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

From the blog

Work Stream #4 – Speaking at Client Events

Gran Canaria - Sunset Cafe at Meloneras Beach

A couple of years back I wrote about ’The Magic of That First Client Engagement’ as perhaps being one of the most self-energising thrills any freelancer can experience as we begin our own journeys of being independent and become part of the so-called Gig Economy knowing that, if anything, we might have just made the right decision, after all. We are back in business! I guess there is another kind of unexpected thrill around freelancing that I didn’t think would be possible before, and yet it’s been one of the most rewarding I can relate to from my nearly three years long journey as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation: speaking at clients’ events.

After having written about what are some of my current work streams as a freelancer in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation (i.e. Client Work, Face to Face Workshops and Public Speaking), I just couldn’t finish that series of blog entries, at least, for now, without referencing what has been one of the most rewarding work related activities I have embarked on and that I totally didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off. Not necessarily because of not being capable of doing that kind of work, frankly, but mostly, because I didn’t know it even existed in the first place! You know, when people keep talking about doing public speaking at conference events, I guess they always keep missing out from the equation the opportunity to do public speaking, but at clients’ events. Yes, I know it may no longer qualify as public, really, but still it’s speaking nonetheless in front of a small, medium or large audience about a particular topic that both you AND the client are truly passionate and motivated about. And I love it!

In terms of (public) speaking at clients’ events, it’s my favourite kind of work related activity, and for multiple reasons altogether: first, the opportunity to have a more targeted audience to engage AND learn with about a particular subject matter; secondly, the huge bonus of having a more intimate setting where you can truly dig in deeper on that particular theme both parties are really interested in learning more about (you and the client); and thirdly, the wonderfully inspiring set of conversations you get to spark and learn from with your audience because there is an innate trust element, along with a certain level of openness, that has already taken place for you to be there, in the first place, which is very very different than traditional public speaking; in most cases, the latter feels as if you are delivering a massively inspiring talk on a topic that perhaps some people might not be interested in, at all, and, of course, with no time for an opportunity for questions or interactions with the audience, because, before everyone realises, you are already off to the airport, to the next potential gig, to catch your flight that you are rather late for already, while you send out a tweet thanking everyone for being there. It’s a pity, really, that, when talking about public speaking, we seem to have lost that touch with the audience, learn along the way with those who have perhaps very much anticipated your presence on stage, and eventually leave everyone (including yourself!) with that afterthought confirming whether it was truly worth it being there that day in the first place… 

Anyway, back on topic, please. That’s exactly how I feel about speaking at client events and why I treasure them to bits. Back in the day, a really good friend of mine, once told me that we are, typically, touched by the clients we work with. They help shape us to become what we are, just like we help shape them to become what they might want to become. It’s a massive learning opportunity, not only because of the unique chance of engaging with an audience on a particular theme you’d both want to talk about more in depth, but also because it gives you, as a freelancer, the unprecedented chance of constantly challenging what you know and would want to share across, so, as a result of such discussions and interactions you become better at what you do, client after client.

David Weinberger wrote up in the Cluetrain Manifesto the following quote: ’Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation – literally. And ‘knowledge workers’ are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations’ and along with Biz Stone’s wonderful write-up about how ‘the future operating system for humanity is conversation’ I don’t think it can get any better than that. In fact, if there would be a need to justify the business case of social networking tools behind the firewall (Yes, in 2016 we still seem to have to do plenty of that!), that would be it: nurturing and cultivating the art of hosting some really good conversations

And that’s exactly what client events are all about, specially, if you are freelancing, and why they’d be totally worth it investing your time and energy in them, in case you might be wondering; it’s about having the wonderfully inspiring and exhilarating opportunity to converse WITH your clients, AND learn along with them in a unique setting, unfiltered, trustworthy, rather open and collaborative, where you prepare yourself to roll up your sleeves and start doing the client work you agreed upon through the co-creation process I mentioned and blogged about extensively on another article. That good!

Ok, ok, I can see now how you may be wondering what kinds of themes have I been working on within those client events, right? They usually last for about 60 to 90 minutes, or from half a day to a full day or two full days (at least, so far) and they, typically, range a fair bit in terms of topics, although, all along the same subject areas I talked about more extensively over here:

  • Social Business and Digital Transformation: ‘Where do we begin and discover what may lay ahead us, as we embarked on that journey of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise?’ 

