Archive for category Unconferences

It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation. It’s time for a #ReOrg

Time for a new conversation. Time for a #ReOrgWe live in an amazing time. A time where we are able to not only stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, but also where we can be lifted by our peers and give them a boost too.

When we started to broaden the conversation around social media back in 2006, we engaged in a dialog around the principles and practices which we hoped a more social future might bring us over many months. We debated what the proper language should be. We stood our ground. We compromised. We read the writing on the wall and acquiesced when it was clear that something other then our position was winning the day.

The majority of the people who participated in the early social revolution joined not for their egos or their popularity, they joined to make a difference out of a deep seated set of beliefs. They engaged with each other because they believed the power to create change was in our hands. That the difference making we needed in the world was within each of us, and that it was our responsibility to do something with it. We did unconferences, BarCamps, Social Media Camps and Social Media Breakfasts. We joined clubs, we recast societal beliefs about what was possible and we shared too much information about ourselves!

We learned the power of the tools to organize ourselves in support of our causes by building relationships and sharing. We learned that it wasn’t about the number of people who showed up, we learned it was about who showed up and the fact that we cared about similar things, we cared about making the future better, we cared about fixing what was broken with marketing and we cared about advancing similar values. We learned that our words mattered, and that those words transformed by a # could become something, a hashtag, that enabled us to connect with our tribes and our interests.

As I look back now, we had so much right in those early days. It really was about the distribution of power. Which is why I am disappointed that our original intention of fixing our broken systems and transforming the world through social technology has only sprouted as a small seedling of true change inside organizations instead of becoming a fast growing oak. Though surprising, it makes sense that many of the early social media evangelists have moved to other fields and areas of focus, some completely eschewing any professional relationship to social media.  I am certainly not alone in abandoning a previously deep association with social media in search of a new fire to light the revolution. That list is too long to mention, though perhaps you might want to chime in here yourself in the comments to share why you have or haven’t.

What I can tell you from our more recent history is that many of us who saw social as a catalyst for a fundamental transformation to the market and the pillars of society moved into social business. Many are still fighting that fight today, and despite my belief that Social Business is Dead, I applaud these modern Don Quixote’s for continuing the fight, for not giving up and for continuing to create positive change every day. They are indeed the true believers, and while some of them may be unhappy with me for dampening the embers of the smoldering fire instead of pouring on more fuel, I am grateful for their persistence and their valor.

As I said then and as I believe more than ever today, the principles aren’t wrong or misdirected. However, in the war of words that is central to the battle for the soul of our organizations, fighting under the banner of social business is a losing proposition – the modern equivalent to knowledge management. It’s just not winning the hearts, minds and slices of the budgetary pie necessary for our shared vision to become reality as quickly as we need the change to be the reality.

Unfortunately I have come to feel the same way about the “Future of Work” discussion and movement, despite the fact that it is the direction where my social business cohorts have headed. It’s hard to talk about the future of something when you haven’t created a shared vision upon the present that is emerging and what distinctions must be embraced and elevated.

What can we do about it?

So when I look back on how we won the broader debate that launched the social media movement and the wider industry at large, I am now asking you to join me once again in a collective effort for mutual benefit. I am asking for you to take what we have learned, to cash in our social capital and to invest our reputations, our hearts, and our minds into a conversation about what is next. A conversation about what needs to change, about what matters most, about what we want it to be and about how we describe it to others. A conversation about where we are at and where we are going. Perhaps more importantly, I ask you to join me in a conversation about how we prove the value in a measurable and tangible way beyond the ‘duh’ that supported the social media sales pitch.

It’s time for us all to come together and invest ourselves into reimagining and reorganizing our resources and structural models for managing organizations and creating value. It’s time for us to work together to orchestrate a resurgence of visionary innovation that inspires both change agents and this great millennial generation into standing up and speaking out for a better way. To stand against the folly and ignorance inherent in many organizational hierarchies. To join a conversation that will illuminate the dark corners of our work worlds into which our leaders do not currently see, a conversation that will highlight what works and what doesn’t. To stand with the courage of your beliefs again and speak truth to power.

