more on that fancy talk I mentioned above rather than in our deeds on how we treat other people, and perhaps that is the main problem the Social Web has got nowadays… 
 
Trusting people in this social age is a tough job, indeed, perhaps the toughest of them all! We all know how many years of truly hard work, effort and energy it takes to build trust with people you want to respect, treasure and care for, but we all know as well how little time, i.e. a split second, it takes to destroy for good those trustworthy relationships when people say one thing and they do something else completely different abusing your good will of wanting to do things different, because you truly believe that social networks can, and will!, change the world as we know it! Only thing we can do then? Move on, work harder and learn that if people would want to earn your trust, their fancy talk will no longer do. Actions, now more than ever, do matter ever so much more. Now and forever!
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Why Do Social When You Can Live Social?

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

One of my favourite activities at the moment, after having resumed my blogging mojo just recently, is to currently revisit a number of different blog articles I have put together over the course of time in this blog to check whether they are still relevant or not, in this day and age, in terms of exploring how further along we may have gone into that so-called Digital Transformation journey, if at all, and so far the results haven’t been too comforting, nor reassuring, for that matter, since a good number of those articles seem to be still incredibly relevant. Yes, I know what you are all thinking right now, that it’s a good thing for you in terms of what you saw coming back in the day, but then again I think it’s just another indication of how we are all, pretty much, just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of the change and transformation we would all want to witness AND experience. Let’s start with some of the basics, for instance: where, or when, (and why?!?!) did we go from Live Social to Do Social? 

My good friend, Jane Bozarth, author of the wonderfully inspiring book ’Show Your Work’, which I can highly recommend as a splendid summer read, put together a rather thought-provoking article a couple of weeks back that reminded me about how little we have progressed, if at all, in the last decade or so, around our very own Social Business efforts. In ‘It’s Not About ‘Doing’ Social’ she exemplifies a couple of instances that relate to how most businesses try to embark themselves nowadays into that so-called Digital Transformation journey and how one of them would be more successful than the other and for obvious reasons. Mostly, the one that’s least manufactured, structured, over-engineered, institutionalised (or industrialised for that matter) and governed by command and control, top down hierarchical decisions. Yet, it seems most change efforts out there around Social keep reinventing themselves as just another IT project for which we’ve been given two years to show, prove and demonstrate results. Yikes! 

I’m not going to spoil for you the two scenarios Jane describes quite accurately in her blog post, on the contrary, I’d encourage all to go ahead and read through them to see where your own adaptation efforts around Social Business have been happening at your workplace. It’s a rather eye-opening exercise, I tell you. However, what I’d really like to point out, and perhaps quote over here as well, is the brilliantly captured conclusion as to why one of the scenarios keeps failing big time. Like I said, to quote her: 

So it’s not about “doing social.” It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.

While reading through it, I just couldn’t help but nodding my head in violent agreement with her reflections as to how spot on she is. It reminded about a couple of blog posts I put together over here myself over 4 years ago that pretty much touched on those very same points Jane has been highlighting as to what’s stopping us all from moving forward with our very own adaptation efforts around Social. Have a look into ‘Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?’ and ’The Fallacy of Social Networking’ to see what I mean. 

At one point in time, not sure when, why or how, we seem to have decided to do social (at work) vs. living social. And I suspect that’s where we got it all wrong, because you can do as much social as you probably wish, or can, and still pretty much bring forward with you plenty of the dysfunctional behaviours and mindset that keep troubling organisations to date. It’s like we have just switched masks by putting on a new one, hoping that all business problems will disappear and new markets will be created. Well, not likely. Remember? Putting more lipstick on the pig, it will still be a pig! 🐷

Yes, indeed, as you may have guessed it, Social Business & Digital Transformation efforts aren’t just another IT project with a rather reduced budget put in place hoping it will stick around for employees to fully embrace it, because, you know, they won’t have a choice anyway. Otherwise, it will be just another IT project going in the gutter. The thing is that employees *do* have a choice, they always had it, they have it now and will have in the near future. And that choice is all about the mindset and behaviours they would want to exhibit as they adapt to a new working reality with all of these social tools available at their disposal. It’s their choice as well to showcase how dysfunctional the organisations they work in really are, not necessarily to demonstrate how broken they may well be, since they all know it already, but to perhaps highlight an opportunity to want to do something about it and fix that dysfunctional corporate culture. It’s their choice.

