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

From the blog

Adaptation: The Key to Become a Socially Integrated Enterprise

Gran Canaria - Artenara in the SpringEarlier on in the week, my good friend, Eric Zigus, put together a rather thought provoking blog post that surely has got me thinking big time about the whole topic of adoption of Social / Open Business and about the different techniques that fellow practitioners get to employ to help other knowledge workers embrace new technologies, whatever those may well be. In Adoption via Peer Pressure? Eric comes forward to suggest that driving adoption through peer pressure, if done properly, could surely help out in the long run. Well, at some point in time in the recent past I may have agreed with him that would be the case, but, if I judge from my own experiences in the last year or two, I am not so sure myself anymore about it. I am thinking we may need to aim bigger, and better, perhaps even more effectively, from driving into inspiring and from adoption into adaptation, if we would want it to be successful. 

Over the course of the last couple of years there has been plenty, and rather extensive, literature (along with some pretty interesting and insightful frameworks) shared across all over the place about the whole topic of social networking for business and its wider adoption beyond just the initial wave of early adopters, even behind the firewall with social intranets. We have seen lots of very interesting reflections about its very own adoption as a new kind of digital literacy we all need to start getting comfortable with (to the point where it seems to justify everything to no end, some times even ignoring what matters the most, i.e. business performance); or about its own transformation journey even for managers and leaders (who, if not engaged properly, could surely slow things down tremendously); or about plenty of rather interesting and relevant trends on digital adoption

Perhaps, even, how social / open business adoption may stink (if done incorrectly); how it may well all be about removing certain roadblocks and plenty of other obstacles, never mind the ever growing list of rather intriguing challenges; how it may well be all about putting people first (technology second); how certain big words like culture,  empathy are back into the game (the only game, for that matter, if you look deep enough into it), along with looking into the soft side of things to make it work; how incentivising practitioners may well do it (More on this one later on, I am sure, since it’s been one of my major pet peeves on the topic for a long while now, and I am really glad I am not the only one…); how building it and they will come is no longer going to be good enough at this point in time in order to keep up the momentum making it self-sustainable; how it’s all about perhaps defining a good number of personas to establish some specific roles and responsibilities, to the point where it’s been highlighted how even community managers may be critical for that successful adoption (or rather the opposite); and eventually how social business adoption is a whole lot more organic than what vast majority of people may have thought about all along. 

Phew! Social Business Adoption is, indeed, a topic that truly fascinates me to no end, since forever, as you can see from all of the various areas it covers as mentioned above with the different links to plenty, and rather interesting, reads I have gone through over time. And I am pretty sure there are plenty more materials about it out there, all over the place, that I would certainly love to read on more about them, if you care to leave your favourite picks in the comments. I have always felt though it’s right at the heart of the matter in terms of helping businesses provoke their own transformation in order to survive on the Connection Economy of the 21st century, where, as I have mentioned in the recent past, we are transitioning from having lived through the scarcity of knowledge stocks into the abundance of knowledge flows.

But I am no longer certain that (social) peer pressure would eventually help much with those adoption efforts. In fact, lately, I am inclined to think that we may all be much better off if we stop talking about driving adoption and instead we switch over to inspiring adaptation, because that’s eventually what we, social business evangelists, have been doing all along: inspiring / modelling new behaviours, a new mindset, to help fellow knowledge workers adapt to a new way of working by becoming more open, public, transparent, engaged, collaborative, in short, trustworthy, in what we do. And, I am starting to think that peer pressure, if anything, is not going to help much. Rather the opposite. It will re-introduce a behaviour that we are all far too familiar with from previous decades and that we all thought we had left behind for good: (unhealthy) competition. 

Over the course of the last few months, specially, since I moved into this new job role as Lead Social Business Enabler, I have come to realise, big time, that adoption is hard, specially, if you move beyond the initial first waves of early adopters and you get a deep touch with reality. Adoption works in mysterious ways. It’s a tough job. It’s an art in need of craftsmanship. You know, acquiring new habits is not an easy thing to do, specially, when your natural inclination is that one of defaulting to what you are used to, what you have been doing over the course of the years, through traditional collaborative tools, whatever those may well be. And on top of that, never mind the massive work pressures most knowledge workers are currently going under, here comes another one: peer pressure, specially, the higher you go into the organisation, that’s preventing those practitioners to experience the main benefits of social networking in a business context. As if they didn’t have enough already!

Fear is a powerful factor that should not be ignored, nor neglected, more than anything else, because it’s the main element that gets added into the mix when embracing peer pressure. Practitioners would always be a bit reluctant to want to enter the digital world, if they would be fearful to try, to play and learn, perhaps even to fail or make mistakes, in case of being ridiculed by that social pressure of their own peers. So what do they do? They switched off, before they even try. 

