Monday, January 31, 2011

Exciting times ahead

It is time to reveal my plans for the first half of 2011.

For the next 6 months, I will stay away from the office. I will be logged out from Yammer. My work PC laptop will be hidden somewhere. Anyone who sends an email to my work email will get a reply from the Out of Office Assistant in Outlook.

I will be occupied with other and more important things than work; I will be home watching after and enjoying the company of my youngest daughter, seven months old. Together we will follow the other kids to school, and pick them up afterwards. We will take walks and hang out in the park. She will watch me while I try to juggle all the daily tasks, issues and fun stuff that come with "managing" a home and a family with four kids. It will sharpen my leadership skills as well as my ability to multi-task, plan and coordinate stuff. That I already know. This is my fourth parent leave, and after each of the previous ones I came back to work as a more determined, efficient and stress tolerant professional.

If you follow my online activities, you probably won't notice much of a difference. I will not stop thinking, learning and sharing with anyone who shares my interests and passions. My passion for what I do in my profession simply doesn't disappear when not working. If it would, it wouldn't be a passion.

I will continue to tweet, and blog on my own blog. I will also continue to blog for the AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Community. And, I have agreed to write a couple of articles per month for CMS Wire. The first one Social Collaboration: A Reprospective and Outlook, was published in now in January and the second one will be published this week.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am not a social media guru

I am not a social media guru. Period.

I do, however, claim to know a lot about things like collaboration, information management, findability, online retailing, communication theory, user experience design, and technology and Internet-based business development in general. During recent years, I have also learned a lot about the principles and mechanisms behind the phenomena we call social media, and applied those to the things I already knew a lot about.

A few years ago, I came to realize that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift when it comes to communication; anyone with access to a device with an Internet connection can now communicate with anyone around the globe almost for free, with a reach, immediacy and ease of use never seen before. Most people see of this paradigm shift materialize in the form as social media tools or platforms such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Looking back at previous revolutions in communication technology such as the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone and email (yes, I actually believe email was/is revolutionary), I also knew that the current paradigm shift would have an immense impact on everything from society and industries  to our daily lives as individuals, employees, consumers and citizens. We are right in the middle of this transformation, which makes it somewhat hard to see it. It will be easier to see this revolution when we look back at it in a decade or two from now.

I also realized that, considering the fact I am working in the IT industry and using IT to help customers to improve communication and collaboration, I am standing in the eye of the storm. Considering that the paradigm shift would affect everything in my work, the only feasible strategy was to try to understand and get to know all about it that is relevant for my work. How else could I help my customers to use the full potential of their people and information technology to become better at collaboration, information management and findability?

Some people still see social media as a phenomenon in its own right, and not as the materialization of a paradigm shift in communications that is currently affecting every aspect of work and business in one way or another. This view is used as an excuse for not actively trying to understand it themselves and learn how it affects their own work. When they encounter something relating to social media in their work, they either ignore it or turn to "the social media guy" for advice.

Since I have come to know a lot about the principles and mechanics behind social media and also share the results from my own learning process, I am often approached as "the social media guy", or even "the social media guru". I try to be as helpful as I can, but I also try to be clear on two things:
  1. I am not a social media guru. I don't claim to know everything about social media and every tool or application that is out there.  I have only tried to understand the principles and mechanics behind it and apply it on the things I work with.
  2. You should try to do the same, upgrading your own knowledge and know-how. If you don’t, someone else will, and eventually replaces you. 
I really believe that you have to understand the human and technological principles and mechanics behind social media (i.e. understanding the paradigm shift) AND the domain to which you want to apply these in order to create business improvements.

Everyone, no matter which domain they work in, need to actively increase their own understanding and knowledge about the paradigm shift which we are now experiencing. They need to actively seek to increase their understanding and knowledge of it. The knowledge is right there, just one or a few clicks away. Lots of people are active on the social web and eager to share what they know with anyone who is interested. I am one of them. But I won't invest a lot of time and effort to educate or train anyone who passively waits to be educated or trained. I prefer to help self-motivated people who actively look for relevant input to their own learning processes.

I am right here, at your service.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No Delete, No Regret

The number of times when I have regretted deleting information by far exceeds the number of times I have regretted keeping information (I can't even remember ever having regretted that I've kept something).

Yet, the drive to delete information which I don't think I need anymore (based on what I know right now) is so strong. Over the years I have been told and learned that deleting information I no longer have a need for is what any sane person should do. I have been programmed to do so, and executing the deletion program makes me feel good about myself - only to regret it later.

Once you delete something, it might never be found and come to use again. Even if you eventually find it somewhere else, it will likely take considerable time and effort to find it. The truth is you never know if or when you might need a certain piece of information.

In the digital world of ours, information abundance is actually something we can learn to deal with. It is much harder to deal with information scarcity. We need to accept that there is no need to delete information unless it is totally redundant.

I hate realizing that I need a certain piece of information, only to realize that I have deleted it. So, I’ve decided that I won't put up with that again. I will stop deleting stuff.