That’s why, all along, I have always advocated about the subtle differences between doing social vs. living social. And, eventually, be more inclined towards living social as a philosophical movement that can inspire yourself, and others, for that matter, to embark on that equally exciting and exhilarating personal transformation journey where we become more open, transparent, collaborative, caring and empathic about the work we all do. Why I’ve always been such a huge fan of Open Business vs. Social Business more than anything else, because long long time ago I realised you just can’t change people, nor organisations for that matter!

Change is personal, one individual at a time, and for their reasons, not your own, so the only thing we can all do is to provide the necessary conditions for that change, hopefully, in small increments, to take place as a personal decision from each and every knowledge Web worker out there, which means that everything we’ve been doing at work around adaptation to social tools over the last few years, including change management, needs to change, pun intended!, and pronto! There are tons of really good work to be done and this past decade has just helped us understand why we need to shift gears from doing social to living social. Default to open as an opportunity to help organisations understand the new dynamics of organising, AND getting work done more effectively, via social networks and communities and not just through the traditional, hierarchical, top down archaic structures.

Time to up the game, all of us, collectively, because, remember, after all, it’s our individual choice to help define how we get to spend more than one third of our lifetime (i.e. at work), and reframe, accordingly, what work should be like for us all, not just a few, don’t you think? 

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I Will Dispense This Advice on Blogging

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

If I were to judge by the sheer number of articles published out there over the course of last few months around how you could improve your own blogging by following certain hints and tips, best practices, some other additional advice and what not, I’d venture to state that we may well be witnessing perhaps the third, or even fourth coming of blogs. I can’t remember anymore. The thing is vast majority of that advice about blogs keeps missing the whole point on what blogging is all about right from the start. So I thought for today I’ll take the liberty of dispensing this piece of advice on blogging itself: Ignore me, for your own good!

Blogging has always been a very personal online activity, your own online publishing platform where you share your thoughts and ideas about things that may potentially interest you that you would want to share across to start a conversation. Or perhaps jot down something that you would want to come back to over the course of time as you mature that idea further along. So whatever the format those blog posts may well have, as those blogging experts may well say, is eventually irrelevant. At least, to you, just as much as to me. See? Blogging is a very personal thing, an opportunity for you to develop and evolve your thoughts to wherever they would want to take you and, if anything, it’s the blog itself that, over time, will help you develop a certain blogging style and blogging voice that would make your blog and yourself unique.

That’s what makes blogging so special. Each and every single blog out there is unique on its own as it should be. The thing is that doesn’t seem to happen, because often enough you bump into multiple blogs that seem to be a copycat of one another by having the very same format, structure, trend of thought, visuals, writing style, and, most important of all, the same voice. It’s like a humongous online marketing machine regurgitating the very same kind of content, usually coming from the very same resources!, over and over again while throwing it in your face! How awful! Yikes!

Remember when, back in the day, people, most often, would come up with unique content and ideas being pushed through by their own blogging style and voices? I missed those days and very much so, because, as I am coming back to blogging more often, I’m currently in the process of re-building my blogroll by revisiting old blogs I used to follow religiously as well as bumping into new ones and they all seem to have adjusted to very similar formulas of what the ideal blog post should be like. And it makes me cringe, really. Whatever happened to the unique voice and blogging styles from people who were once passionate about a particular topic they could write on for months to no end with the true passion of wanting to learn more by starting and facilitating some really good conversations? Where did we go wrong?