That’s essentially the main reason why I don’t think that peer pressure would help much in our adoption efforts. What you would want to inspire within your organisation is an opportunity to explore, to reflect, to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen at the workplace in order to make things better and improve. You would want to figure out whether you can apply some of your already existing day to day use cases, i.e. your tasks and activities to a new mentality, a new mindset, a new set of behaviours with a not too steep learning curve, so impact of change would still be meaningful. And, as such, I just can’t see how peer pressure could help. I am starting to question whether even healthy peer pressure would help much in the long run, specially, since that innate connotation of competition will be lingering around quite a bit. 

Lately, at work, I have got a tendency to attend a whole bunch of meetings, well, not really meetings like these ones, or these other ones, that my good friend Bertrand Duperrin would love to ditch for good (He surely has got my vote, too!), but different gatherings (I am still trying to find a name for them… any suggestions more than welcome, please!) that would be classified as education and enablement sessions, where I spend a good amount of time trying to understand people’s challenges and inhibitors, potential technical issues, business concerns, daily work habits, productivity pain points, use cases they would want to explore further and what not and all along I have noticed how I have shifted the conversations myself away from adoption and into adaptation, because that’s essentially what I am aiming at: helping other knowledge workers adapt to a new way of doing business by opening up and becoming more transparent and engaged to help accelerate their own decision making process to innovate.

And it’s been a fascinating journey all along, because, eventually, the focus is on modelling new behaviours, new ways of interacting, of conversing, of opening up, of helping and caring for one another getting work done, understanding we are all in this journey to provoke our very own transformation, and, certainly, harmful items like competition, knowledge hoarding, corporate politics and bullying, gamification (in whichever form and shape), busyness, extenuating work / peer pressures and whatever else are not very helpful in getting people to adapt to a brave new world: becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise.

A few months back I wrote about transitioning from Adoption into Adaptation in order to achieve maximum impact to become a successful social / open business. I surely am glad that I am no longer the only one talking, or writing, about it anymore. Fast forward into the end of 2013 and, to me, walking the talk, leading by example, learning by doing, narrating your work, working out loud, challenging the status quo, etc. are plenty of the new mantras that matter in terms of helping inspire such transformation. It’s essentially right at the heart of it, and I am no longer certain that carrying potentially bad habits from the 20th century (like those pressures or harmful items I mentioned above) into today’s business world is going to help us achieve our goals. Let’s leave out all of those different types of (work) pressure(s) and get down to work

We still have got a lot to achieve and somehow I am starting to sense, rather strongly, that adaptation will be much more effective than adoption. It’s just a matter of adjusting accordingly, because, you know, language matters, after all.

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The Perks of Being an Early Riser

Gran Canaria - Charca de MaspalomasI have been a remote knowledge (Web) worker for almost 10 years now (Back in November 2003, when I was still living in The Netherlands) and over the course of time, while I shifted from European based projects into worldwide ones I have been doing plenty of adjusting of work schedules to meet the demands of work and therefore become a night owl of sorts, but at the same time ensuring that work life integration is there, right from the start. It’s been an interesting journey all along and even more so when it has given me the opportunity to live fully key concepts like flexibility and negotiation in a collaborative workplace. Well, it’s now a good time perhaps to take things into the next level and become an early bird, once again. 

Indeed, for a good number of years I used to be an early riser, and I mean, a really early one! However, and like I mentioned above, over the course of time, and as I have shifted into more global working schedules, I became more of a night owl, starting work at around noon, my local timezone, and then finish work related items late in the evening, never mind adding up after-work related activities, of course. All in all work life integration has always been a key theme for yours truly, since I have never believed in the so-called work life balance that plenty of people have been talking and writing about for a long time, more than anything else, because I have always believed, and rather strongly, that balance is just a myth. Why? Well, because work always wins. 

What I am finding truly fascinating from this journey as a remote knowledge (Web) worker is how time and time again we all get to redefine and redesign our very own work habits and mindset to meet up a new set of behaviours that would allow us reach our business goals: mainly, get work done in both an effective and productive manner through the use of social technologies. You know, the good old mantra I have been talking about over here for a while now around working smarter, not necessarily harder. But what happens when, all of a sudden, everything gets disrupted because you end up finding out it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with both worlds: internal and external? Is that something that has happened to you all as well? 

What I mean with that is simply how ever since I moved into this new role as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections within the CIO organisation, my external participation on social networking tools has become more and more scarce, not necessarily because of a time issue, or intent, or motivation, or willingness to do it. But more than anything else because both my brain and body seem to have had enough with it all. No, don’t worry, this is not a blog post where I am going to announce I am going to give up on external social networking activities. This is more of an article to reflect how the time that I used to allocate for those external activities needs to shift accordingly to match a new reality: at the end of the day, both my body and my brain are just wonderfully fried.