  • Connected Leadership ‘What are the new traits, capabilities and qualities of leadership in this Social Era of social networks and social networking tools? How management transforms itself into leadership through social software enablement. How do we facilitate the successful transition from hierarchies into wirearchies as a new organising principle?’
  • Social Learning:How can we utilise our existing Enterprise Social Networking platform(s) to enhance and augment the way knowledge workers learn and get work done more effectively while on the job?’ 
  • Knowledge Management strategies: ‘How Enterprise Social Networking platforms can help us retain some of that critical knowledge we exchange on a daily basis with our peers, customers and business partners through social software and knowledge networks?’ 
  • Social Collaboration: Cooperation vs. Collaboration, how can we differentiate between one and the other when we have got (virtual) teams, networks and communities making smarter use of social tools and still make sense out of it all?
  • Online Community Building: Why should we invest in designing, creating, cultivating and nurturing an online community building programme to help accelerate the adaptation rates around our Enterprise Social Networking platform? Can’t online communities manage themselves as is? Haven’t they done that for years already? Why Now?
  • Enterprise Social Networking Adoption & Adaption plans: ‘Once we purchase our very first Enterprise Social Networking platform, how do we get started to sustain our adaptation efforts, change plans and activities beyond the One Year Club milestone? How do we manage to make social networking become our new, enhanced, operating model?’ (A good number of times around IBM Connections, to name one of the most popular ones I’ve been able to host so far).
  • Working Smarter with Less eMail (#NoeMail): How can we work smarter, not necessarily harder, by eliminating vast majority of the email clutter we currently get exposed to on a daily basis? How can we tame the email beast and free ourselves from its yoke and into social networking tools? Is there a way to have a successful working life without email?’ (The answer, of course, is yes!).

Phew! Yes, I know, I know, that’s quite a few topics to cover! My goodness! Indeed, but remember that this is just a handful of the ones I can remember having done successfully in the last 3 years, or so, as there have been plenty more! I just wish I would have had the opportunity as well to blog about them in the moment, including the sharing across of the different presentation materials I may have used over time, but, alas, that didn’t happen. But that’s about to change, since this is, partially, also the reason why I wanted to resume my blogging mojo and stick around with it from here onwards, because in the last few months I haven’t been able to do a good job in working out loud myself, even though I’m such a huge fan of it, and I definitely want to change that. Why? Well, because a few years back I realised the moment I stop sharing what I know and what I learn along the way that’s the moment I start dying out a bit more inside.

Over the course of last few months I had enough with that long, slow, and somewhat painful process of seeing my knowledge stagnate by not sharing it across over here in my blog, where it could get constantly both challenges and improved, even if by my own writing of my own thoughts, ideas and experiences, so it’s a good time to stop with all of that nonsense about protecting and hoarding one’s knowledge and blog again at the home I never left. If anything, for my own sanity.

Knowledge was meant to be free, accessible and available to everyone, because the moment it isn’t, that’s the moment we are in trouble, as human beings. And now that we have got social software tools to help out freeing up our knowledge for everyone else to be part of that co-creation process, we no longer have got an excuse, don’t you think?

PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with for speaking at clients’ events, so if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer based on those time frames of 60 to 90 minutes, half a day, full day or two full days, amongst others, of course. 😀👍🏻

[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 #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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Connectivity – The Achilles Heel of Remote Knowledge Web Work

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo As Seen from Roque Bentayga in the WinterLast week at work was, perhaps, one of the most excruciating, rather annoying and frustrating weeks that I can remember in my 16 years of work with my current employer and it was not because of the sheer madness, rather hectic and busy work schedules, you know, those are business as usual and quite good fun still (Already having crossed through the second month on the new job!), but more because for the first time in a long while I got to experience what I think is the Achilles Heel for Knowledge (Web) workers in this digital age. Specially, for those of us who are working remotely, away from the traditional office. Yes, indeed, last week I experienced, in full force, what it would be like having an intermittent connection to internal networks, through VPN, as well as the Internet in general, through my ISP. And I tell you, it wasn’t pretty. At all.

Indeed, like I mentioned above, it was one of those dreadful experiences that clearly reminds us all how fragile remote knowledge (Web) workers are in terms of the dependencies on the availability of a good, reliable and accessible VPN and Internet connections. Most folks out there know by now how, thanks to the “Life Without eMail” movement I started over 5 years ago, I have now been successful in having moved over 98% of my daily work to the Web, whether on the Intranet or the Internet. Yet, last week was perhaps one of the quietest times I have gone through that I can remember. Why? Because I was offline for the vast majority of it. Both my VPN connection as well as my local ISP were having continuous issues helping me remain connected and eventually ended up in me putting a bunch of extra hours at work just trying to catch up with things when they would become more stable. And some times they did, and some others, they didn’t.

But right there I realised how when you are working from the traditional office space things are relatively good in terms of connectivity. You know, everyone working along through the same pipes, so to speak, and if the Internet or the Intranet goes down, that’s just fine, it’s down for everyone, so you are in equal terms for that matter and might as well enjoying a coffee or two while the system goes up to support back again several hundreds of office knowledge workers. However, when you are a remote knowledge worker, who depends on the Web for the majority of your work, things are much different.