I have been blogging myself since early 2002; first, in an internal blog behind my former employer’s firewall, and, secondly, since 2005, over here in this blog. With a total amount of 9,000+ blog posts I might be able to share some practical hints & tips and lots of know-how about some good practices on blogging. But I won’t. Oh, sorry to say this as well, but there aren’t any best practices on knowledge Web work, so you won’t be reading about any of them over here either, I am afraid! Yes, indeed, this may surprise you a little bit, but I’m going to spare you not writing another blog post listicle where you will just read the subheaders to skim through them quickly and move on to then, 15 minutes later, not being capable of remembering a single one-liner anymore. I’d only say this though, if I may; it’s a compliment, something I got told myself by a good friend of mine about 10 years ago when I was blogging multiple times per day and which I still treasure to bits to this day: ‘your blogging is like the real you. It is as if I am having a conversation with you right in that moment. It *is* you!

The best blogging advice I could possibly offer to anyone out there who may be reading this blog post, and, please, take it with a pinch or two of salt, is that your blog should reflect who you really are in real life. It should be the authentic you, your own voice, your own blogging style, your own ability to tell some wonderful stories to others that entice the opportunity for conversations to flourish as an opportunity to learn about something new or reflect further along on something that’s been in your mind for a good while and that you would want to share openly out there with others. Anything else is a massively dull marketing machine exercise no-one ever wants to read anymore, nor will it be remembered for posterity, so if that’s how you would want to go about it, by all means do it. If not, please do something about it. Today. Change it. Don’t leave it for tomorrow, for tomorrow will never come, there will always be something getting in your way. 

I can imagine how at this point in time you may be wondering, anyway, about what are some good practices around blogging out there that might be able to help you develop your blogging voice and style while still being you, the real you. Well, I am not too sure what those good practices may well be, more than anything else, and pretty much like best practices, because what may work really well for others out there (some of the most popular bloggers, for instance) may well not work out for you. And vice versa. So I will tell you what has worked really nicely with me all along since I started blogging back in 2002: Write! Indeed, practice, practice, practice!

Writing is an art form that’s really tough to master, specially, in a blog, but, if anything, practice, write something everyday (even if just a few words!), exercise the muscles of the written word, so that both your hands and brain adjust accordingly to write more often about some of the thoughts you have been thinking about but were perhaps a bit reluctant to share them across in the first place. Oh, and write for yourself, too! That’s when you can really focus on the thoughts and ideas you would want to write about vs. figuring out what format or shape should your blog post have that your readers might enjoy. You can adjust, accordingly, to that over time. For now, focus on just writing for yourself, while the rest of the world observes… You may not be pleased with yourself and your writing, initially, but that’s part of the game. The moment you are, the moment your blogging journey will start! And the rest will follow, whatever that may well be …

Over time, as the real you comes out through your own various blog posts, you will realise you are building an audience, even if small, it will still matter, at least, to you, as it will be very self-empowering. It would help you channel through some of the different conversations while you manage to build community over the course of time on what you are truly passionate about and that you could write about for many many years to come! In this day and age of phoney marketing messages being outpoured through mindless blogs, it’s what keeps me on my toes around some of the most amazing blogging on the topics I do care about. That is why upon deciding I’d resume my blogging mojo, once again, I’d get to build a blogroll of unique, authentic voices I could learn from day in day out that have got something to say about the subject matters I care the most for. Of course, I will be sharing that blogroll with you all over the course of next few weeks as I get to fine tune it accordingly. Thus hang in there, please.

Having a presence online, eventually, is no longer enough, it’s never been enough. It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not. Please don’t. Take that mask off. Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise. Don’t add into it, if you care enough.

Blog now! Blog often! Starting writing about what tickles your brain today! And give us a shout! 

Let the conversations begin! Are you ready to blog?