Why? Well, because I am loving what I am doing. I am having a blast helping my company understand and embrace that new brave world of Social / Open Business. I am enjoying tremendously the huge amount of interactions I have daily helping fellow colleagues adjust their habits and mindset, and eventually adapt to a new set of behaviours, a new wave of interactions to do business, where they themselves become more open, collaborative and transparent on what they do. And it’s that passion that shines through that keeps me going at a rather full throttle pace that some times it’s hard to keep up with. The immediate result? At the end of my work day, I am wonderfully exhausted

Indeed, it just doesn’t feel like work, this job role is truly aligned with my core values, even if that means that I get to fully challenge each and everyone of them, on a regular basis, in terms of what I have always believed over the course of last 13 years around social networking for business, so, yes, I am very willing to suffer as a passionate method into learning how everything flows around me and those I interact with, understanding fully where the limits may well be in terms of commitment, involvement, engagement and what not. Hopefully, it does get noticed as time moves on realising how pretty much that exhaustion, that fulfilment, that readiness to come back tomorrow for more pretty much drives what I do nowadays. 

You could say that I have turned myself from a first thinker (around 2.0 matters) into a powerhouse practitioner in full mode for executing, and walking the talk, on the Social / Open Business mantras and philosophy. Am I enjoying it? Yes, you bet! I surely am! Is it having a price, a toll, on yours truly? Yes, it is! At least, on my external personal, digital brand / footprint. Am I really willing to sacrifice it for the greater good, i.e. helping everyone else get there? Yes, very much so! That was one of the main reasons why I took this new job in the first place! Will it mean that over time I will keep fading away till I pretty much disappear from the Social Web? I just don’t know. I haven’t explored that yet, or the implications of such thought, but I do sense how I am slowly going into oblivion, to the point that I am not too sure anymore I may be able to recover that external social presence anymore to what it used to be. I guess I will have to take that risk and, yes!, I am willing to take it. It’s perhaps all what I have got left, if I would want to grow further along on that learning path of becoming a fully engaged and empowered knowledge Web worker.

The trade-off is huge and rather risky, but quite an adrenaline rush all along. At the same time, I feel though how I am starting to miss those thinking times where you would pause and reflect on what’s happening around you, that is, your own thought leadership, in order to develop some ideas around it and share it across with everyone else to keep improving things for you and, hopefully, for everyone else. Yes, I am starting to miss that thinking time for reflection. Why? Mainly, because as soon as I start my working day at my home office, there is no time for a pause, or a breather. A constant influx of internal social interactions, instant messages, phone calls, videoconferences, meetings, conference calls, *cough* email *cough* , etc. etc. you name it, take over and by the time it’s all done and dealt with both my body and brain are so exhausted that I cannot longer think and reflect properly to interact in a meaningful way out there on the Social Web in conversations where I would want to share my ¢2 and still make sense out of it.

So I just go elsewhere and do other things, typically, what most people would flag as private quality time with your family, friends and relatives. Basically, enjoy the other side of life. Still my external social presence gets to suffer on this one quite a bit, because that time that I had allocated for those external social interactions is now a thing of the past, since it is used for something else now. Still, like I mentioned above, I do miss the thinking times around Social / Open Business, perhaps as an opportunity for yours truly to keep advancing and learning plenty more, since we are just at the tip of the iceberg, right at the beginning, of this fascinating business transformation journey. Thus time to take action then, I suppose: become an early riser!

Indeed, there have been a good and rather extensive, varied number of different articles, blog postsdissertations, research and what not, that talk about the various different perks of being an early riser. All packed with plenty of helpful, practical and rather relevant hints and tips on how to make it work accordingly. Well, to me, there will be a new one out there that I would be adding into the mix: my own thinking time.

Indeed, that time where you just kick things off with your day, where you just focus on what you would want to do, that may not necessarily be even work related, but that can certainly give you that opportunity to work on something you would want for yourself in terms of your own thought leadership, effectiveness at achieving something or just plainly personal productivity. In my case, an opportunity to pause and reflect on interesting and rather inspiring links I may bump into from my various different social networks or perhaps an opportunity to blog on a more regular basis, shorter pieces, maybe, as I will just be capable of focusing on that particular writing activity without constantly being pulled off in multiple directions. 

Somehow I feel rather enticed by the idea of whether I can change my own habits from being a night owl into an early bird. To see whether I can regain that productive time (not related to my internal work) to focus on my external social presence and to whatever the level. Remember, no need to be constantly over-sharing stuff all over the place without thinking the potential purpose and additional for that activity, i.e. your audience and yourself. I can see how some times I may be able to spend the odd hour here and there, perhaps two!, or may be just 30 minutes, or even less, after all, don’t forget that we are all in here for the long run, so the important thing is just to kick things off, learn from that new experience and I guess that with this blog post I have just done that! 

So, any other early risers on my external social networks … ? 

