It 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.
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, plussed, facebooked, 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.
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!
To 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?
You gotta love Twitter and those wonderfully inspiring serendipitous knowledge discoveries that it helps you bump into, time and time again, because most of the times they surely help you make up for whatever the tough situation(s) you may be going through. And bring you back on track, of course, to what your focus area(s) may well have been all along. Well, I have just had one of those the last couple of weeks (Which I am hoping to be able to blog out it at some point, since it’s still burning inside my brain like hell), but since we are just about to wrap it up for another week at work and move into the weekend, I couldn’t help blogging about that delightful serendipitous moment I experienced earlier on this week, because it surely has been quite an interesting learning experience and a superb reminder, perhaps even to us all: never, ever, lose track of your purpose, and your focus, on what drives your passion(s).
It’s not even worth the effort, nor the energy, being sidetracked, just because it may well all seem more enticing altogether. It won’t. It never will. That’s why I am really glad that a few days back, my good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Ben Martin, introduced me to Bernie Mitchell, who along with Andy Bargery, they run the absolutely delightful London Bloggers podcasting series. Bernie invited me to participate in the recording of an episode around blogging, after having read a recent article I wrote on the topic under the title “Why Blogging Still Matters“.
Of course, I couldn’t reject such a generous and enticing offer and earlier on this week, the three of us, Bernie, Andy and myself got together to record “LBM Audible #9: Luis Suarez from IBM on Blogging and Corporate Hippies” and while the main topic was around the purpose of blogging and why it still makes plenty of sense as perhaps one of the most powerful tools out there to help enhance your own personal brand and digital footprint out there in today’s Social Web, mostly dominated by social networking tools, we eventually ended up talking about pretty much everything around Social / Open Business.
It was a rather enjoyable, gratifying and delicious podcast recording, more than anything else, because, while we were going through a rather fast pace and jolly dialogue, it helped me realise how much off track I have gotten from my core beliefs around Open Business over the course of the last few months. It felt like my own reckoning that I may have been losing, slowly, but steadily, my hippie 2.0 mojo, and that, somehow, I needed to get it back at some point. Well, that some point is exactly that podcasting episode I did with both Bernie and Andy, because they helped me recover from the back of my mind a good number of ideas I have been rather passionate about over time and that, for one reason or another, they went into hiding, because of other things.
So, what did we talk about then on that podcast, you may be wondering, right? What were some of the themes that helped me get back on track on keep on pushing for Open Business with that rather well known, by now, flair of being the outlier, the corporate rebel, the outrageous heretic and free radical optimist, and, essentially, that hippie 2.0 practitioner. Well, like I said, we talked about lots of various different subjects, but here are some keywords that hopefully will help describe what we discussed and talked about as a brief teaser for the longer piece, in case you may be interested in listening in: Open Business, Adaptation, #lawwe, business blogging as your personal / digital footprint, being bold, fear and reluctance, trust, relinquishing control, leaving a legacy (i.e. a digital footprint), executive (lame) excuses on doing both social and open, ghost writing, authenticity, honesty, best practices don’t exist for knowledge work, blogging101, employee engagement, sustainable growth, evolution vs. [r]evolution of social, servant leadership, managers vs. leaders, hierarchy vs. wirearchy … phew! A lot of topics, indeed, but above them all, we talked extensively about passion for what you do and for what you have always believed in!
The podcasting episode lasts for a bit over 30 minutes and you can listen to the podcast here, if you would be interested in tuning in further:
Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did going through that interview with both Bernie and Andy, and from here onwards I just want to take the opportunity to thank them both sincerely for having me in the show and for allowing me to participate on one of the most fun interviews / podcasts I have participated in that I can remember. More than anything else, because it’s helped me realise how I need to re-focus on doing what I know best: change the business world, one step at a time, continuing to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen in order to let that passion do the magic of realising what a Socially Integrated Enterprise is all about in a world dominated by Open Business.
WOW! What a journey, indeed!
As I have mentioned in a recent blog post, you would remember how I have now moved into a new job role within IBM, as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections (both internal and external), where I am much more heavily involved with IBM’s knowledge workers’ own adoption efforts of social business and social technologies. So far, the journey has been incredibly fascinating, if anything, because we are just about to enter the last stage of Social Business Adoption and Enablement: Adaptation. And this is the best part, frankly, I am not really too sure we are ready for it just yet.
