Posts Tagged change agent

Community as a key to success; or, there’s Too Many Secrets

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

Digital StillCamera

One of the keys to long-term success is the involvement in community. You’ve likely heard me say that the only value in knowledge is not in applied knowledge but rather in shared knowledge. While applied knowledge of course has some value, it is in the sharing of knowledge where real and long-term impact value is seen, and where both substantial personal and business growth is achieved.

I was recently reading an article in The Register UK that highlighted this philosophy quite clearly. In the article, the author outlines how Amazon is beholden to open source projects but refrains from contributing back in any substantial or consistent fashion; that the corporate culture dissuades employees from engaging in community either through code contributions or even just conference presentations. The article goes on to say this same secrecy while providing some short-term advantages is now beginning to show some long-term problems as new talent is going elsewhere, to companies that encourage community engagement and allow developers to grow both inside and outside the company.

In the changing models of business, the traditional resume is losing ground to more social and visible methods of proving your value. As noted in the article, a GitHub profile is now a developer’s resume; it shows both skill in coding as well as contribution to the larger community as a good citizen. (The same could be said for a twitter/g+/ or blog for someone in a Social Business role, as they show capability and skill rather than simply tell like a resume does.) Any company that has a focus on long-term success (as all say they do) must encourage external knowledge sharing and contributions to communities both physical and virtual. If you can’t attract talented employees, stagnation and eventual collapse are your only future in business. Conversely, when you encourage employees to interact socially, to share and contribute with a philosophy that extends far beyond sycophantic protection of self-interest and into more philanthropic ventures the future of business suddenly becomes both innovative and lucrative.

This new way of doing business is no longer new. We are now a few years into the experience of social business, and are seeing some of the longer term effects now becoming evident. Effects like the shift of portfolios and resumes to online socially share-able media, where showing is more important than telling, and where sharing knowledge is more important than simply having knowledge. The sooner companies figure out things have changed and to stay relevant means adopting community engagement models to collectively share knowledge, the better off we will all be as we navigate these new paradigms of work and economy.

It all reminds me of the 1992 movie Sneakers: there’s “Too Many Secrets”. But, instead of a nefarious plot to collapse the world economy, today we can use social sharing to avoid having too many secrets which will in turn allow us to adapt and change to new models of business and successful enterprise by sharing knowledge across communities.


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.

Email is dead to me

Posted by on Wednesday, 1 February, 2012

 Today my colleague, cohort, and WonderTwin(tm) Kelly Smith posted an announcement on our work blog launching our mission to reclaim our lives and work back from the in-box of dooooom. She and I, along with at least two other colleagues are tackling these beasts we call our in-boxes.

Ok, so maybe we’re not being quite as provocative as it sounds, but we ARE jumping on board to what we see as some rather revolutionary thinking: starting today we are working outside of the inbox. (#WOTI is the tag and acronym for “Working Outside The Inbox” and one you’ll likely be seeing a lot of in the next year…)

We adopted the idea from our hero, Luis Suarez, and decided to follow in his footsteps this year. Still sounding too provocative for you? It really isn’t… everyone can play along, it’s THAT easy.

Don’t get me wrong, email is indeed a great tool for 1-1 discussion in a transactional format; that is, someone gives information or asks a question, and in return another person gives or asks as well. Email is decidedly not the best tool for many things that we use it for today: discussions, decision-making, file sharing, file repositories, knowledge sharing, newsletters, and announcements.

As Kelly notes in out work blog: “We have the collaborative technology. We have the skillz”. And she’s right. Over the past few years she and I have adopted a much more collaborative focus to our work, using the various tools at our disposal to ensure we can accomplish tasks with as much efficiency and effectiveness as possible and have both been preaching the word of transparent collaboration for quite a while now.

The difference now is that we’re more focused, more structured, and will be tracking our progress. I KNOW my incoming email had reduced significantly over the past year, but this year we are going to be able to quantify it and show solid results… starting today.

How, I can hear you ask, do we intend to accomplish such a hefty goal? Easy I say: we’ve absconded with Luis’ Magic 3 step program, and added a fourth step of our own:

  1.  Stop replying to email. The more email you reply to, the more email you will receive. It is a never-ending cycle. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I won’t reply to ANYTHING that comes into my inbox, but rather that I will be much more focused and judicious as I implement step 2 before I reply:
  2. Use the right tool for the right conversation. This means identifying conversations/tasks (use cases) that can be accomplished more easily, more transparently, more efficiently, and with less cost, using a more appropriate social tool. Sometimes that will be email. Most of the time, it won’t.
  3. Start moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home. This won’t be a light switch situation, rather it will happen slowly and surely.
  4. Record progress, set an example, evangelize and act as a change agent. This is the one we added on… because without monitoring progress, it is very difficult to show tangible value. Additionally, without evangelizing and acting as change agents, we’re just doing this in a silo with no further effect, which isn’t our intent at all…

So what IS our intent if it isn’t to just reduce the amount of email cluttering our respective in-boxes? Again, another easy answer: we intend to act as examples and agents of change to help show our organizations how much more efficient and effective we can ALL be by using the *right* collaborative tools.

We intend to do this mindfully and conscientiously; to drive change for the benefit of us all, not just the individuals jumping on this project… given Luis’ data over the 4 years he’s been doing this, he’s proven the value and effectiveness of such an undertaking.

Want to join us? Its easy! Just start following the four steps above!
We’ll be posting periodic updates over on our “Notes from Rational Support” blog so you can see our progress. Feel free to comment there with your own progress as well and before long you’ll start seeing marked improvement. In fact I’ve heard told that your hair will be more luxurious, you’ll become more attractive, you’ll be promoted to executive status, and money will fall out of the sky for you…

Okay, that last sentence may not be entirely (at all) true, but I can assure you, reducing the amount of email coming to your inbox will make you a much happier person.