Our institutions are failing us. Education is too expensive, making access to knowledge harder and turning wisdom into a scare resource. Government is  stagnant and putrid, using fear to destroy the common interests that bind us and dividing us in a way that surely signals a Jeffersonian ‘fall’. Our corporations appeal less and less to just about everyone – including their customers, their employees and even their leaders. Many who have achieved some station in life are resting in that space and opting out of the fight, tired of the perennial struggle between doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient. While a wider swath of humanity is self actualizing and realizing their ability to live a life on purpose and not accepting less than what they truly deserve, the system is still working against them on many levels.

Why? Now that’s a better question – because we know better, but too many of us accept it as “just the way things are”. I don’t think we can afford that way of thinking any longer. I’ve spent my life tilting at the windmills, as I know many of you have. If we can’t knock down the broken windmill with our lances of inspiration, I say it’s time for us to build our trojan horse. It’s time for us to come together once again and develop a collective vision for our future and a common language that will define and support that vision. It’s time for a bigger conversation.

There is room for each of us to have a unique take and a unique contribution for which we deserve to earn respect, recognition and incomes. But without working together towards our common vision and connecting the dots in a way that simplifies the inherent complexity of our shared vision for organizational leaders, the institutions themselves may just fail completely before we ever get a chance to save it.

While failure is often a prerequisite of exponential breakthroughs, we need not accept this as a fait accompli. We already recognize many of the challenges and the looming failures, so why not begin to work towards saving us all from the unnecessary pains and waste seems to be an inevitability. We already have a vision of the future of work. We have a vision for what a social business looks like. We have an understanding of how we need to reimagine our organizations to create shared value. We know what is necessary to unleash the fullest potential of the human spirit. So let’s set about doing that now, and doing that together in conversation that advances our field and inspires others to think differently and act differently.

So what are the words that will serve as our campfire around which we will gather for camaraderie and warmth? What is the language of the movement that encapsulates the multiple distinctions and insights that collectively are driving us towards a future free of today’s most commonly accepted defects? I don’t think it’s social business, I don’t think its future of work. I’m open to other suggestions, but for now I’d like to start this conversation focused on what I have consistently heard as the most fundamental change we must realize – a change in organizational structure and governance. A re-imagination of what an organization looks like and a rethinking of what we mean by work.

While we may not yet have adequate language for what we envision, I submit for your consideration that we are talking about a widespread #ReOrg. The reorganization of our mindsets, methods and measures about the organization, about our relationships to them as humans and about the fundamental practice of management as the underlying operating system that governs its behaviors. It’s time to create a more holistic view of how we create value, and especially with a focus on how we can optimize our ability to create shared value that benefits society as a whole instead of just those who have won the war for control.

Yes, it’s time for a #ReOrg. Are you ready? Let’s talk about it.

Join the conversation and add your voice. But don’t just add your voice, engage with others. For every post or insight shared, comment on or engage several others around their point of view. Keep your minds and hearts open. There is no single answer, but I do believe that we have collectively learned enough about what works and what doesn’t for us to discover the shared vision we have that is underlying our individual efforts. So let’s bring that into the light of day and collectively nurture our #ReOrg.

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The Social Business is Dead Conversation Continues

The Conversation ContinuesI was humbled to see that my “Social Business is Dead! Long Live What’s Next!” article on Brian Solis’ site struck a chord with a lot of people, igniting conversations around the web, inside big Social Business vendors and in online communities. It was shared in a positive context over 1,000 times, but it also seems a few people saw the hyperbole of the headline and didn’t read any further. Some friends like Stowe Boyd, even accused me of not understanding the difference between social media and social business – despite the fact that he knows differently from direct personal conversations, and from my work to define both concepts over the years in conversations just like this one taking place now about the future of work.

