Thursday, December 30, 2010

A personal retrospective of 2010

When looking back at 2010, I found some highlights that I summed up in order to support my sometimes failing memory. So, why not share them?

April
June
August
  • Talked about the strategic value of social intranets at the "Sociala Intranät 2010" conference in Stockholm.
September
October
  • We ran a very successful Acando seminar called "The Social Intranet" in four locations in Sweden: Göteborg, Stockholm, Malmö and Linköping. The presentation from this seminar series, "The Social Intranet" was selected Top Presentation of The Day at Slideshare and topped the most viewed, favorited and downloaded lists for a few days (just as my recent presentation "The Great Promise")
  • The last week of October I went to Frankfurt to participate at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT. In addition to speaking about the value and issues associated with transparency at the "Governing Enterprise 2.0 Risks" session (video, slide deck), I had the fortune to meet and share ideas and experiences with many other practitioners, thought leaders and evangelists.
  • The day after the summit I participated at the connect.BASF Day at BASF in Ludwigshafen. Besides talking about the business value of social networking and how to facilitate adoption, I learned a great deal about social networking and community building at BASF. Many thanks to Luis, Cordelia and CheeChin for giving me this opportunity.
November
  • Did a keynote about Enterprise 2.0 and the value and issues related to transparency at the ISACA Day arranged by the Swedish chapter of ISACA.
  • Ran a very successful combined seminar and workshop with the IT strategic council at Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) about how social principles, practices and technologies can be used to serve citizens and government.
Other stuff
On top of this and my assignments for various customers, I also managed to write a few blog posts for The Content Economy blog. Interestingly, two of my blog posts account for more than 17% of all the traffic to my blog during 2010:
I wrote these during my summer vacation; yet evidence that it often helps to let things go for a while in order to make good and deep reflections.

However, all these things stand small when compared to the birth of my daughter Juni, my fourth child, in July this year. :-)

Happy New Year to you all - and be careful out there!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011: Enterprises will become more social and mobile

I won't make any predictions for 2011 except this one: Enterprises will become more social and mobile in 2011. It is a prediction that is very likely to become true because it builds on a trend which already exists - and I don't see any forces which will be strong enough to disrupt it.  It is also very easy to find support for this prediction when looking at other people's predictions, and here are a few:

  • Large enterprise companies represent the biggest dichotomy in social media. Many tech companies are leading the way with social media initiatives and have really incorporated it into many aspects of the business. But at the same time, other companies of similar size continue to block employee access to social media sites because of productivity and security concerns. We are calling this a stretch prediction, like a stretch goal, but we think continued success of other companies and clearly stated policies will help some of these companies open up access as they begin to explore social media options.
Phil Wainewright
  • A significant numbers of enterprise software vendors will upend their development priorities and develop for mobile first, desktop second.
  • Now applications are being remade to put people at the center of process and have automation serve their needs. The outcome will break down the old silos of resource-centric process management, to replace them with new, people-centric automation stacks.
  • In 2011 the new, new thing is not a technology at all, but a new way of doing business that’s enabled by all of the above.
John Mancini
  • The “business” will demand cuts in legacy system spending to fund new initiatives centered on customer engagement and operating flexibility. Smart IT people will position themselves against the revenue side of the equation. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be hell to pay when there are security breaches.
Ravit Lichtenberg
  • Companies will integrate social feedback into their decision making process...companies will use the social engine to inform strategic decisions, and execute on the organization’'s objectives, marketing plans, product roadmaps and more. “It’s not just about technology, it’s about a fundamental shift into a new age of leadership with new type of executives who behave and operate in new ways,” said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com chairman and CEO.
John Newton
  • Systems of engagement will dramatically change enterprise content management in two ways: They will challenge ECM to manage, control and audit information that seems to be unmanageable. They will also become a new, kinder, gentler face to ECM infusing a rather staid technology with easier, more consumer-like user interfaces that are directly injected into lively, engaged discussions between employees, customers and partners.
Lubor Ptacek
  • In 2011, the power of mobile content applications will catch fire and organizations will start deployments en masse to facilitate greater people productivity and process efficiency. This will also drive the demand for security, compliance and litigation readiness infrastructure for such mobile enterprise applications.
Lisa Welchman
  • I predict that in 2011 organizations will realize that you can't put lipstick on a pig of a web presence and expect real, measurable business value. In 2011, organizations will gut that pig of a site and start from scratch with new technology, a content strategy and web presence performance measures that map to real business results. Websites will finally grow up.
Leigh Watson Healy
  • Knowledge workers now look to their devices as all-purpose tools that travel with them as they move seamlessly in and out of personal and work-related applications and functions. And yet, our research shows that a whopping 63% of information management functions are doing nothing to support handheld devices, including smart phones, PDAs, e-readers, and tablets. The mobile train has left the station, and information managers risk being left standing at an empty platform unless they find a way to work with IT to support user needs for mobile content and apps.
Toby Ward
  • The social intranet: integrated, widely available social media tools for all employees. While social media is now mainstream on the intranet, a social intranet is a far cry from a couple of wikis and a Yammer account. The social intranet is more than a collection of intranet 2.0 tools — it’s an integrated package that elicits and promotes participation from all employees, and engages many of them as user publishers...The social intranet is still in its infancy, but it’s ready to grow exponentially quicker than its 1.0 predecessor for those organizations willing to invest in the technology revolution that will transform enterprise communications and collaboration.
Paul Miller
  • Intranets will increasingly become absorbed into the "digital workplace " – the wider world of workplace technology...In 2011 intranets will not simply evaporate but they will increasingly intersect with other online services such as HR self-service, live communications including audio and video, social media inside and outside the firewall and remote and mobile devices. 
  • The term "intranet”, often forecast to disappear, will persist as a still useful "catch all” term for the wider set of workplace technologies. However, the trend to renaming intranet and online teams into "digital workplace” units will also continue steadily, allowing what were once intranet-only teams to capture a broader range of workplace technology services.
  • We will stop talking about social media, enterprise 2.0 and just talk of collaboration as the catch-all term inside and outside the organizational firewall. Collaboration is the term that will persist inside the working world for "social media and 2.0”. Collaboration focuses on deliverables rather than the tools.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 - A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing?

Some people seem put their hopes on new technologies to bring about “real” change (by that I mean changed practices and behaviors, and even values) in their organizations. Once the technologies are there, change will happen more or less automatically, in a viral way. Just give people a platform, and this great new technology will make magic. By using the technology, people will become more open, more transparent, more willing to share, more trusting, more willing to let "outsiders" participate in their work and discussions. The change will be deep and broad, not just isolated to subcultures within the organization. The change is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Under the nice clean palette colored surface of the new and shiny software lures a much greater change than the eye can see, one that will impact and fundamentally change the thinking and acting of the entire organization.

Yeah right…Get real!

With such a “technarian” approach many Enterprise 2.0 initiatives will turn out to be nothing more than a sheep in wolf’s clothing. They will lack sharp enough teeth to make the change go deep and really stick into the body and mind of the organizations. The initiatives that will succeed - despite the technarian approach - are the ones which are happening in organizations where the existing culture is based on principles such as openness, transparency, trust and participation. These organizations have probably already embraced social technologies and practices.

Here is my two cents.

If change is not sparked and embraced by a critical mass of grassroots and informal leaders in the workforce, then change will not come. If management does not allow the sparks to turn into fire and bring some fuel to keep it burning, then change will not spread and stick.  Social tools and platforms will just end up in the pile of old collaborative technologies which never "worked" because they didn't deliver to their promises (because they didn't make people change the way intended to).