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There Can Be No Resilience Without Transformation

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringIt has been nearly two weeks since the last post that I put over here in this blog, so I am sure that plenty of you folks out there may have been thinking I have been on holidays, or taking the typical summer break, and that at some point in time I may well be coming back to blogging on a regular basis, along with picking up my external social networking activities. Well, not really. I have just concluded, and be dealt with for good, I hope, what I think is the first time ever in my 13 years of social software exposure what I never thought I would be confronting: a week of denial of the Social Web.

Goodness! That was intense. Indeed, to the point where it nearly broke me apart and made me gave up on the whole thing altogether. Those who know me well, specially, fellow colleagues, know that the last two to three weeks have been incredibly emotional at work and with quite a draining toll that I don’t even have the energy just yet to write about. And those two last weeks of July finally paid off with this last week of denial for the Social Web where I just basically withdrew from the whole thing. And it was painful. Very painful. And it was ugly. Very ugly. With the end result that at the end of the day I just had to bounce back. That’s just what passion does for you, I guess. It lets you go through your odd moments of weakness, so you can do plenty of thinking and reflection on what’s going on with you, your surroundings and whatever else you may be interested or rather passionate about, to then help you re-focus and bring back the phoenix in you, restore the faith, restore the commitment, the urge, the purpose and meaning of wanting to still make a difference and, in a blink, just like it started, that week of denial is just gone. Gone to never return!

Perhaps what kicked off that week of denial was that article I put over here under the heading “Google Plus – Who Owns the Filter Bubble?“, more than anything else, because my last haven for hope for the Social Web out there just vanished into becoming what most social networking tools are nowadays at best: vulgar and ordinary, just to help us continue being stoned with that digital bliss where it seems to be the only model that works is to have you glued to your computing device(s) hitting refresh constantly, so that you wouldn’t miss a single thing happening from what’s delivered to you by those so-called social networking providers that keep claiming they know better than yourself what you need, when they themselves refuse to engage or provide you with support, thinking that, after all, you are just that, the mob. And you know how it goes. We don’t talk to the mob. We just keep it entertained and hooked, so that we can get away with our own agenda(s). Well, I have got news for all of you. Enough is enough. It’s time to wake up, everyone! There is just a whole lot more in life than just being an ignored product of the system. Life is too precious to waste it just like that. 

See? The reason why all of these social networking tools are so popular with 2.0 practitioners is not necessarily because of the technology, which is, as I have said above already, rather vulgar, ordinary and miserable, if, as a result of it, your own health is at risk. It’s actually the people who keep dragging us all into the whole thing. Vast majority of practitioners don’t really care what features a social networking tool may well have or not, if the community is there. You stick around because those people who you have built wonderful personal (business) relationships with over the course of time they keep coming back, just like you do. That’s actually one of the reasons why I haven’t been actively sharing content across, but I have been observing how my networks have been interacting during that week, without me, and, interestingly enough, things have changed quite a bit and not sure it’s for the better. But I think I may know why that’s happening, because I am starting to see it at work as well. And it’s not pretty. 

A couple of days back, I celebrated my fourth month on the new job as a Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM and it just feels like such a long long time ago already. I guess time flies when you are still having lots of good fun enjoying what you do the most: enabling and helping practitioners adapt to a new way of working where collaboration and knowledge sharing through social technologies take a new meaning by becoming more open, trustworthy, public and transparent. Essentially, more effective and productive at the same time by understanding that the corporate world is no longer ruled by the scarcity of knowledge stocks but by the abundance of knowledge flows through multiple social networks.Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring

The thing is though that, while I have been getting more and more involved with the new job, where scalability has taken a new meaning for me, I have had a chance to witness, and experienced fully!, how the 2.0 bubble I may have lived in for the last 6 to 8 years may have already burst. For good. Why? Well, for multiple different reasons that I am going to be blogging about over the course of time, but mainly because of a single one to kick things off: knowledge workers are no longer allowed to Play, Learn, Work, as my good friend, Harold Jarche blogged about beautifully just recently. No, they are not. They are just told, advised, and encouraged to just carry on their work into exhaustion, as if they were androids. And what would you expect they would do? Indeed, they have, eventually, become commoditised robotic entities that do their work and once those resources are no longer deemed helpful or relevant they are easily disposed of. 

It’s certainly, extremely worrying, how all of that passion, enthusiasm, energy, and huge effort by early adopters and first thinkers on helping set the stage, act as pathfinders, provide the initial roads to get started with that wonderful journey of becoming a Social / Open Business are now things of the past. That’s what I have been noticing these past few days while going through that stage of denial of the Social Web. You see? People nowadays are just putting check marks on their massively ever growing to-do lists that they have tweeted, plussedfacebooked, linkedined and what not, so that they can move back into their real work: the one that doesn’t require critical, constructive thinking, engaging, conversing, caring, or helping others and so forth for that matter. Essentially, people are back to what has gotten them to the stage of being androids: their meetings and email Inboxes. Those wonderful hide-out places where you can just get by, good enough, pretending you are working, when you know you aren’t. But, hey, that’s what your boss wants you to do, right? Why change? Why bother? Why trying to look for new, better, more effective ways of working if your boss and your senior management / leadership team(s) keep accumulating fatter and fatter bonuses anyway? You know, you are just sitting inside of your own little mental cubicle, your own comfort zone, that one that doesn’t require you to think much in order to go through 12 to 14 hours of hard automated work each day for who knows what business value. 