It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, to deal with these sorts of less than flattering comments in the egosphere of social media. Today more than ever, what we need for us to move forward is respectful and honest dialogue where we can discuss underlying concepts without unnecessary personal barbs. My post was about much more then marketing or memeology. It clearly wasn’t about social media in the external or marketing sense. A thorough reading of the lengthy article demonstrates I am most interested in hacking away at the underlying problems to develop new models for this new age.

Language is but one, albeit important, part of my Social Business is Dead post. The language we use must reflect our deeper intention and must resonate with its intended audience. In this case, the people who decide where to invest their organization’s capital was foremost on my mind. Words can divide us or unite us. They can inspire us or dampen our spirits. They can lift us up or cut us down. They can also describe a very complex idea, in seconds instead of hours, if you share a cultural or historical context with the writer, or if the concept can be readily conveyed through other devices and metaphors.

This is why we have talked over the years about the need for the back and forth of conversation to create understanding. Reading a phrase or a sentence is often not sufficient to understand where someone is coming from or where they are seeking to go. This is also a problem with our sound bite driven news cycles and those taking other people’s words out of context to make one position seem stronger at the expense of another.  If we truly care about driving forward positive outcomes for an organization, an industry or even society, we need to engage in respectful dialog with each other. We need to create an opportunity to really HEAR what someone is meaning with their words instead of passing it through our own biases and filters and distorting their intention and meaning.

It is for this reason that I made a call for leaders to come together in my post on Defining The Future of Work at the Work Hackers Summit. It is time to convene those who are using different language to define the future of work to create a compelling vision, discuss our differences, and find common ground to be stronger together then we are separately. Whether you are talking about Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, Responsive Organizations, Agile Business Enterprises, The Future of Work or any other term du jour, we are all mostly aligned around common outcomes using different language and different distinctions. Whether you use a combination of a Symposium and Open Space like we will be doing with the Work Hackers Summit, or you participate in a Chautaqua like Boyd suggests doesn’t matter. Coming together is what matters. Learning what methods work best in which situations for achieving key results matters. Spreading and sharing our success matters. Convening a diverse set of perspectives in respectful dialog matters. And what matters most to me, as with Social Media Club previously, is helping more individuals realize their power to fix what is broken and to create greater value for themselves, their employers, their clients and society.

So What Was The Real Point of “Social Business is Dead”?

The point I was trying to convey in my article on Social Business is Dead was in part about the language around Social Business losing its power and allure, but ultimately about the need for an easier to understand vision for the future of work, to define it’s unique characteristics and to collaboratively work together on the development of a map on how we get from here to there. It was also, in part, about a need to inspire and empower more individuals to find courage to hack work – to fix what is broken, and to strive to adapt the world to us ‘unreasonable’ people. It was also, obviously, about saying something a little controversial to expand the conversation I’ve been having with consultants, technology vendors, VC’s, authors and senior executives over the past several months.

In Boyd’s piece, he puts this in different terms saying that “Social Business isn’t Dead, But It Isn’t Enough Either”, in part supporting my underlying position while debating my headline. While I am grateful that he would respond directly to me in his blog post and share it with his readers, it is strange that he didn’t seem to disagree with my “Social Business” being dead position when I spoke with him about it at the Work Revolution Summit in September.

What I know, and you know if you are reading this, is that the world has fundamentally changed. The connected society in which we now live is markedly different from the post-industrial one. Organizations have to change structurally, operationally and technologically. More specifically, they need to recognize that, in Bill Jensen’s words, “humans aren’t resources, they are assets and should be treated accordingly.” But ultimately there is so much that needs to change in light of our recent technological and sociological advancements, it is nearly impossible to address all of it in a single post or even a single book.

