Archive for May, 2013

Culture change, innovation, and the necessity of disruption

Posted by on Thursday, 30 May, 2013

IMG_3127-origI was challenged this week to use the word “errant” in something I wrote. This challenge, not surprisingly, came from a friend’s off-handed comment about an errant pickle on my sandwich, meant to poke fun at my own strict sense of what a Cuban sandwich should be and how it should be presented. (I’ll say right now that it was a fabulous meal that I’d order time and time again, but didn’t quite meet the definition of what a Cuban sandwich is. Yes, I’m pedantic, but I can still appreciate a great meal even when it doesn’t quite fit.) She enjoyed the idea, and the word, so much she challenged me to use it…

While I contemplated how to work the word in to my daily writing, I realized that the word itself tied directly in to my work in social business at a strategic and conceptual level, as the connotation of “errant” implies a negative while the denotation can actually become a positive.

Let me explain: Trying to be a change agent is hard. Changing culture is hard. But, what is often perceived as errant behaviour is one of the most critical pieces to accomplishing any success in changing a culture or being truly innovative. It is the dissent, the disruption, that many see as problematic but is critically necessary to break the culture out of its comfort zone and become more open to new ideas; ideas that may initially seem errant, but grow to become better methods or ideologies and ultimately change culture with positive effect.

Errant ideas or behaviour are simply that which stray from what is considered proper or standard. While this can indeed be negative or harmful in some ways, can also be positive and beneficial when thought and consideration is applied with informed intent. By way of example I point to the disruptive technology we know as Twitter: when used with informed intent the service can be an amazing agent for change by allowing perceived errant behaviour and ideas to be organized into an effective force for revolution.

Be it toppling ineffective governments or organizing against corporate greed, disruptive technology and the people who use them are on the forefront of culture change. Without our ability to stray from the standards, we doom ourselves to a stagnant and unsuccessful existence.

Blue Galaxy and the future of business

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 May, 2013

IMG_5434 Blue Galaxy is an IBM idea (as @kellypuffs says in her developerWorks article: a project, movement, community, initiative; or as I say just a cool thing) to connect the subject matter experts inside and outside the firewall with others who can benefit from those connections.

I was lucky enough and honoured to have been selected as one of the first Blue Galaxy stars (and have my very own poster as seen below) to help drive the idea and enable people on the ground to really begin participating in solid social conversation. Mind you, I wasn’t selected to lead or drive from a formal project management perspective. Rather, like all of the other Blue Galaxy stars, we were chosen because we lead by example: not only can we talk about how to play in the social spaces and make the most out of the amazing capabilities to connect with some seriously cool and smart people, but we’re all walking the walk as well. Leading by example, showing everyone what can be accomplished in these spaces, really driving our own successes and IBM’s successes at the same time; that’s what makes everyone who’s part of Blue Galaxy a star.

Social business isn’t about marketing. It isn’t about driving sales. It isn’t even about improving efficiencies or bypassing convoluted process. It is about connecting people with other people to achieve mutually beneficial successes: that is social business, and that is what Blue Galaxy does.

Blue Galaxy brings together the right subject matter experts in the right channels to ensure widespread success across all clients, brands, and disciplines around the globe by simply sharing our expertise where it can be helpful and add value. I’m humbled and honoured to be involved in such an amazing initiative and to be able to attend IBM Innovate 2013 as a Blue Galaxy star and share my passion for social business.

But don’t let this fool you, this isn’t just an IBM thing… the ideas behind it are relevant to anyone who has expertise in their field and can share in the social spaces. While the Blue Galaxy moniker is IBM specific, the concepts and capabilities involve us all regardless of affiliation. If you’re a tech writer, you have expertise and knowledge to share. If you’re a long-haul trucker, you have expertise and knowledge to share. From a farmer to software developer, we all have knowledge in our realm of expertise which can be shared and help bolster successes across disciplines and in turn help us further our own successes as well.

Call it hippie2.0, but the successful businesses of the future will be the socially enabled, open, transparent businesses which share their expertise and knowledge with the world.


The dark-side of social media: the chasm of polarization

Posted by on Friday, 17 May, 2013

IMG_6225If you’ve been reading my posts here for any amount of time, you know I am passionate about social media and the transformative powers it imbues upon us personally and in the business worlds.

But social conversation also has a darker side; one which has an equally transformative power, but often goes unrecognized until the damage is done. That dark side is the undermining striation and polarizing effect of opinionated conversation.

While social media has given anyone with an internet connection an audience and a voice far greater than history has seen before, how we choose to wield that power to express opinion must be done so with thought and intent. Without it, we begin to see that dark-side rear its head and begin culture shifting us into opposing sides of issues that are either wholly irrelevant, or have far more facets than a simple two-sided opinion could accurately contain. As with most things in life, there are very few times when something is as simple as right and wrong.

How we discuss these issues, however, can either serve to help or hinder our cause… or in an even more Homeric manner, help or hinder our future. We are all embarked upon our own Odyssey, and the choices we make on a day-to-day basis relating to how we use our social voices, defines our collective end result. Understanding how our words impact not only ourselves, but our community and our culture is a critical insight we need to recapture.

Take, for example, current political discussions. I am certain that neither of the major parties are hell-bent on destroying the United States. More so I am also certain that both parties believe in their hearts that they are doing the right thing to ensure the success of the country and avoid failure. That is not, however, the indication anyone would get from social conversations which frame the issues into an us versus them mentality; that we are right and they are wrong. This deeply polarized view leaves no room for the plethora of grey areas that surround such complex issues involved with a government covering such a vast geographic region and the millions of people to whom it is beholden.

Social media, by virtue of the short sound-bite type postings, encourages over simplification of complex topics when the realities of life dictate the absolute opposite: that there are not simple solutions to the issues we face today. After all, if there were simple solutions, these diametrically opposed conversations would be short-lived and the simple truth of right versus wrong would prevail. Instead, we are faced with conversations laced with vitriolic and polarized speech, serving only to widen the gap between “us” and “them”.

The dark-side, dear friends, is the chasm of divergent opinion growing between us all. That chasm, as it grows, pulls us apart from community and drives us towards more insular engagement bordering on xenophobic, and the desire to remove ourselves entirely from open conversation.

The take-away and call to action here?
Pause for a moment and recognize that none of us want to destroy our country. Before using our social soap boxes to lambaste perceived opponents of opinion, step out for a moment and look at the larger picture to see all points of view knowing that anyone who holds a differing opinion feels just as correct as we do. So, when we return to our social channels and engage in conversation either in our own posts or as comments in others’ posts, we are sure to do so with respect, rationality, and an understanding that we are all in this together. If we can do that, we can begin fighting this chasm of simplistic and polarized ideologies and work not to build a bridge over it, but to fill it in so it no longer even exists. Realize that when we use our social pedestals to speak, people really do listen and with that audience comes responsibility to use your voice wisely, with an understanding of both the positive and negative effects it can have.