Update: as Martin King wrote in a comment to this post it "can be even worse - without behavioural changes the technology is used to exert and reinforce existing practice e.g. command and control."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Release the power of social networking in your organization

When you have a conversation with someone at an open space, such as in an open office landscape, or by the water cooler where other people pass by to stop for some water or just chat, it is not unlikely that someone who did not originally participate in your conversation joins in. The fact that you have a conversation at an open space signals to other people that it is ok for them to listen in, and to join if they have something to add to the conversation. Maybe the person joining have overheard something interesting and wants to share an opinion, or maybe the person knows someone who is already participating in the conversation and for that reason think it might be interesting to join. Whatever the reason is for joining, such the new participants often add value in the form of new and unexpected information, perspectives and insights
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Unfortunately, with the fragmentation of workplaces that is taking place due to specialization, virtualization of work and globalization (where it can be argued that redundant competencies are no longer needed to exist at multiple locations), such conversations at open spaces become less common. People do more of their work by their computers, and they have less and less in common with the people which they happen to share their office with. They have more scheduled meetings online and offline, but less spontaneous encounters with other people. Even if they interact and work together with more people than ever, most of their interactions are virtual and happen in closed spaces such as collaboration sites and email. The conversations they have there can be compared to those taking place at scheduled face-to-face meetings in meeting rooms where only the people invited to the meeting can participate. They might very well be effective for solving issues at hand and making decisions, but the risk for group-think is substantial and lack of inflow of relevant new information from the rest of the work environment might affect decision-making negatively.

In a business environment such as the one described above, it becomes even more important than before to have a strong personal network. Those who already have, or have the opportunity to build those networks, are typically those who have both the right reasons and the time and resources available for traveling and having lots of meetings with other people across organizations and locations. Most of the people considered to be successful can be found in that category. Obviously, these opportunities are often available to sales people, managers and officially appointed experts, but rarely to the majority of the remaining workforce. As a result, the great majority of the workforce cannot build the strong informal networks they would need to be successful.

A study by NEHRA (The Northeast Human Resources Association) in 2009 confirmed that there is a strong correlation between being a successful leader and having a strong personal network, and vice versa. It found that 93% of successful change initiatives were led by leaders with strong or very strong personal networks, while 73% of less successful change initiatives were led by people described as having moderate or weak personal networks.

"Chance favors the connected mind", as writer Steven Johnson explains in this very inspiring illustrated talk. The problem is that if you don't get the chance to meet other people who you don’t already know and could benefit from knowing, then those sought-after moments of serendipity and fortunate "knowledge accidents" that opens paths to success are much less likely to occur. If you mostly interact with the same people and do so in channels where no-one can join your conversations unless they are being pulled into the conversation, then the chances of acquiring potentially relevant information you don't know exists and which doesn't exist the heads of the people currently in the conversation are virtually non-existing.

Online social networking and other social software solutions such as micro-blogging provides an opportunity for anyone in the workforce to build stronger personal networks. This is very important: these platforms provide the power of networking to anyone who finds it in their interest to build and maintain their personal networks. Furthermore, they provide open spaces for starting and joining conversations across any barrier such as organizations, locations and positions. In theory, they provide access to information and knowledge across the entire workforce and beyond, wherever and whoever they might be. The opportunities to become successful which were previously only available to a "business elite" consisting of sales people, managers and experts can now be made available to the anonymous and disconnected worker. And when combining the power to create and share with new forms filtering for better search and discovery, the gates to the collective knowledge of the entire workforce can be opened without flooding the digital work environment and everyone in it with irrelevant information.

It is not hard to see why many organizations now study and are beginning to embrace these technologies with great interest and hopes of creating substantial business value. It is also not hard to see why there is strong resistance towards these technologies and the kind of changes which they can be used to to bring about in an organization. The resistance typically comes from people who find it in their interest to maintain status quo, such as people who have been successful and competitive mainly because of their abilities to build strong personal networks and be the ones who access and use information that others cannot access. The resistance also comes from people who have been officially appointed and hailed as experts and acquired the status of internal gurus within their fields of expertise, partly because they are knowledgeable but mainly because they hold positions as gate keepers and brokers of the collective knowledge of their strong personal networks. The resistance also comes from anyone who is used to control and assert power over others by getting exclusive access to information or being connected with just the right people to assert their influence over decision-making processes.