In today’s world of business, EVERYTHING MATTERS, and there is no simple string theory yet to describe the future state we seek. Which is why I am calling for us to come together at the Work Hackers Summit in early February 2014 (details TBA) to talk about it respectfully with one another. We need more entrepreneurs to develop new tools for self management as I am doing with my new startup Alynd. We can shine a light on the things that are no longer working inside large organizations and small ones as I did during my time at Deloitte. We can each contribute our insights from our experiences and make a bigger difference together.

What I know is that the organizational structure needs to change. The way the organization is governed needs to change. The way we work together needs to change. How we create value needs to change. And yes, how we talk about it needs to change too.

What I also know is that none of this might happen until there is total collapse of the corporate structure or the socioeconomic environment in which we operate. I am hopeful this need not be the case, but we have seen this happen to countless industries as demonstrated in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2013 where she points out how the mighty have fallen and our need to rethink everything. This revolution needs to come from the bottoms up AND the top down, everyone, from every perspective needs to rethink what they are doing and why.

What I tried to convey, and what many people who read the entire Social Business is Dead blog post realized, was that there is a need for action. That leaders, change agents and work hackers alike need to find courage, tell the emperor he has no clothes, embrace failure, and continue to try and fix things. As I said in my closing paragraph:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is not to get caught up in the words, but to connect with each other and figure out how to re-imagine our broken corporations and set about trying to fix them. Fail fast, fail often and find the greatest success possible.

I tried to get a lot of the points I saw as leading us to our future into my post, perhaps I just used too many of them.

I tried to paint a picture of the pain so many people are experiencing inside their broken organizations and to explain why the most talented are fleeing big organizations.

I tried to explain that the word “social” is not the word that is inspiring leaders to invest in better models, better processes or better people.

I also explicitly stated:

While I believe Social Business’ time has come and is now gone, I still am one of the believers. The idea, the need and the opportunity are simply too huge to ignore. Words are powerful. Words are important. But the idea is too big, the pull too strong and the need too great to be held back by the failure of two words to win the attention and budgets of corporate leaders.

Thankfully, my article resonated with many people and seemingly only turned off a few.

From my perspective, it is great either way because we need the conversation. Don’t let the debate or debaters distract you from what really matters. It’s not what I say or do that will change your world. It’s not what anyone else says or does. It is what you do. It is what you say. And as I close again, I will cite one of my heroes who has lifted myself and many others… as Howard Rheingold says “what it is –> is up to you!”

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The Entrepreneur Perspective on #WorkRevolution

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The #WorkRevolution Has Begun, Literally

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Social London Week?


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Well its not an official event like InternetWeek NY was, but for me it is a great Social Media Week in London.  While I still have a few open appointment slots on Monday morning, the week is pretty booked up.  I hope you will be able to join me at some point and say hello and we get a chance to talk about all the ways in which social media is creating growth opportunities and changing the way we work.

  • TWEETUP!
    Thursday 25 June – 1700-1930pm
    Open to everyone
    The International Bar (near Charing Cross and Leicester Sq) 
  • Gov2Gov UK
    Friday 26 June 1600-1900
    Registration Required (sold out, but contact me if you really need to be there)
    Canadian High Commission Office
  • Tweetcamp
    Saturday 27 June 1000-1800
    Waiting list only now
    Richmond, Surrey
  • Geek Field Trip – Tate Modern
    Sunday 28 June 1100-1400
    Open to Anyone – Show Up at Main Entrance, Look For Me
    Bankside (on the Thames) 

So it is pretty much a Social London Week for me and I hope it will be for some of you who join me as well.

The reason I am coming over is for the Gov2GovUK event and all the other opportunities to get together and talk present themselves when you think differently about how to connect with a community.  We are really hoping to see Social Media Club take off again in London (Lloyd Davis was organizing Social Media Club events before starting Tuttle).

