Sunday, November 22, 2009

This week in links - week 47, 2009



Social Technologies are a Horizontal –Not A Vertical Approach

It continues to amaze the market that such simple social technologies can impact the entire organization. In fact, social technologies, at the core, allow people to connect to each other without a middle person in the way. As a result, expect social technologies to impact every employee and customer touchpoint. CMOs must prepare in their 2010 planning how to leverage social, not as a skunkworks but as a strategic shift in all communications.
From a social viewpoint, the architecture of business seems all wrong. People aren't really designed to do one thing, like a cog in a watch. They have various relationships with other people, and through these relationships they have influence on the work going on all around them. They are not alone, like a moth in a bell jar. We are not alone, in our work. Even the most repetitive of work -- screwing bolts on an assembly line, or delivering the mail -- happens in the context of other people, and is made more valuable by their exertions.

Increasingly, people's work is being viewed as a shared aspect of social relations. Time is a shared space, where we cooperate toward shared ends.

One casualty of this large-scale shift in business doctrine may be the hallowed business process. The notion of a process -- a defined series of steps in the production of goods or the delivery of services -- subordinates individuals to the their roles in the process.

We will have to devise a new, richer way to think about people's interactions -- via social networks -- and our connection to mechanical processes and devices. In effect, we will need to model work with two layers, one where people are communicating with each other in a very fluid and flexible way, and machinery communicates with us and other machinery in less fluid ways.
Mature larger companies are often akin to large cities. Los Angeles or London for example have grown over time to consume and incorporate the towns around them, forming a complex network of places within a greater whole. The navigation systems connecting this urban fabric develops to match the travel patterns of inhabitants. Enterprise information architects in equivalent large companies should be like town planners watching traffic patterns closely and anticipating need.

Small business is in contrast often like a single campus community, hopefully rapidly growing and feeding off its surroundings. The commonality is broadband internet connectivity, which like the transport options connecting small campus to large city makes all sorts of interesting collaboration possible. Add in the realities of globalization and associated clustering of business entities and it’s easy to see why the concept of business ‘performance fabric’ is seen as a critical collaborative trade competitive advantage.

Helping planners of collaboration understand these concepts is vitally important to prevent the adoption of milquetoast tentative pilot schemes, which are typically experiments to try and find business value through experimentation.

Peter Drucker, the brilliant management guru who defined the term ‘knowledge worker’, was clear these employees or partners couldn’t be controlled but must instead be motivated and given integrative collaboration environments to excel. Common goals, values and sense of purpose empower them to succeed on their own terms.

As an advocate of decentralization and against ‘command and control’ management, Drucker was clear knowledge workers would collaborate effectively as a community if driving to specified business objectives. While the new 2.0 technologies realize this and facilitate execution, strategic planning in many cases lags behind broadband application development and are not aligned with Drucker’s clarity of thought.
I recently came across this quote from Peter Block in an online booklet of his entited "Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community: Changing the Nature of the Conversation":

My belief is that the way we create conversations that overcome the fragmented nature of our communities is what creates an alternative future.

This can be a difficult stance to take for we have a deeply held belief that the way to make a difference in the world is to define problems and needs and then recommend actions to solve those needs.

We are all problem solvers, action oriented and results minded. It is illegal in this culture to leave a meeting without a to-do list.

We want measurable outcomes and we want them now.

What is hard to grasp is that it is this very mindset which prevents anything fundamental from changing.

We cannot problem solve our way into fundamental change, or transformation.

This is not an argument against problem solving; it is an intention to shift the context and language within which problem solving takes place.

Authentic transformation is about a shift in context and a shift in language and conversation. It is about changing our idea of what constitutes action.

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