If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you would know how I have been involved with social networking tools since early 2000 to 2001 when I was first exposed to instances of wikis and people aggregators. And throughout all of that time I have seen a good number of different tipping points and different phases of adoption that have marked a rather interesting evolution into helping social networking for business become the new fabric, the new DNA, of the company in terms of how we collaborate and share our knowledge. There have been plenty of interesting and relevant challenges, and yet, the toughest is still awaiting us.
Having been involved with social networks inside the company from right at the beginning has given me the opportunity to witness how different waves of adopters have been able to embrace social technologies, at their own pace, in order to help themselves become more collaborative and effective by ways of opening up their knowledge sharing processes. At the same time, it has allowed me to witness how over the course of time those waves of adopters are getting narrower and narrower. Early adopters, first, second, third waves of adopters have all gone through that transformation of how they work and everything. And while there have been some good challenges, I feel the most pressing ones are yet to come. And for two different reasons:
The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics
The first one is that the one or two waves of adopters who still have got to make it across are probably the most intriguing, because they are the ones whom in another blog post I have called The Laggards, The Critics and The Skeptics. Yes, these are those knowledge workers who have already tried and played with social networking tools in some form or shape, and who have definitely heard and have been exposed to social networking and they weren’t very convinced. In fact, quite the opposite. It just didn’t click for them. They saw it, they dived in, it didn’t meet their needs and wants and they moved on back to where they were.
Slowly, but steadily, they turned themselves into skeptics with the earned right to voice out their concerns, issues and what not, in order to make the point across that they are not going to make the change over, no matter what. At least, for now, or till the point where things have changed and shifted so radically they won’t have a choice anymore.
And while I think you folks may highlight that as a potential issue in terms of the overall social business adoption strategy, it’s perhaps the one group left we should not try to keep convincing of what lies ahead, but let them re-discover it at their own pace and everything, over and over again till it hits, if needed be, at their own time, at their own pace. Indeed, there will always be different waves of adopters and each and everyone of us, social software evangelists, should be ok with that. The sooner we are, the much better of we will all be eventually. If not, we are the ones who have got an issue, because we are just not working hard enough to understand their context and different working styles and adjust accordingly.
Social Business Mandates
The second reason, which is the one that has got me extremely worried at the moment, is that one where we have failed in inspiring to transform our very own knowledge workforce and switched gears thinking that Social Business Transformation can be accelerated by mandating its adoption, whether you, the knowledge worker, like it or not. Yes, I know we are all excited and rather committed to provoke the change, no matter what, even if we decide to go ahead and mandate such shift. But it is just so flawed, it’s scary. Very scary altogether, because it just shows how we haven’t learned much in the last decade.
Social Business transformation is not a project team, it’s not something that you start by date X and you finish it off in a year or two. And then you are done and time for you to move elsewhere. It’s not something that you put together with a group of folks picked up by you to force it down to the rest of the employee workforce, just because you are in one part of the organisation that feels it’s entitled to push down those corporate mandates. Specially, onto those who still haven’t made the switch-over.
It just doesn’t work like that, I am afraid. Even more so when those corporate mandates are pushed down into people’s throats by that executive hierarchical structure understanding they are entitled to do so, just because of who they are and the position they hold. No, I am really sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that. Today’s corporate environment is a whole lot different than what it was 10 to 15 years ago.
In the world of social networking for business it’s never been about mandating and forcing certain behaviours or a specific mindset (That one of Openness, for instance). It has always been a personal, individual choice of the knowledge worker him/herself to have a play, to try things out, to find new ways of working where openness, transparency, trust, etc. become the norm in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate effectively together. And it will always be that: *a* personal choice.
So I cringe, and I die a little bit inside as well for that matter, whenever I bump into a group of fellow colleagues who have been mandated by their corporate executive(s) to use social software tools, or, else! Or, even worse, when knowledge workers are expecting to be told / mandated by their management teams that they must do it, or else. Yes, I admit it, it drives me a little bit crazy as well, because it sounds as if they have failed to inspire to transform and, instead, use their position, power and entitlement to enforce it, so that they could put a little checkmark, right next to their yearly performance evaluation, that they have been social and time to move on.
And if there is anything wrong with that is that they have enforced the very same kind of mentality and behaviours that social business has been trying to fight all along: corporate politics, bullying, power struggles and hierarchical clashes. And it gets even worse when they have mandating their team(s) to become social and yet they haven’t even explored it themselves, can’t be bothered arguing all of this social networking stuff was not meant for them or whatever other lame excuse. Whoahhh? Really? Is that what *you* really think?