As a starting point, you are alone. You are, typically, in the middle of nowhere (my closest IBM office is about 1,200 KM away from where I live / work), trying to get connected to the rest of the world that flies passed by you at a lightning speed, and that you hope to jump into the bandwagon which is the Internet, so that you can catch up. Well, last week, my train never showed up, helping me understand the challenges of what it would be like if, all of a sudden, remote knowledge (Web) workers, get to suffer from intermittent (Or permanent, for that matter!) connectivity issues in order to carry out their digital work.Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga in the Winter

It just won’t happen. And, you know, work won’t stop. It never does. It will just keep carrying on and piling up, which means that, as a remote employee or knowledge worker, your dependency on a good VPN and ISP connectivity are going to be critical. Otherwise, it’s just like one of those dead tentacles you can just chop off and no-one will notice. And while I can see how that may well not be too worrying for companies and businesses, since it’s just an isolated case or two, perhaps a few hundred (tops), the reality is that for you it’s like the whole world just collapsed and decided to stop spinning around.

Yes, I know, I realise I am putting a little bit of extra drama on the huge impact of network connectivity for remote employees, but is it really that much of an exaggeration? Because, somehow I feel it’s not, specially, if you consider how, unless you live in a rather large urban place, you, as a remote worker depending on the Web to get your work done, are doomed and big time. And, most probably, no-one would even notice.

And, let’s face it. We are entering the stage where broadband penetration, at least, in (Western) Europe, is pretty much a good myth, specially, if you don’t live in big cities. If you live in relatively small towns, or rural / remote areas, that pervasive connectivity is non-existent, which comes to fight the argument that the Web keeps us all hyperconnected and networked no matter what. Well, it matters, connectivity, at least, in Europe, is not as pervasive as what most folks feel, and if you have been reading my recent business trips across several European countries, it’s more of a wider issue than anything else, not necessarily related to a specific country or local region.

It bugs me. I tell you, it bugs me quite a lot, actually, because, last week, I realised how I was no longer capable of accessing the most precious thing that makes the Internet a wonderful thing: free information. And I don’t mean free as in you don’t have to pay for it. I mean it from the perspective of no longer being capable of accessing free flows of information to allow me to get my work done in an effective and efficient manner. Never mind the good amount of conversations I could no longer have in terms of nurturing and continuing to build my personal business relationships, including blogging away over here, which I couldn’t, as some of you have well observed through offline interactions.

Ugly. Very ugly state of things, if we have to keep depending on that reliability of connectivity for that major shift of the knowledge workforce that’s already well underway, where more and more people are becoming remote employees, or even no longer attached to companies but doing freelance work, and still needing to have that connection to the Web. That shift is not going to change, nor disappear, but to accelerate greatly over the next couple of years and seeing how urban places are starting to become more jammed and overpopulated, it’s going to be a huge issue if those remote workers from small, rural places can’t keep connected in a reliable manner. Or if, all of a sudden, ISPs decide to sacrifice their quality service to reduce costs or companies decide that good, robust VPN solutions are not worth the investment anymore, therefore forcing their remote employees to trash off the flexibility they once had and return back to the traditional office, no matter at what costs.

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo As Seen from Roque Bentayga in the WinterOf course, we have got email to fix that problem. I am sure you all have been thinking about that very same thought all along while reading this article, and, to be frank, no, we don’t. Email will not solve the problem, because, yes, you can work offline through your mailbox and everything, but you still need the connectivity to send those emails across and when exchanging large rich media files, or presentations, proposals, status project reports and what not; you are going to have a need for a rather fast and robust network connection. We are no longer in the mid-90s where a regular analogue line could get you through the daily email in a matter of minutes. Plus, I am not sure I would want to venture to state that email is safe in the current workplace just because we don’t have enough broadband capacity or a rather robust VPN set of solutions. It would be just totally wrong and for a good number of reasons.

We need to step up, we need to level up the game and start embracing the fact that over the course of time, the vast majority of your companies’ work is going to be executed, done and dealt with by people who are not working at the traditional office anymore, and, as such, we would need to ensure they are reliably connected to the Web to get their work done. As more and more of us progress further away from firewalls and internal protected networks into the Open Social Web, I guess we would be saying good-bye to VPNs, but then again, if you have been watching the news over the course of the last few months, and, lately, in the last week or so, you would know how some conversations would still need to take place in a secure, private, protected space, although still open and accessible to everyone concerned (i.e. employees, customers and business partners, for that matter).