It’s really interesting to see what you get to learn when you start questioning everything you have believed in over the course of the last 13 years, in this case, for me, around social networking, but even more interesting when instead of going into broadcasting mode, that is, that industrialisation of your social activities, just like everyone else is doing, you decide to pause and reflect and see how people really interact. Don’t worry, you won’t have to look into it with much detail. Actually, people just don’t interact anymore. They post whatever they have been told they need to share across, or, even better, they scheduled it all, so that they don’t have to leave their Inboxes and really important meetings, then they place the check marks on their to-do lists and the whole thing dies. Right there. But, you know, that’s all right, because they have done their work already, that is, put a check mark in their lovely spreadsheet, so that it all shows lovely green even though no-one else would be looking into it anyway.

You see? This is what’s happening right now. And not just externally, but also internally, behind the firewall, with all of those Enterprise Social Networking tools and across the corporate world. We have defaulted to stop learning, to stop with all the play and, eventually, we have stopped to do our real work more effectively (The work we are truly passionate about), when we all know we can deliver and so much more, but, yet, we don’t, because we no longer feel engaged employees anymore and our managers, bosses and senior leadership teams are right there ready to remind us through our monthly paychecks and bonuses what happens when you are not heads down supposedly. 

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring Exhaustion and overwork, but, specially, fear (I will be blogging plenty more about this one, not to worry), are not helping people go out and play with other fellow social networkers, in order to promote and engage on meaningful conversations to get work done. Instead, people just keep putting on more and more hours of work, just because they want to keep up with those extra work pressures that have been imposed on them, as they wouldn’t want to lag behind their colleagues. See the trend? It gets better. Managers and senior leadership only care about how much money you have made for them today. Anything else is redundant and they will keep reminding you of it, in case you didn’t deliver the fat bonuses to their front door. So when they come to you telling you you need to be social they all make it look like it is, yet again, another spreadsheet to fill-in, put the checkmarks in place and move on. It’s easier to manage individuals as exhausted and overworked androids than to treasure and nurture powerful networks that thrive in free flows of knowledge where the hierarchy is no longer the one that calls the shots anymore. You need to earn both the merit and your reputation with total strangers. Every day. Every single day of the year. Year in, year out. And that’s pretty though, you know, specially, when you are not used to. So what do you do? 

Very simple. The same good old thing you have been doing all along, except that at the moment you have got a new spreadsheet with a bunch of to-dos where it says “Be social or else. Spread around my own messages, so I don’t have to do the homework. Represent the brand according to the corporate branding guidelines, never mind your own personal brand, we don’t care, and, above all, ensure our customers know about our same good old messages, because we still know more than they do“. Whoahhh! I know! That’s what I keep seeing, more often than not, when I hang out on both internal and external social networking tools nowadays as I watch, learn and observe how people pretend to interact on the Social Web. 

My goodness! Where did we go wrong?!?! How could we possibly waste 6 to 8 years of some wonderfully inspiring 2.0 thought leadership that we knew was going to change the business world for good? Where did we get off the train? Why have we stopped this absolutely inspirational journey to go out there and keep making a difference? And instead go back right into our comfort zones, our spreadsheets, meetings and email, where little thinking is required and minimum action is encouraged so managing things still is relatively easy.

Exactly, that’s why I needed to finish off with my own week in denial of the Social Web. That’s why I needed, I wanted it!, to bounce back. I had enough of it. It was just killing me to witness how all around me, both inside and, most worryingly outside!, over the course of the last three weeks, I have spent far too much time experiencing what that exhaustive, overworked, under pressured work mentality can do to the corporate world. To all of us, me included. And, in essence, it’s managing to do one thing very well: kill all of our passion, all of our critical thinking skills, because we just want to fit in, all of our motivation and purpose to want to do interesting and relevant things, and, eventually, become, at long last, an engaged employee

That’s why instead of giving up on it altogether and move on with the flow (with that rather dangerous inertia of just wanting to blend in, not being noticed) I decided, over the weakend (while I have been on full recovery mode from some rather exhaustive and emotional work experiences through multiple interactions with the business 1.0 world, but equally inspiring and rather thought provoking – I am really looking forward to blog some more about) to … bounce back!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringTo keep up the fight. Because, amongst several other things, there can be no resilience without transformation. And this is what it is all about, folks: transformation and our ability to shake up everything we have been experiencing and living over the course of the last 150 years and realise that in order for us, knowledge workers, to survive in today’s corporate environment, the sooner we adapt to living the values and philosophy of Social / Open Business and how they apply to how we work, the sooner we will finally transform not only the way we work, but also the way we live. And that’s just so important.

