Posts Tagged disruption

Learning Social Business from KM failures

Posted by on Thursday, 17 October, 2013

IMG_2568KM is knowledge management; a term most people who don’t work in KM likely don’t understand, and even those who do work in the field may only have a tenuous grasp of as it is broad in scope and esoteric in meaning. In effect, knowledge management is about the creation, curation, and maintenance of organizational information. Once relegated to documentation and knowledge bases, it now encompasses wikis, forums, blogs, and other social engagement as well.

In my years of working as a knowledge manager, the biggest failure I’ve encountered has been the implementation of quotas as a method to solve a problem of content gaps in knowledge bases. While mandated quota systems will indeed work to generate more  content, we discovered the quality and relevancy of that content wasn’t hitting the mark. The problem we were trying to solve wasn’t that we needed more content, rather we needed the right  content, the right information for our clients available at the right time. Quotas only solved the amount of content, and did nothing to drive creation of relevant and useful content.

The same lesson can be seen in social business today. Where many companies and corporations are mandating social participation and seeing increased activity, they aren’t hitting the mark of being a true social business. While mandates will drive increased activity, it misses the mark like km quotas before it: the right activity is lost to mere quantity. Mandates and incentives don’t drive the right behaviours, only increased activity. What is needed is not more voices in the social media worlds saying the same thing; rather we need the right voices sharing their knowledge for the benefit of others.  Instead of quotas and mandates and incentives we need a shift in corporate culture that is focused on encouraging and supporting the right behaviours: the effective sharing of knowledge and innovation to aid the success of all.

Enabling and encouraging those who have both the expertise and passion for what they do, showing how the right knowledge shared benefits everyone, and creating a culture of openness that not only allows for social participation but sees it as a key part of everyone’s job role will start to shift us away from those old KM failures towards true social success. This is not a top-down need, nor is it a bottom up grass-roots effort any more. Now, more than ever, the entire company hierarchy has a responsibility to drive the right behaviours, to create the right culture that supports the new way of business.

This quote from Brian Solis‘ article on the Death of Social Business sums up the need and call to action quite nicely:

“So while some of us are getting ready to attend the funeral for Social Business, many are pushing onward to what’s next. Whatever we end up calling it is not the important thing. What really matters is freeing every human asset to be free of fear, uncertainty and doubt so they may achieve their greatest potential in life and in work. A connected society is a better society, with mutual benefit from our interdependence making the world more tolerant, more livable and more prosperous.”

Indeed, whatever we call it, we must learn from our past failures and move forward the right way, the connected and human way.

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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.

Fear of failure and disruption; on stifling innovation.

Posted by on Thursday, 2 May, 2013

IMG_3498I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, but what does it really mean to not be afraid to fail? I know a lot of us may say we’re not, but when it comes down to it, do our actions prove that to be true? In my experience and observations, no, they don’t.

For whatever reason, our culture has supported and ingrained the idea that failure is bad; that we must do everything in our power to appear successful regardless of the actual truth. I’m sure you’ve heard the business advice often provided to startups: “fail fast and fail often”. When this advice is taken to heart failure ceases to be scary and simply becomes a form of very valuable feedback. It is precisely this (or really, ANY) kind of feedback for which we are all so starved. Some of us get more feedback than others, granted, but I’m relatively certain none of us get anywhere near enough of it.

By only highlighting our successes, and hiding our failures, we are actually doing ourselves and our businesses critical disservice. How can we grow and evolve, or do the *right* things when we sublimate such important feedback and pretend we are all amazingly successful?

And wouldn’t you know, as I was writing this post, I serendipitously came across the following article also posted today by Brian Solis: Disruptive Selection – Natures way of weeding out the average business

In some ways, I think failure is seen as a disruptor as Brian points out: like it is something to stifle and subdue, rather than learn and innovate from as a lesson in either what not to do or how to change. Fear drives both the aversion to disruption, as well as the desire to hide failure. But, as Brian points out, the digital Darwinsim metaphor fits nicely as disruption (and failure) naturally evolve towards deeper innovation and ultimately more successes when it is understood and allowed to occur. Progress and success, however, are only stifled when disruption and failure aren’t even allowed to be recognized or acknowledged.

It is the cycle of business; innovate or die. In this cycle we must not only make room for disruption and failure to occur, but embrace them when they do. Only then can we see true innovation, change, and eventually success again.