We are really excited about Gov2Gov as I think it will be the start of something very big, where we are bringing together an array of events to facilitate international knowledge exchange on social media between governments and amongst their citizens.  This is one stone that kills about 20 birds, as the outcomes from these sorts of meetings are filled with amazing potential.  Not only does it improve international relations and facilitate cross border knowledge exchanges, it creates opportunities for entrepreneurship, business development, new ways towards civic engagement and so much more.  Pay attention to the conversation around this as the next announcements coming later in the month are going to be very big… in fact, we will start talking about it on Friday evening, at the Gov2Gov UK event.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give out a lot of credit for this event to Lovisa Williams from the U.S. State Department who helped in so many ways from introductions to organizational support and Dominic Campbell of FutureGov Consultancy who (very humbly) has contributed his expertise, his network and so much more.  These are the sort of people that get me excited and make the work we do so much more fun. Am so glad I can call them both friends.

Of course, huge thanks to the High Commission of Canada’s office for hosting the event.  Of course, we have always known how great our friends to the north are (particularly Our Vancouver Crew) – I have now found that their representatives in Ottawa and in London are just as wonderful.

So I hope to see you in London sometime this week, if not at our Tweetup on THUR at The International Bar, or The Gov2Gov UK Event on Friday at the High Commission in London, or at Tweetcamp on Saturday, then you better come out on Sunday for our Geek Field Trip to The Tate Modern.

Or, if you want to meet with me independently, I have some time for business meetings on MON morning 29 June and would be happy to book appointments with you while I am in the UK.

Cheers!

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Equality Camp San Francisco

Spent the better part of the day down at Citizen Space for Equality Camp, focusing on supporting the marriage equality movement.  There were some great discussions and a lot of great people, a few of whom I captured in some of these photos.  Hope you enjoy…

#eqcampsf

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Thanks Kris Krug – U RAWK

While I have a lot of people to thank from this past weekend’s Northern Voice in Vancouver, I especially wanted to make sure I gave a big thanks to Kris Krug and Kimberly for their most welcome and warm hospitality (everyone was so cool). Not only did we have a great time just hanging out with them, but Kris taught me a few more tricks to get more love out of my lenses on that Canon SLR…

Chris HeuerHe shot this photo of me when I was visiting up there in December 2006, which he was kind enough to let me use on a few Web sites and for other publicity photos for speaking gigs etc… Given the current weight situation, its about as good as it gets! Then again, that situation should be improving shortly – I start with a personal trainer in about 9 hours – better get some sleep and start again early…

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Widening Participation in Unconferences

As I sit here and look around the room at the number of people who have paid good money to be here at Content Week, where I am serving as Conference Chair at the moment, it just occurred to me how we can get more of these wonderful, smart, caring people into conversations with us at unconferences. We will likely do this with a future Social Media Club Workshop – if you try it, please let me know how it works.

The idea is similar to what I was talking about with Chris Carfi regarding how we might be able to fully realize our spirit of social entrepreneurism in the software industry – by providing one free license to a 501(c)3 for every licensed copy sold to corporations. Perhaps even create a buddy system, or just enable the corporate purchaser to choose from a list of those non-profits who have shown sufficient interest.  In fact, some non-profits who really want the software in question, would become evangelists, trying to find others who would also benefit from the software.
So what we could do with increasing corporate participation in unconferences is charge a lot of money for corporate attendees to participate – perhaps $1,500 each for a 2 day event. Each corporate participant would have ‘sponsored’ the another under-funded, but highly valued contributor to the conversation, paying for their travel expenses, and perhaps even providing a small stipend. We would need to use a few hundred dollars to offset hard costs, but the end goal is the same – to get the right people in the room, to get the costs covered and to enrich our ability to learn from each other.  Perhaps we can do this with the Informl Learning Unconference we have been speaking about with Jay Cross – or perhaps use this technique to help Nancy White bring her incredibly talented crew of facilitators together.

Just an idea at this point – wonder if it has legs to run?

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What’s best for the community? Isn’t that the other point?