Why? Well, because since a few years back it’s a matter of our own mere survival: that one of the Knowledge Web Worker, finally, fully embracing that digital transformation we all keep talking about, but that we keep seeing slipping away from our fingers time and time again, because we refuse to change. 

Change is hard, I think we all know that, but it’s now time to take a new grip. And don’t let go. Play, Learn and Work like you have never done before! It has always been part of our human nature, an integral part of who we are, so we might as well awaken ourselves and embrace what’s inevitable: our very own human digital transformation. 

Boy, I am game. And you? 

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Why Blogging Still Matters

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s been a little while since the last time that I had a chance to write another post over here in this blog, so I guess it’s now time for another experiment then. No, I know what you may be thinking, but I am not going to stop blogging nor give up on writing for that matter. I still feel it is one of the very few pleasures out there on the Social Web, and still rather relevant, apparently. If I could, I would spend the whole day blogging away like crazy the several hundreds of ideas and drafts I have got in my brain that are rather desperate to come out. There is just so much that I would want to share, talk about and throw out there on the Web that writer’s block has never been an issue for me in the last 10 years that I have been blogging. The issue is, as usual, time. As in where can I find the time to blog? Well, this is where that new experiment will kick in, because I’m just about to switch from where do I find the time to blog, on to, how can I make time to blog? At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about: choice.

Lately, as you may well have duly noticed, work itself hasn’t given me much of a choice though in terms of my external social networking activities. As I am about to enter the 3rd month in the new job as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections, I am finding that I am spending more and more time in social networks behind the firewall than on the Social Web out there, resulting in me dropping off plenty of my external social activities in detriment of participating in internal conversations. Now, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s certainly starting to have an impact on my external presence that I am not too sure I would want to give up on it that soon yet. The challenge though is that after rather long, exhausting, but exciting work days, the last thing my brain wants to do is to spend time participating on more social networks. It just basically needs a break. And so do I.

For Seth Godin showing up daily is not an issue though, as much as it appears to have been for me as of late, as he brilliantly wrote about on his 5,000th post anniversary article. But he mentioned something that I can certainly relate to myself on this brilliant quote he shared across on why blogging still is very much worth it:

[…] it’s learning to live with the fact that I can’t say everything I want in a single post, that the trade-off of reaching people easily is that you can also lose people easily. It’s a journey, for both of us, and I’m thrilled to be taking it with you

And it gets even better when he continues to explain why he still shows up every day to his blog:

For me, the privilege is sharing what I notice, without the pressure of having to nail it every time… I treasure the ability to say, “this might not work”

Well, perhaps that is my main issue, that every time I aim at pretty much nailing it and that’s probably the very same reason why more often than not, if I cannot make the time for blogging I just don’t. And I end up watching how days go by without those blog posts coming along. That’s why it may well be a good time to shake things off a bit and experiment. Play. See if I can shake off that perfectionist flavour when blogging away over here. Now, on the other hand, here I am smiling away reflecting on the fact that, at least, my Inbox is not broken :-)

The thing though is that there is always time to learn new tricks on blogging, no matter how long you may have been going at it. There is always an opportunity out there to learn how you can juggle with it, along with work, family and other commitments. It’s just a matter of establishing priorities and stick around with them, which is essentially what I will be playing with from here onwards.

Like I have mentioned above, I have got no intention of giving up on blogging, or hanging out on external social networks, but I am certainly going to shift focus and intentions on how I would want to stick around with it all from here onwards, which is essentially when this new experiment will kick off. All along you may have noticed how blog posts over here have got a tendency to be on the long form, sort of mini-essays. So I am thinking that while not neglecting such opportunity of writing longer pieces I’m going to start playing around (again, as I have attempted to do it in the past a couple of times already …) with the opportunity of sharing shorter reflections on things that come across my mind, whether work related, or not. Pretty much a la Euan Semple, if you know what I mean :-)

I know you may be thinking that perhaps there is an opportunity to share those shorter thoughts on other social venues like Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr and what not, but I am thinking that while those other options are out there, there is still a place for some of those reflections to happen over here, in this blog. Specially, for one particular use case, that one where I am thinking about sharing a thought or two across that I would want to come back to over time, something that it’s proved to be quite a challenge in multiple other social networking tools, due to poor quality search capabilities. Never mind the fact that this blog still is my home, whereas all others I am just passing by  and the door can be shut down any minute, any day, any time. At least, over here, the door will always be open. For you and for me.

So … game on!