So the need for ISPs to understand how freelancers work remotely and how much they rely on that network connection for a whole lot more than just sending an email, also correlates to the need from businesses to understand how critical good, reliable VPN connections are to allow those employees to stay connected in a world that’s become more virtual, distributed and remote than ever. Upping the game will get us all there, eventually. Not doing anything, though, thinking things will be all right, after all, will help us go into a Dark Age I doubt we’d ever be able to recover from accordingly. All of us.

Now, imagine if all ISPs, while they are going to become more under pressure over time, decide to take us through on to those dark ages … for good. Imagine, if, all of a sudden, after seeing last few weeks’ global events all over the place (Take your pick as there are a lot of those to choose from!) things just collapse. Just like that. Well, don’t imagine it. Let’s just work really hard on not making it happen any time soon, because somehow the trend keeps showing how we are heading towards that collapse, without remedy. I know, I know, I don’t plan to finish off this article with a negative thought of what might happen. Instead, I would want to finish it off with a rather outrageous, optimistic and heretic trend of thought on what’s at stake at this point in time, so please do allow me to leave you with this absolutely stunning, rather inspiring and incredibly thought-provoking presentation from one of my favourite thinkers of the 21st century that I just can’t have enough of in terms of showing the way of where we are heading, not only in the business world, but in our society. Check out Manuel Castells‘ recent RSA speech on “Networks of Outrage and Hope“, which will also confirm, for that matter, why social networking is here to stay and for a good few years, not only as matter of expressing yourself, but perhaps altogether as a matter of finding a new purpose, a new focus and a new meaning altogether: a better world for all of us.

No exceptions. 

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Life Without eMail – 5th Year Progress Report – The Community, The Movement

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere have been a lot of people who, over the course of the last few months, have been asking me whatever happened to that initiative I started a while ago around ditching corporate email (Under the moniker “A World Without eMail“), since things seem to have been a bit quiet over here in this blog for a little while on that very same subject. Did I give up on giving up on corporate email? Did I get tired of it and moved back to email? Was the experiment a total failure? Did I get tired of it and move on to something else? What happened? Well, nothing and a lot! The movement is still alive and kicking. It’s now more popular than ever and it’s still going as strong as ever, if not more! To the point where it’s now evolved into what will be the next stage and my new focus area: Life Without eMail.

A couple of months back I was talking about this with one of my fellow IBM colleagues, and very good friend, Rawn Shah, and while brainstorming on something that I am hoping to be able to share very soon (Which I am sure plenty of folks out there have been waiting for it for a while!), we thought it was time for me to help the movement evolve into something much more exciting: going personal. Indeed, instead of focusing on the whole world, which may have been a bit too ambitious and perhaps over demanding on everyone as in too large to cover, I am switching gears and instead adopt a new mantra towards it: Life Without eMail

Why? Well, mainly because if there is anything that I have learned over the course of time, and, specially, in the last couple of years, is that the world doesn’t use email. People do. So if someone would want to free their life up of the email yoke it’s got to start with people. We are the ones who should, and need!, to break that chain. The (corporate) world is not going to do it. It’s just far too comfortable keeping up the status quo of abuse, political and bullying games just as it is. It’s a matter of divide and conquer. And so far email is winning, at least, according to some folks, although I reserve the right to disagree with those statements, specially, when we start separating email as a content repository from email as an alert / notification system (BACN anyone?). Either way, that’s why I feel it’s probably a good time to move on to the next challenge. To design a new kind of work, a new mindset of work habits that would inspire each and everyone of us to become much more collaborative and keen on sharing our knowledge out there openly through digital tools, whatever those may well be.

So, instead of just focusing on the world itself, it’s time to focus on the people, the knowledge (Web) workers, to help them free themselves up from what may have been stopping their passion to pursue something bigger, much bigger, for themselves. That is why from this year onwards I will be talking about going personal with Life Without eMail

It’s no coincidence either, really. Because those of you folks who may have been following this blog for a while would realise now how, a couple of months ago, we just went through the 5th year anniversary since I first started “Thinking Outside the Inbox“, then how it evolved into “A World Without eMail” and how it all comes back to basics, eventually: that is, live a successful, purposeful, effective and rather productive work life without depending so much on corporate email. Indeed, I can’t believe it either myself that February 15th 2013 marked the 5th year anniversary of an initiative for which a large chunk of people thought I would be fired from my current work within two weeks, thinking I was just plain crazy, and, instead, here I am, 5 years on and having a real blast with it. 