See? To me, that’s the main key difference between a manager, ruling by command and control using their position of power and entitlement, and a true leader, inspiring a new behaviour, a new mindset, walking the talk, taking the lead, while learning by doing, on what all of these social networking behaviours are all about and which this snapshot shared below (Courtesy of 9GAG) captures it very nicely:
The biggest challenge with all of that is not that senior leadership, no longer believing in the power to transform through being a living example of the shift, but it is actually the folks, right underneath those executives, who execute those orders, because they want to please the command from the ranks above. Never mind thinking about questioning the validity of such assertions, or challenging the status quo of something they know it’s wrong, or even rebelling against it since they know very well it just won’t work. It’s just as if they have drunk so much kook-aid from the whole thing that they are still drunk with it and can’t see anything around them anymore.
And this is where the corporate rebel side of me, the hippie 2.0, the heretic, the outrageous and optimist free radical me is coming back and in full force to fight it back as much as I possibly can, because I feel that if I don’t do it, no-one will question it, and everyone will just basically conform with it. No, we shouldn’t.
We should keep up the fight and help out our leadership, regardless of the company (As I am sure there are plenty of businesses out there going through the very same thing as I get to write these few thoughts), understand their new leadership role, that one of being servant leaders, that one of provoking that social business transformation by themselves and for themselves first, as a personal experience, so that they can comprehend better the new dynamics of engagement, those where “knowledge is power” transforms itself into “knowledge SHARED is power”, where traditional command and control management progresses through into doing is believing leadership.
And this is exactly what excites me about my job, that, 12 years later, I still feel like I am just getting started with my social networking evangelism efforts, that there is just so much more to explore, discover, play with, learn and experience that we are just starting to scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg. The difference between today and those many years back though, is that I have now got all of those years of additional experience, skills, knowhow, pragmatic way of 2.0 thinking and so forth that I can apply further along that I have finally decided to make the switch from Adoption and move on…
Earlier on this year, you would remember that blog post I put together on me making the move away from Social Business into Open Business, well, a mere 5 months later, I am making the move from Adoption into Adaptation, which I think is much more appropriate for what all of the business world is trying to do with Social Business. We are not doing Adoption per se anymore, specially, driving adoption. Instead, we open up the door to adaptation, where we help knowledge workers adapt to a new way of working, where we become more open by nature, more transparent, more trustworthy, hyperconnected, networked, engaged, participative and so on by doing something we, human beings, have always been very good at: sharing our knowledge.
The Industrial Age neglected our ability to adapt. Instead we became machines; robots and drones capable of putting together a massive amount of silly hours working really hard, without applying too much (critical) thinking, or even questioning the status quo, so that we could just get a pay check at the end of the month, hoping that one of those years we might potentially become part of the executive chain that everyone aspires to because we feel things would be much better. No, they were’t.
Indeed, things never got better for the vast majority, only for the very very few. In fact, they got worse, because with the current work pressures people are behaving even more like corporate drones understanding that if they don’t put enough hours during the work week (7 days a week!) they may get fired altogether together for not being productive enough. How flawed is that? I mean, how can we keep ignoring over 150 years of research on what’s obvious?
Perhaps we should get fired. Maybe we need to go through that massively rude awakening to understand how we need to go back to basics: our very own human nature. They say that we are one of the very few species in this world that can adapt adequately to any given environment, no matter how harsh it may well be. Well, perhaps we may not have adapted well enough to a corporate environment where we have been eaten up alive by the status quo, because we just haven’t challenged it well enough like we have done with other environments.
The difference between last 50 years and now is that for the first time ever, we have got the tools, the social technologies, to help us provoke that transformation of how we do business and how we should behave in the new business world that aims at sustainable growth, equity, parity, earned merit, digital reputation, etc. and how the sooner we may be switch from adoption to adaptation, from corporate mandates to servant leadership, from corporate drones into human beings with an ability to think and make beautiful things, the much better our societies would become as a result of it. Not just for each and everyone of us, but for many future generations to come.
It’s the least we can all do. Adapt for our mere survival as a species. The race has already started a while ago. The clock is ticking and faster than ever… Think, inspire and execute. Don’t waste any more time trying to conform with a status quo that was never meant to be. Challenge it by helping people understand and fully embrace how they can adapt to a new reality. Their own reality.
Remember that life is just too short to have to conform with a status quo you never believed in, nor adapted to, in the first place. It’s now a good time to level up the game and demonstrate what we are all capable of in terms of adapting social business gestures to how we work.
Indeed, doing is believing!
Adaptation: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”