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Life Without eMail – Year 6, Weeks 1 to 20 – (Back to Basics)

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the WinterYou know that moment when you realise that everything you have done in the last 5 and a half years has not been really worth while at all and forces you to go through a massive hard reset, challenging your main core beliefs, in terms of what has motivated you quite a lot in this whole Social / Open [r]evolution space over the course of all of that time? Well, that is the “moment” I have just been experiencing in the last 20 weeks of Year 6 of “Life Without eMail” culminating this week with something I thought I would never be able to see, say or talk about again. And while I can imagine there would be plenty of you folks out there who may be wondering whether I am on the brink of giving up on giving up corporate email, I am afraid nothing further than the truth, despite the fact it may look as if I have lost the war (on email) altogether. I am still as strong as ever in wanting to think outside the Inbox, but acknowledging a fact that I never thought I would be pondering about much, after all of this time being heavily involved with social networking for business: going back to basics!

Indeed, I am not too sure what may have happened, but over the course of those 20 weeks (Yes, I know, that’s 5 months right there!) I have noticed a steady increase on the overall amount of incoming emails I have been receiving at work and it’s been rather interesting to see this phenomenon developing further along with intrigue and awe at the same time. It started already on my previous job role, and continuing along in the new one, where it looks like despite the huge shift towards embracing social technologies at work, the volume of incoming email has skyrocketed to levels that have brought me back to the beginning, in 2008. Yes, that drastic.

All along, I have been reflecting on the potential reasons as to why my fellow IBM colleagues keep insisting on relying for vast majority of interactions on email vs. social tools and while I may not have all of the conclusions sorted out and in place, just yet, I can tell you I’m starting to believe it’s more than anything else because people, in general, don’t feel comfortable enough, just yet, it seems, about narrating their work, working out loud, for the benefit of others, including total strangers, and therefore they still prefer email as that is a medium they control in terms of reach, access and knowledge shared.

How illusory, I know! I have been mentioning in both Twitter and Google Plus how surprising this sudden change has been for yours truly and a couple of folks have suggested whether in part this is all due to the recent change of jobs I have gone through, and the fact that I am now exposed to a larger target audience, where vast majority of that IBM population do not know me much, (nor of my work habits): the email-less man who IBM gave birth to in February 2008. It could well be, but then again it was already happening from the beginning of the year when I was still doing my former job, which makes it even more intriguing altogether.

I am certain that, at this point in time, you may be wondering what this is all about and what do I mean when referring to the fact I am now back to basics, once again, having gone through a massive reboot of everything I have been doing in the last few years on walking the talk, leading by example, with my extensive use of social networking tools in a business context. Well, it looks like I am now going to resume a more regular blogging frequency on the topic of “Life Without eMail“, because apparently many folks out there, within my own working environment, have never heard of it and still keep bombarding me with email after email, resulting in a rather alarming increase of email volume to handle, implying as well for that matter, and I am myself spending a whole lot less time in social networks while processing it along accordingly. 

Yes, during Year 6 – Weeks 1 to 20, I have gone from the good average of 15 emails received per week throughout the year for 2012 to, currently, 31.25 emails received per week, which is just huge compared to the range of emails received in the last 2 to 3 years. Take a look into the weekly progress report from those first 20 weeks, and please do pay attention at the data from Week 20. It will be rather telling altogether, so you can see what I mean:

Life Without eMail - Year 6, Weeks 1 to 20 - (Back to Basics) 

You could say that the vast majority of that incoming email volume has been provoked by my new team members and, to be frank, that hasn’t been the case, at all. Most of our collaboration and knowledge sharing happens in open, social spaces, for folks to participate in as they may see fit, along with some other protected, private ones. What I have noticed though, is a sudden increase of incoming email volume from people outside my immediate teams and for a good number of reasons that I have spotted so far. Because I am now working in a completely different area (Have gone from IBM Software Marketing, into IBM’s CIO Organisation) I have seen plenty of email traffic that would be flagged as political, bullying, unnecessary reporting, delegated tasks on to you, and a whole bunch of other aspects that have clearly reminded me why I got started with ditching corporate email back in the day. And while I have tried to be rather condescending and understanding that not everyone wants to buy into living social AND open, I think I am just about to harden up substantially and become bolder when challenging people’s behaviours on how they keep abusing, and killing, each other’s productivity.Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter

I guess after 20 weeks waiting for those folks to re-adjust some of their behaviours and become more socially savvy, and not seeing much progress along the way to adapt to that new kind of mindset, it’s now probably a good time to awaken that outrageous optimist heretic, free radical, corporate rebel, hippie 2.0 side of me and fight back! I guess it’s time for me to start challenging, just like I did at the beginning, how people work and entice them into open up their eyes AND minds into new, more effective ways of getting work done through social / open streams. 