Of course, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way, and there are still plenty of them ahead of us, but, if there is anything that I have learned in the last year, since my last progress report update, and even more so in the last few months, is that this movement is now unstoppable. And that’s why I thought it would be a good time to put together this blog entry where I could reflect on what has happened since the last update I published over here, where we are moving forward and what surprises do I have reserved for you folks, because I do have a couple of them…

But let’s start with the beginning. First, let me assure you that although this article is going to be a bit long (Remember, it’s a yearly update 🙂 hehe), it is not going to be as massive as the last one I put together by the beginning of last year. This time around I am just going to focus on giving you folks an update on what’s happened in the last 12 months, then share some further details on a new experiment I have conducted last year that I am sure you would all enjoy learning some more about it and after all of that we will go through the surprises I have got prepared for you. So, let’s begin… 


A World Without eMail – Year 5 – Progress Report

If you remember, in the last blog entry on the topic I mentioned, for the previous year, how the average of incoming emails I had over the course of the whole year was down to 16 emails per week, which is roughly about 2 emails per day. So, as you can see, I wasn’t capable of killing email per se as most folks have been saying all along, specially, when I am being introduced at a public speaking event. However, if I look into what I used to have before I started this initiative there has been a decrease of up to 98% of the total volume of inbound email, which I guess it’s just not too shabby when thinking about how 5 years ago I received a total amount of 1647 incoming emails and last year only 798. 

No, that’s right. eMail is not dead and it’s far from being dead, despite what some other folks may have been claiming all along. This is something that I have been saying all along myself, too! eMail still has got its place in the corporate world. More specifically in three different contexts or, as I call them, use cases. To name:

  1. Universal Identifier (For whenever you need to sign up for a new service)
  2. Calendaring and Scheduling of events in your agenda (Most of those meetings, appointments seem to come through email still).

  3. 1:1 Confidential, sensitive exchanges (HR, Legal, Financial matters would be prime examples for this use case. Notice how I mention 1:1 and not 1:many confidential emails, by the way, more than anything else, because as soon as you include more than one person it’s no longer confidential. You never know where it will go next and who may leak the information across)

However, beyond those three use cases, there isn’t an excuse anymore to move the vast majority of our interactions into more open social, collaborative, knowledge sharing spaces: digital tools. And this is when it is getting really exciting, because, despite the various different reports that indicate how email use has gone sky high through the roof, here I am to confirm how not only the number of incoming emails for yours truly has remained steady, but it actually decreased for the 5th consecutive year, ending up at barely 15 per week. Yes, barley 15 per week and if it weren’t for a couple of weeks where that traffic experimented a certain peak I would have been on 14 emails received per week! Too funny, as an anecdote, that one of those weeks was the very same one that 5 years ago it also triggered the giving up on corporate email by yours truly! 

Here’s the full report of the entire year, where you can see the maximum number of emails received for one day, and the minimum. And right next to it, you will see as well the comparison with the previous 3 years, so you can have a look into the overall trend from that 4 year period. If you would want to check out the entire progress report into more detail from all of those years go to this link and you will find it there: 

A World Without Email - 2012 Progress Report (Yearly) 

Not too bad, I guess, for an initiative that most people thought it was going to be dead within the first two weeks, don’t you think? 5 years on and a Life Without eMail is now a reality. And it can only get better … 


Social Networking tools *do* make you ever so much more productive

Over the course of the last 5 years one of the main comments I have been getting all along from those folks who may have been exposed to this movement has been along the lines of how as interesting as it has been moving my work interactions from email into social networking tools, it seems as if the only thing I did was swap from one tool for another. Still the same result. Well, not really. Here is why…

You may have seen that particular piece of research that McKinsey did in 2011 where it mentioned some fascinating insights on our corporate work habits confirming how the average time that most knowledge workers spend just processing email is roughly around 650 hours per year. Yes, I know it may not sound too much, but that’s actually nearly 3 months out of the year people spend it processing email. Now, if you add up the month of vacation approx., we end up with nearly 4 months out of the whole year being spent just working through emails, because you do check out your mailbox while you are away on vacation as well, right? 😉

So earlier on last year I decided to do a little experiment where I would try to measure the time I spend on internal social networkings tools to get my work done and see how that would compare to the time spent doing email. If I would have just switched from one tool into another set of digital tools it would show pretty much the same time spent, right? Well, wrong! 

Most of you folks out there know how much of a big fan I am of the pomodoro technique, which I have blogged about a couple of times already. Last year I decided to ruthlessly measure the time I would spend in internal social networking tools in chunks of 25 minute long pomodoros and see how many of those I would accumulate over the course of months. And now that the year has gone by it’s time to share the stunning results. 