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The Untold Costs of Social Networking

Gran Canaria - A view of Roque Bentayga & Mount Teide

I remember, rather fondly, the early days of the Social Web, where true pioneers, social computing evangelists, die-hard advocates of everything social and, of course, every other curious mind out there wanting to figure out what the fuss was all about that (online) activity called social networking tried to explain (with a certain degree of success) how one of the many perks of nurturing, cultivating and building your online social networks was all about connecting with people who would share similar interests on a particular topic with you, so that people would have an opportunity to collaborate and learn more from one another. Little did we know that, fast forward to 2016, all of those networking activities would come with a really high price tag: your own data in unwanted hands.

We, human beings, have got an inner urge to wanting to belong to a group, a tribe, a team, a community, a network, you name it. We have got it in our DNA an irresistible yearning to wanting to connect with other people, get to know them well by learn with / from them, to then collaborate more effectively by sharing your knowledge with them more openly. It’s in our genes. It’s how we were built over thousands of years, that is, through cooperation in our eagerness to want to always help others, specially, when in need. It’s how we’ve evolved into what we are today.

However, why didn’t anyone tell us all of those wonderfully inspiring, exciting, mesmerising and truly exhilarating networking activities, through these social tools, would have a price tag that would make us rethink things twice? At least, to some of us. Allow me to explain, please.

After having been actively involved with social tools for over 16 years I think I have now understood the main reason as to why I’m no longer as active and participatory as I used to be in different social networking tools. It’s something that’s been troubling me for a good while now and I guess it eventually ought to come out as I need to come to terms with the facts. As a starting point, the overall user experience has become both rather appalling and poor, addictive on purpose, driven by algorithms that don’t have a single clue about why people would use that particular social tool in the first place, which I consider, if at all, an utterly depressing act of arrogance, because, you know, we keep getting told the algorithm knows us all better than we know ourselves. Goodness, what an utter piece of nonsense!, to put it mildly!

Here’s the thing. If you look out there in the ever so complex and perhaps already overcrowded so-called social networking space (Social Media, if you wish), vast majority of these social tools are just plain awful, rather depressing and equally horrifying user experiences with a single goal in mind: to have you glued to their screens constantly scrolling through, mindlessly thinking ‘why the heck have I ended over here in the first place?’ I must continue to scroll down till I find something that clicks. Reality is that it never does. On purpose. These social tools don’t want you to have that click, because they know they moment you do you are free to walk away and you will walk away to never return back again. 

The Social Web and its complex umbrella of social tools need to understand at this point, once and for all, that the main reason why people keep making use of these social tools is not necessarily because of the wonderful experiences they provide (I have yet to find the first major social networking tool that has got one of those!), which we all know they don’t, but because people keep having those urges of wanting to connect with others, of wanting to belong, of being recognised in the group for what they are good at, of being trusted for their genuine contributions into the overall value of their network(s) and so forth. And how do they achieve that? By sharing their knowledge, their social capital, their tidbits of who they are, what they do, what they are interested in and why they would want to reach out and connect in the first place.

But that’s where the problem lies, what I call the untold costs of social networking. People really wanting to connect, build, nurture and cultivate their social networks need to make an effort and come forward, share openly their knowledge. In return, other people would do the same (unless all they care is about take, take, take). That’s how we bond, how we build trust over time, how we get to connect, learn and collaborate together. It’s perhaps one of the most inspiring and exhilarating experiences we human beings have got in this planet. Yet, in the realm of the Social Web it’s playing against us. And pretty badly, really. To the point where we are not even aware of it at all, but please do allow me to show what I mean with this wonderfully thought-provoking cartoon I bet none of us has stopped for a minute or two to think about the potential benefit of asking that very same question over and over again. Here it is, judge for yourselves: 

There used to be a time, as a true pioneer and die-hard social computing evangelist, I’d go ahead and jump into any social networking tool out there that I could find to help me figure out how I could make smarter use of it in my pursuit of that continuous nurturing of my own social networks and I would eventually dive in and share along plenty of my own knowledge, interests, hobbies and what not to help improve that mutual social capital within my own networks. Nowadays, not anymore. Sadly. 