One of the most important things I have been talking to people about over the last year is how organizations with similar values should support one another but don’t because of their egos or fear of losing mindshare or donor dollars. Instead of really working towards what is best for the community, they work on what is best for their own self-interest, in the name of the community. As I noted in my post on the Importance of Social Media, this is one of the key reasons many of us left the work world – to leave the political BS behind and do the right thing, that is in the best interest of the community.

That sort of political BS is in stark contrast to the wonderful relationships we are building with the Society for New Communications Research and the National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue. Where we are constantly looking for ways to expand the conversations, to include more people and to work together towards our common interests. This is one of the core premises of Social Media Club – to support other organizations that are doing good work – not excluding those organizations that are serving similar interests within the community out of fear.

This is why I am excited to see the Portland Social Media Association rise up from the Portland Podcasting Group. Social Media Club will support them, instead of worrying about them competing with us – we will both be the better for it. We need to find people who are doing the right things and support them so that more of that good work is put out into the world and that other people can connect with them. This is very much in line with the work of The Uplift Academy – another organization we want to support in every way possible and with which we share common values.

I guess I should explain where this is coming from – it is a bit about something I have been holding onto for a while and also about the fact that a few ‘community leaders’ have chosen not to support the Web 2point2 unconference we are organizing, and are, according to what some have told me, actively working against it. (This is not, BTW, something between the 2 conferences going on this week – we have nothing against Tim O’Reilly or the Web 2.0 Conference and as far as I know, they are probably just annoyed with us by the contrast and/or laughing about how hard we work for no money.)

The Web 2point2 Unconference is providing an alternative to the expensive Web 2.0 Conference.  Web 2point2 is more accessible and more about the people interested in the Web 2.0 era and working hard to make it real. Chris Pirillo really nailed the difference on the head – there most certainly is value in the networking, and the amenities offered at a big hotel are really very expensive, but a lot of that is superfluous to what really matters. We are doing this event because it is the right thing to do for the community and it is representative of our core values. We are doing this because it helps us build the community we want to belong to. We are investing our time and energy because we are passionate about doing so and hope to make a living doing what we love.

I’m not speaking against any individual, but I am calling for everyone in the community to be supportive of efforts like the Web 2point2 Unconference and/or to call out the effort’s shortcomings publicly and fairly – to participate in the community. It is FOR the people, FOR the community, and FOR improving the dialogue around social media and Web 2.0 for everyone’s benefit. Those who have said negative things about these efforts wihtout engaging us in conversation about how it could be improved are really doing a disservice to the community. But as all bloggers know, nothing stays secret forever. Those people who serve their own interests over that of the community will be found out. Those who support the community with their hearts, minds and deeds will be the ones who shape the dialogue of the future.

Don’t raise the torch for a participatory democracy when you’re only really marketing yourself as the one who should be put in charge of who gets to speak and who can belong. From my perspective, that looks a lot like a Stalinist view of the world dressed up in Kennedy rhetoric. That is beyond hypocritical – it is like the atheists battling each other in the most recent South Park episode. We don’t need to tear down the walls of a communtiy or organization only to erect new ones, we need to build better doors between communities and bridges across them.

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‘Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and leave no doubt.

Some people get it and others don’t.  If you don’t know what you are talking about stop talking – it dimishes your reputation and shows a lack of respect for those you are speaking to.  As Lorraine from Credit Suisse whispered to me at the Office 2.0 Conference this morning, “There sure are a lot of BS degrees here today”…

More than she knew at the time apparently.

I have some interesting stories to share on my brief experience with the conference, which seems to have made a boat load of money (good for them) and exposed the ‘me2’ problem of lemmings marching to their death with 80 variations on running MS Office in the browser in addition to the ‘cautious exuberance’ that will hopefully be a halmark for our time.  Time for bed now though – lots of work to do tomorrow, so much so, I won’t be able to get there until later in the day.

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