Over the course of 2012 I have spent 683 pomodoros of 25 minutes each to not only keep up with what was happening around me through social technologies, but at the same time to get my day to day work done. So that means I have spent 17.075 minutes working my way through these digital tools, that is, 284.5 hours approximately. Eventually, resulting in 35.5 days or, in other words, 5 weeks. Yes!, not even a month and a half!! Who would have thought about that, right? But it gets even better…

Because it also means it could save people even more time to do other more productive tasks. These statistics are just from myself, a power user of social networking tools with no scientific method in place. A social computing evangelist at heart. Someone who lives these digital tools, walking the talk, learning by doing. Perhaps the atypical social networker, because that’s where I have moved all of my work related interactions to a great extent. As an example, in our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the average number of connections / contacts fellow IBMers have is roughly around 40 people, approx. For me, I’m currently coming close to 3,280 folks, so you can imagine how my internal networks do not represent the normal and why I strongly believe that those productivity gains in time saved using social tools could be even bigger for vast majority of knowledge workers out there. Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Spring

Thus what does that all mean? Well, essentially, that next to all of the perks and various benefits I have been sharing around becoming more open, more public, collaborative, flexible, autonomous, transparent,  agile, and more responsible for how I work I can now add up that living social / open has made me more than two times as productive as whatever I was 5 years ago! And believe me, this is something that I really appreciate, because, like for everyone else, work does never decrease, but it is always on the increase, so knowing that I have remained over twice as productive over the course of the years, no matter what, has been a splendid and surprising new finding that has made me realised the whole initiative since I got it started 5 years ago with it has been more than worthwhile.

But what do you think yourself? Would you be able to relate to this new experiment yourself as well? Specially, if you have started already that journey of reducing your dependency on email, is it something you can confirm yourself, having experienced similar results, although perhaps not at the same scale as what I have done and described above myself so far? Do you feel it’s a realistic conclusion altogether? I am not claiming it’s a rather scientific experiment, since it isn’t, but I’m starting to think that it could well prove accurate enough to confirm the ever significant impact of social technologies in the corporate world. 

The one thing that I do know now is that relying more and more on social networking tools for business to carry out my day to day work does make me much more productive and effective than whatever email claimed to be in the past. And that’s a good thing! Finally, the living proof is there! It’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder. All along. It’s all about making it personal and making it work for you, just like I did for myself. And therefore the new moniker kicking in from now onwards…


Life Without eMail – The Community, The Movement

So, “where to next then?”, you may be wondering by now, right? Well, certainly, I am not going to stop here. Like I said, there is no way back anymore, but onwards! The movement is alive and kicking and we are going to take it into the next level with a couple of surprises I have got for you folks for sticking around following this initiative all along and for being so incredibly supportive over the course of time and for sharing along with me this fascinating journey. Hello and welcome to the Life Without eMail community. The Movement.

Last year’s progress report, you would remember, was rather massive, more than anything else, because I decided to summarise one whole year of progress with a substantial amount of interesting and relevant links about the impact of social networking tools on helping us reduce our dependency on email by a large margin. I talked as well about other companies attempting to do the same, as well as sharing plenty of interesting and relevant links on good practices on using social tools, or fine tuning the email experience to get the most out of it. 

Well, this year I am not going to do that. I still have got a bunch of top-notch resources, but instead of sharing them over here in this blog post I decided to eventually gather them all, and over the course of time, share them over at my Scoop.it account  that I am in the process of feeding it, as we speak, and where I will continue to add those links over time, so from here onwards you would be able to keep up to date with all of those relevant links I may bump into that would cover this topic of “Life Without eMail” from other people interested in the topic, or writing / talking about it, as well as including articles I may write myself, interviews I may conduct or public speaking events I may well do, so you could have them all in a single place. Starting already today! 

But the main surprise is another one I have got prepared for you folks. Plenty of people have been asking me over the course of the years whether there would be a central place where those #lawwe and social networking enthusiasts could gather together to share their own experiences, hints and tips, their know-how, lessons learned, and whatever other activities where they (we) could all learn from one another. And time and time again I have been telling folks there wasn’t a specific space. Till today. 

Indeed, along with Prof. Paul Jones, Paul Lancaster and Alan Hamilton, all really good friends and folks who have already embarked on freeing themselves up from the corporate / organisational email yoke as well, we have decided to put together a community space where we could hang out with other folks interested in this movement and help share our very own experiences, know-how, and plenty of practical hints and tips on what it is like having ditched work email for good. The original idea, and due credit, of course, is going to go to Alan Hamilton, who suggested to me some time last year to put together a community space where we could hang out. And while we couldn’t get it sorted out back then, too much going on, as usual, I guess it’s never too late, eh? So thanks ever so much, Alan, for triggering the thought of having an online community for us to get together!