You may be wondering why do I bother about all of this, after all, right? I mean, I proved the point for a good number of years that it is possible to live a life without email, so why keep things running as we move further along? Well, probably because I am stubborn enough to believe all of these digital tools will eventually help us transform how we collaborate and share our knowledge, making it much more purposeful and meaningful altogether. Probably also because over the course of the years I have learned to become more patient, and be resilient enough, to persevere and continue to walk the talk accordingly to show and demonstrate how it’s possible to have such a life without relying so badly on email to get work done or, even, to justify it. Probably, because, deep inside, I still feel rather strong about challenging folks, through constructive dialogue, and practical hints and tips and other pragmatic advice, about thinking different, about fighting that inertia that has trapped them for years in thinking “eMail as the default knowledge sharing, communication and collaboration tool, so why would I change? Not worth it“. Well, it is worth it. It always has been worth it and will always be…

I suppose I am an outlier, a rebel with a cause, after all. And after this week, in particular, even more so, once I am done with it and I finally received the total amount of 99 emails (As you can see from the report shared across above) in a single work week! Goodness gracious me! 99 emails!! That’s the highest number of incoming emails I have received for a single week in almost 6 years!! [Previous one was 60 in 2008]

And talking about rebels with a cause. This working week, which is now a thing of the past, reminded of an interview I got done with one of the smartest people I have had the pleasure of spending some time with to learn what Social / Open Business is all about, along with a whole new concept that I am sure you would all be hearing about plenty more, over the course of time, around smarter workforce. Yes, I am referring to the absolutely delightful interview I had the pleasure to be invited to by Rudy Karsan, CEO of Kenexa, an IBM company, and which he then wrote about on this rather insightful blog post under the heading “Introducing The Smarter Workforce Profile: Luis Suarez“. 

Why does it remind me of where I am, right at this moment, when I am stating “I am just going back to basics“, you may be wondering, right? Well, initially, because, to date, it’s probably the most accurate, insightful and relevant interview I have given, out there, on the topic of Social / Open Business and “Life Without eMail“. It basically explains why did I start it in the first place, how I have been moving along with it, and what’s meant so far, and, most importantly, what drove me to kick it off as far as benefits are concerned and on the working week where I have received 99 emails for the whole week, it’s a tremendous refresher, and a huge energy boost, to identify, refine and remind myself why, despite the hard reset, there is no turning point for yours truly, other than keep pushing, and perhaps not as gently anymore as I have in the last few months. Here is one of my favourite quotes that pretty much describes what I do and why I am so passionate on this topic: 

[…] This  convinced me more than anything else that social is the way of the future, and I found his courage inspiring. What came out of my conversation with him was that there were three things that drove him to do this.

The 1st was to bring about efficiencies. The 2nd was that outcomes are better when people collaborate rather than compete. I was fascinated by his notion that email is more of a competitive than a collaborative norm, as it is more about ‘I’ than ‘Us’. The 3rd was that social is the ideal venue, according to him, of teaching–and all humans have this yearning to teach and share knowledge–because somewhere, somebody will find our words meaningful and respond accordingly. What struck me in particular was that there are very few people I know who have no almost no sense of fear in their decision-making, and Luis is one of those. He is driven more by purpose which enabled him to overcome fear. Now, lots of books have been written about how to be an entrepreneur and how to do things very differently, and I think that is fascinating to watch somebody in a massive organisation like IBM be able to execute on their vision of the world because their sense of purpose is stronger than fear of consequences.” [Emphasis mine]

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga's Surroundings in the WinterYes, I know, I would be drooling, too! In fact, I still am. Feel free to read further on through the interview itself, if you would be interested, while I would ask you to bear with me for a few, while I try to clean up the mess on my keyboard. But that’s it. Those are big, big words that, over the course of last few months, i seem to have forgotten, ignored or neglected altogether, and somehow I need to get them back: Efficiency, Outcomes, Collaboration, Teaching, Meaning, No Sense of Fear and, my favourite, Purpose. Not bad to put them all together as an opportunity for me to re-focus on what I need to keep focusing on, specially, after nearly 6 years gone by: Life Without eMail not just for me, but for everyone else around me, too! 

Indeed, it’s a larger group, a much larger one, but then again I’m fully committed. Remember, I’m pretty stubborn, rather resilient, flexible enough to understand the dynamics and act accordingly and, above all, incredibly patient to keep pushing for that business transformation of how we share our knowledge and collaborate further through Open Business. You could say I have just re-gained my status of a Rebel with a Cause, because, to me, it just feels like it. 

This whole new experience for myself of what has just happened this working week with such a high number of incoming emails may have just signalled how I may have now reached the bottom of it all, a new beginning, a completely new beginning, and from here onwards I suppose there is only one way left: upwards and onwards!

Thus here we go. Upwards and Onwards with “Life Without eMail” through the point of no return and using our usual Google Plus Community to continue to help educate, teach and facilitate further into that Open Business Transformation, while we keep going for repurposing email in a work context and put it back where it belongs, at long last!

Hope you will join us! 

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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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