Whenever there is a new online social networking tool that makes the rounds here and there and continues to catch up steam within my already existing networks, the first thing I ask myself is why? what? how? 

Why? as in ‘what’s the purpose of that new social tool?’ What void is it trying to help me fill in within my own needs? Why do I need to pay attention to it when I know the overall user experience is going to be a horrifying one already, pretty much like with all the other ones from the past and present, on purpose, so it can keep me glued to it? Time is the new currency, the new oil, and it’s limited, finite, scarce and with a deadline. So why should I spend time in there in the first place? 

What? as in ‘what are you going to do with my data?’ I think I may well be one of the very very few people who still read the Terms of Service of the social tools I make use of to see whether I’d still want to sell my soul for free or maybe not. It’s the first thing I do after signing up and the moment I see something pernicious, and we all know there is going to be, since, you know, it’s a free social networking tool, therefore we are the product, that’s the moment I move on to never come back. This has happened several dozens of times in the last 2 or 3 years to the point where I know jump into the Terms of Service before even signing up to avoid the hassle. Why do we put up with that hassle time and time again? Shouldn’t we know better by now?

How? as in ‘how are you going to (ab)use my data?’ This is perhaps the trickiest of questions and the one that almost always has an easy answer to go for: you / we will never find out how they are going to use my / our data, because, if anything, that’s for their own competitive advantage, not yours, i.e. to hide it away from us, so that we don’t know what’s happening with that we put in. Pretty much like banks and how they operate with one’s own money, if you come to think about it, which is rather sickening, if you come to think about those golden principles of social networking tools and what they stood for from back in the day. Quite an oxymoron, if you ask me, which is why I essentially stopped using any other social networking tool that doesn’t have a clear policy as to what they are going to do with my data that I share across. Yes, I know, it’s pretty radical, and ironic at the same time, even more so as I know and fully realise what I go through while still using a couple of social tools from the dark Social Web. Why am I still there? Good question! Perhaps to keep me on my toes as to know what kind of Social Web I would not want to be an advocate for in the first place and remind me on a daily basis. 

That’s why I heart blogging so much! That’s why blogging is so important nowadays for knowledge Web workers. It’s our home turf. It’s the only online space left out there where we get to set the rules and facilitate the conversations, as they happen, with your various different networks and communities, but without having an intermediary that you know the moment you make use of it is going to abuse your rights (whatever those may well be), whether you like it or not, because, after all, we are the product, remember?

The thing is that we are all in the losing end here, because for as long as we are the product there is no escape, we need to keep feeding the system, that untameable beast hungrier than ever for our data, if we would want to reach out and connect with others, and the moment we do that we relinquish for good our knowledge, content, conversations, interactions and even our very own online identity. That’s not the kind of open Social Web I’d want to live in to continue to build and nurture my online social networks over the course of time, because, if anything, it will perpetuate the very same system we all know is broken and needs some serious fixing.

Alas, there is not much else we can do, because for as long as people will continue to make use of that dark Social Web there isn’t an opportunity for us all to fix things. And because not many people are willing to break that chain, since it’s just too easy to live within your own comfort zone, no matter how suffocating it may well be, it’s going to be really hard to break free ourselves from the whole thing, which is why I decided, I guess, to break my own chain initially and start making less use of most of the social tools I still rely on and instead blog more. Regain control of the conversation, on our own turf, i.e. the Internet blogosphere, remember?

Why? Because, contrary to what happens in most of the social tools out there at the moment, through blogs, you can still enjoy and facilitate some bloody good conversations, which is, essentially, the primary goal of social networking, if you ask me: build trust within your networks without having to suffer from the untold costs of social networking tools, i.e. selling off, inadvertently, your data and your soul.

The choice is ours and ours alone.

Choose wisely, please.

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