And after much discussion and looking around for some really good solutions that may be available out there, we have all agreed to create this particular community space over in Google Plus Communities. So here’s the link to it: 

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesWe hope you would find the time to come and join us in the community, where all of us, me included, will be sharing plenty of our own experiences, as I mentioned above, on how to reduce our inbox clutter while we keep sharing some additional insights on what’s happening in the space of social networking, Social Business and, of course, Open Business and how they keep disrupting the corporate email driven world as we know it. Still today. Our main purpose is to help out knowledge workers become more open, transparent and collaborative through digital tools vs. just keep dragging along through an excessive and perhaps unnecessary abuse of our email habits. I can surely guarantee you it’s going to be a fun ride! 

So much so, that if you are really willing and committed to give it a try yourself we will be sharing with you some initial tips by which we can guarantee you that within the first 5 weeks, since you start, you would be able to see your incoming email volume getting reduced by over 80% and without hardly any effort, just applying some methodology I have developed over the course of time and which I am sure you would be able to follow with no problem since it isn’t rocket science, really, but just the trigger to break the chain and to, finally, have that rather rewarding and fulfilling sensation of owning your work, perhaps for the first time in a while! 

Will you join us? Remember, 80% reduction of incoming email in just 5 weeks! Here is the link again to the community to get you going and thanks ever so much, once again, for the continued support, for sticking around and for having made these 5 years quite an interesting, inspiring, exciting and rather refreshing time! 

Onwards into a Life Without eMail!

[In my next article on this topic, I will be writing about a rather interesting twist that I have gone through this year so far. A hard reset. A reboot from everything that I have done in the last 5 years… But that would be the story for another post soon enough…]

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The Sharing Experiment and The Kid Inside You

PragueIf you would remember, a few months back, I put together this blog post on “Why Do I Share My Knowledge?“, where I reflected on the main reasons as to why I’m so keen myself on sharing my knowledge across out there openly and in a more or less transparent manner. I guess that’s what Open Business is all about. Whether for Learning, Helping Others, or Leaving a Legacy Behind. The interesting thing though is that perhaps the main reason why I have been sharing more of my knowledge over the course of the years, is because, deep inside, I am still a child. We all are, after all. It’s just that for a good number of decades we may have neglected our childish nature of sharing for the sake of sharing. And that’s perhaps what has gotten us into trouble in the first place. Again, when was the last time that you behave like a kid when shared something?

I know it may all sound a bit too cryptic and eclectic when talking about those references around childhood, but I just couldn’t help thinking about dropping by over here today to share what’s perhaps one of the most inspiring video clips you will be watching this year and I would strongly encourage everyone to go out there and spend nearly two minutes to go through it to see what I mean.

As you may recall I’m currently on the road, in Prague, to be more precise, on the last leg of this business trip, having a wonderful time visiting the city and doing plenty of good work around Social / Open Business and “A World Without eMail“. Yet, in between here and there I am still having a bit of time to catch up with what’s happening in my various different social networks, and then serendipity does its magic, once again, and hits me badly! In a wonderful way…

Lately, my good friend Chris Brogan, has been doing some phenomenal sharing of great, relevant and insightful content over at Google Plus on how these digital tools are helping transform not only our businesses, but also our personal lives. One of those posts though is special, actually, rather special. It contains a link to that short YouTube video clip that I mentioned above and that I’m sure it’s going to give you shivers through your spine as you get to watch it. Why? Well, essentially, because it will remind you of what we were like when we were kids… And why a good number of us are still kids today. Instead of me telling you what I mean with all of that, I am going to stop here for a minute and encourage you all to watch the video and judge for yourselves…

Whoah! There you have it! Right there! What do you say to that? I bet very few comments can be added other than acknowledging that perhaps we have gone all the way wrong in our perceptions and expectations around the whole concept of Sharing. That Sharing Experiment is a whole proof we can do better at the workplace when sharing our knowledge across. And I know what you may be thinking … Those kids are already a bit too old and they probably have been taught, and educated, by their parents what sharing is all about without asking anything in return. And probably you are right!

But then again, where does that live us, adult knowledge workers, in terms, specially, of how we collaborate and share our knowledge in the workplace? Where did we go wrong with our childhood education and learning, or even our very own human nature as kids, where we seemed to have acquired the right skills yet, when entering the corporate world, we looked like we have left that behind and instead keep protecting and hoarding our knowledge, fighting with one another, still strongly believing that “Knowledge is power“.

Really? Well, I hope not! Look at what this bunch of kids are showing us above, on the video clip. Essentially, that human beings are social animals who share unconditionally with fellow humans what we know, what we treasure, what we are truly passionate about, what we care for, i.e. the well being of fellow humans, without asking for anything in return…

Thus as I keep reflecting on everything that I have learned on this long business trip, attending and presenting at multiple conference events, talking and interacting with customers, and learning from other thought leaders, and that I will be blogging about it shortly as well, I know, for sure, that for me to succeed in the large corporate environment there is a single thing that I would need to keep getting very good at, and which it looks a lot easier than what most people may well think about: Let the child inside me come out and show the way on what sharing is all about… 

I am hoping that you would do the very same thing. After all, there is nothing to lose, but a lot to win altogether, don’t you think?