Sorry guys (yes, it is mostly guys) but now "the times are a-changing". Since chance favors the connective mind (which any successful sales person, manager or expert could testify if being honest) then we must - now that we actually can - give everybody in the workforce the chance of becoming connected and getting the same chances as those who already have strong personal networks. We must do so both for the good of the anonymous and disconnected worker and the greater good of the enterprise, because the key to our success as a business collective is to use the full ability of every talent we have access to. So, to those who still object to this development the message should be pretty clear: please step aside and let your colleagues forward. Let them join the conversation, or they will create the open spaces themselves somewhere else.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Humans are emotional beings

V Mary Abraham published a great post called "Do rational people work at your firm?" where she asks why we make so many bad decisions despite that we "pride ourselves our ability to make logical decisions". She presents a number of compelling examples of bad decision making, such as that people "routinely vote against their economic best interests in support of positions that have little impact on their lives". She suggests that we make these bad decisions "because our decision-making capacity is limited by our knowledge and self-awareness".

I agree. I especially agree with the self-awareness part, because I think that the main reason why we make bad decisions is that we think that we are rational beings, when we actually aren't. We need to recognize that we are first and foremost emotional beings. Human beings are certainly more rational than dogs, but just because dogs are 100% emotional and we are more rational than dogs doesn't make us into rational beings. The problem is we don't want to accept this (if you would tell a person that he or she is not acting rationally, you would probably get a very emotional response back).

That is also why using only rational arguments is not enough when trying to convince people. You have to speak as much (or even more) to their hearts as to their minds. When you do, you can even make them vote against their own best interests.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Creating a culture of collaboration

Creating a culture of collaboration requires hard work, work that never ends. Any parent should know this. A well-functioning family requires the family members, at the very least the parents, to collaborate with each other - with as little friction as possible. Very few of us (I have four kids) are as successful as we want to be to be, or should be, for our own good and for the good of our family. Other things, such as work and the need to spend time for ourselves, create conflicts of interest and a scarcity of resources (time, energy) that limit our ability to act as leaders and change agents in our own families.

For one thing, creating a culture of collaboration within a family requires you to constantly explain, demonstrate and remind yourself and the other family members about the benefits of collaborating, both for the individual ("What's in it for me?") and for the group ("What's in it for us?"). It needs to be made obvious that there's a win-win situation if all family members contribute and collaborate. Here’s an example: if everyone helps out to clean the table after dinner, then we can get time and energy to do something as a family afterwards.

As a parent, a major challenge is to help my children learn these things. And I need to avoid the appealing shortcuts which help to solve a specific situation, but which don't create any sustainable changes in the values and behaviors of the children. It is really easy to fall into the trap of just doing things that trigger your children's extrinsic motivation, such as promising them something in return for their contributions such as money, candy, or even seemingly good things such as giving them a sticker star whenever they contribute. The problem with these triggers is that your children won't really understand the benefits that their contributions will give to the other family members and to the family as a whole. As a consequence, they won't make voluntary contribution. They will always expect and require some kind of external motivation to contribute; and when there is none, they will won’t.

Here’s another example: if you need to ask and promise something in return to make your child empty the trash can when it's full, he or she won't learn why it is important to empty it and how emptying it helps both individuals (taking work load off your parents who do a lot of the other work at home) and the group (no smelly full trash can, somewhere to throw new trash, less frustrated parents who don't take their frustration out on each other, or worse, on the children). Your child will learn that someone else solves the problem.

The only sustainable solution is to make the sight of a full trash can trigger your child’s intrinsic motivation; if your child empties the trash can, he/she will get satisfaction from the task itself, knowing that it contributes to the well-being of the family and that other family members will appreciate the contribution, independent of whether or not they express this explicitly. Knowing they will is enough motivation to carry out the task and get satisfaction from doing it.

What makes building a culture of collaboration hard is that it requires constant work and awareness. You have to consciously think about and practice collaboration im every situation where it benefits the individual and/or the group until the collaborative behavior in that kind of situation happens "naturally" in the sense that we have programmed ourselves how to behave and do not need to spend mental energy - the collaboration auto-pilot is on.

A key lesson to make when trying to achieve this in a business context is that if you leave out the fun, autonomy, trust, creativity, the sense of engagement, then not much more than extrinsic motivators such as monetary rewards exist to build a culture of collaboration – and then you are on the road to failure for sure.

Thursday, December 2, 2010