No delete, no regret.



UPDATE:


This post provoced a rather unexpected response from Marc Buyens:
"Yes, we also hate losing stuff, but most of the time, we don’t lose it. We forget that we had it.
In this networked era, finding the relevant document is often much more easy on the web via something like Google than it is via tools such as Evernote, Diigo and other Delicious that we use to keep track of the relevant stuff we find.
So, yes, for convenience, we also keep some archives with recent stuff that is of interest, but we timestamp everything and when due date is there, delete all. No check. No regret."
I can't interpret this response in any other way than that it is based on a misunderstanding. Maybe my post isn't clear enough.

First of all, I am referring to information that is NOT redundant. By that I mean information that does not exist one more than one location, such as on my desktop and on a web page somewhere. That means I am not referring to information that exists somewhere else, such as a blog post or image. I usually don't download or make copies of such information in the first place. I only keep references/pointers to, using services such as Delicious, Tumblr, Twitter and Blogger. Sometimes I extract information from information products, for example grabbing individual slides from presentations and posting them on Tumblr (always with credit and link to the source, if available). I also collect quotes from posts, books or articles. I only download information which is available on the web in very very rare cases. And I never print, unless I need to post something by regular mail to someone.


My post refers to information which is unique. Information which has been created by myself or someone else and which is not available on the web or in a shared space somewhere. I'm talking about personal notes, draft documents, sketches, emails...often half-baked ideas or private conversations. Things I haven't published yet. Things still to be shared.


Marc - I would be grateful if you could find the draft report that I had produced and then deleted by mistake. Obviously someone, in this networked area, has created an exact copy of it that can be found on the web somewhere. Please help me find it and send it to me. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The journey towards a truly social business starts from within

Jay Deragon wrote a great post yesterday that made me wake up early this morning to write this post. I believe Jay has a very important point that it is easy to forget about, ignore, or even be unaware about:
“While focusing on measures and ROI for use of social media seems rational the fact is that social media is nothing more than a new and powerful “communications channel“.  As stated, you may catch buyers by using social media but the buyers intent is not to become friends with your organization unless of course your organization is truly social.  Being social is the root cause of sales (revenue) online and off line. To ignore this means your likely to measure the wrong things just to justify use of social media. 
It is much harder to create an organization that is social than it is to use social media. Being social is an organizational intent. Using social media is the intent of marketers.  See the difference?
I agree entirely with Jay. Dedicating a bunch of people to post updates and respond to people's comments on Facebook and Twitter does not make a business social. Investing in Social Media Marketing, adding Likes and sharing buttons on corporate web sites and measuring the hard return of social media activities doesn’t either.

So, what does make a business social?

I believe that a social business engages the entire workforce to support and interact with each other, with customers, with partners, and with the public to build trust and create value together. It has virtually transformed everyone into customer service personnel and sales representatives, from the CEO to the previously anonymous worker. It empowers anyone in the workforce to do and say things that help to build trust in the business and its services and products by having honest and open dialogues.

In most cases where organizations have started to use social media to provide support and market and sell their products and/or services, if you scratch the surface you will just find the same old organization, culture, leadership and practices that existed before they created a friendly support team to chat with people on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and before they launched social press releases and cool viral social media campaigns integrated with their fan pages on Facebook. The business is not any more social than it was before; they are just adjusting to and taking advantage of the fact that there are now new and effective ways to reach out to (and even create) their markets, often with much greater precision and at a fraction of the cost compared to using other more traditional channels such as broadcast and direct marketing. Who could blame them? In fact, they would be stupid not to exploit this opportunity. But that is not the point.

The point is, as Jay writes, that “Being social and using social media are two totally different things” and that it is being social that will create value originating from improved collaboration, innovation, customer engagement, talent management, and so on. In this sense, real beauty - a truly social business - comes from within; a business that wants to become social needs to transform itself from the core to the crust, from the inside and out, by turning itself outside in (becoming not just customer-centric, but people-centric).

Such a transformation needs to start with empowering every individual in the workforce - not just self-motivated early adopters, or socially networked individuals, as Rawn Shah argues in this excellent post - with the same "social super powers" which many of them (but often far from the majority) have gotten used to possessing and using as individuals and consumers.  It needs to start with a transformation of the communication culture, using new communication technologies and practices to shift it towards more open and transparent communication where anyone can participate, connect and engage in two-way conversations that goes in any direction across the organization. What will evolve is a “socially networked enterprise”, as Rawn calls it.

Needless to say, a transformation to a truly social business needs to be fully and explicitly supported by formal as well as informal leaders. They must walk the talk themselves with the ambition to become role models that will influence others to change. The new styles of communicating need to be fully reflected in how they lead other people.

"The rest", such as socializing core business processes, will come naturally after the organization has opened itself to new ways of social learning, sharing and collaborating. It is sure to influence and transform every other part of the business, from strategy-making and management to the core business processes and supporting processes and functions, to become more social.