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Meaning Conference Highlights – A Collaborative Future #lawwe

La Palma - Roque de los MuchachosNot long ago I mentioned over here in this blog how one of the many reasons why I went through that extended blogging hiatus towards the end of 2012 was due to a rather intense business travelling schedule that took me on a tour of several different European countries to participate, as a speaker, on various conference events, customer meetings, enablement workshops and so forth. Intense is probably the right word to describe what it was like, but another one that I can think about would be memorable. I do have, indeed, plenty of fond memories about the vast majority of those events, but if there is one that has got a special place in my heart is that one event that kicked off last year and which raised the stakes incredibly high on its first edition to the point where it will always be in my thoughts not only because of the tremendously energising vibe it had all around it, throughout, but mainly because of the amazing experience of attending, speaking and participating in an event like no other in search for something that I am starting to feel we need nowadays more than ever: Meaning. 

Of course, I am talking about the Meaning 2012 conference event that took place in Brighton, UK, on October 1st and that three months later I am still remembering it as it were just yesterday. What an amazing event! Not only was the quality of the agenda and speakers top notch (I had the privilege of being one of them giving me a unique opportunity to continue learning from the greatest and the most unexpected), but the atmosphere around it was just electrifying and incredibly energising. The amount of hard work and the dedication to make things right, the incredibly warm sense of hospitality we enjoyed while in there, and the humanity shown throughout the entire event by folks, now really good friends, like Will McInnes and Lou Ash, along with the rest of the NixonMcIness team!, was absolutely a pure delight. Something other conference events should mimic and learn from a great deal! And all of that on their first edition! 

There have been several different blog posts, articles, references, highlights shared across by a good number of folks who attended the event, which have made it quite a rewarding experience going through as I am writing down this blog entry, remembering the wonderful event that we got exposed to over the course of a single day and, most importantly, the sharing of some of the most brilliant ideas we got to exchange and share openly not just from the speakers themselves, but also from people attending the event live with all of the networking that went on and on and on. A delightful experience all around! 

That’s why I couldn’t help resisting the urge to create this blog post where I could point folks to the recordings of the various different speakers, which you can find them all right over here, so that you could have a look and go through each and everyone of them. At your own pace, whenever you would want to. They are all worth it. Big time.

As usual, and like I have been doing over the last few months, I did a bunch of live tweeting from the event itself as well, and I then captured all of those annotations into a .PDF file that I uploaded into my Slideshare account for folks who may be interested in reading further what it was like experiencing the conference live. The direct link to it can be found over here. And here’s the embedded code in case you may want to flip through the pages as we speak: 

I had the privilege as well of being the last speaker of the day, wrapping up what was quite an amazing day that would be rather tough to forget in a long long time. Of course, I talked about one of my favourite topics from over the last 5 years: Living “A World Without eMail“. This time around expanding further on the notion of what a collaborative future may well look like and hold up for us with the emergence of social software tools in the corporate world. I got to talk about plenty of what I have been learning in the last 5 years after I started that movement, back in February 2008, which reminds me that we are getting close to that 5th year anniversary, where I have got a couple of lovely surprises packed up that I am sure folks who have been following this initiative all along would find rather interesting and surprising. But more on that later on…

For now, I thought, as a teaser, as perhaps an interim update from my last blog article on the subject (Yes, I know! I am long overdue an update on how things have been moving along, aren’t I? Well, coming up shortly!), I would go ahead and share the link to the recording over here, so that those folks who may be interested in the topic (It lasts for a little bit over 17 minutes), can have a look into it and watch at your own pace. I’m sure it will evoke a good number of questions and additional insights that I am more than happy to entertain and facilitate on the comments section below, so feel free to chime in as you may see fit, and stay tuned for that upcoming update on the progress report of what it has been like living “A World Without eMail” in the last 12 months. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s not going to be as massively long as the last one. That’s where one of the surprises would kick in eventually … hehe

Here we go: 

Hope you folks would enjoy watching through it, just as much as the huge blast and true honour I had myself on stage delivering the speech.  The vibe in the audience was something that will be very hard for me to forget. Ever. And for that I am eternally grateful to both Will, Lou and the rest of the NixonMcIness team!, for their kind invitation and for making of Meaning something that I can just define with a single word: special! … [Truly special]

An enormous thank you, indeed, to everyone involved in making it happen!

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