I tell a funny story about how the social web has changed the nature of business relationships that has to do with how I first met Luis in person for the very first time. We were literally sitting in two tables next to each other, separated only by a lobby ficus tree. Luis was tweeting that he was in the lobby hoping to connect. I saw the tweet, turned my head, and literally JUMPED up to hug him with the fiercest, most caring hug that was appropriate for a hotel lobby. It occurred to me in that moment how the social web has changed the fabric of business relationships. In an earlier era, I would have quietly walked over to Luis, held out my hand for a firm shake and introduced myself. That world ended in 2007 for me.
I had a conversation today with a senior executive of a billion dollar company who expressed frustration about how he knows the world is heading toward the way we are working today in Change Agents Worldwide, but he must “deal” with the reality on the ground that is very far from our vision. He’s the voice and the will behind that change; he’s making it happen one tough day at a time. I celebrate him.
That is why, to me, Enterprise 2.0 is not only revolutionalising the Enterprise, but also our own ways of life, because, after all, social computing is a philosophy, a way of life you breathe and learn to nurture, that inspires constant change that you rather embrace … or not. And at the end of the day, whether we like it or not, it would be a matter of choice to adopt it or not. And that choice is yours. And yours alone. So it would be up to you (And not higher up in the management chain), whether you would want to change your organisation or not, whether you would want to change your life or not. And if I were you, I would not wait for others to tell you about it…Make it happen!
Make it happen now!
It takes courage to quit your job. It takes courage to stay in a job where so much is broken. It takes courage to fight for the world we all want to work and live in. But it takes heart and passion to make it happen. I celebrate passion and will place high stake bets on it every time.
Next week, about a dozen of our Change Agents will be celebrating our first anniversary dinner at this lovely French restaurant, Le Carré des Feuillants, courtesy of Jive Software.
Several of our network members will be presenting at the E20 Summit in Paris next week. We’ll be making a few announcements next week, but an important one we wanted to get out in advance of the Summit is that we are changing our membership policy for Change Agents Worldwide. The team of Change Agents who’ve been with us throughout our first year, 2013, helped build our business and contribute to our growth. These talented professionals now constitute the backbone of our network as our core Charter Member team.
The value of being a Change Agent in our network has increased as a result.
Our board voted to start charging for membership in 2014. Effective February 1, we instituted an annual membership fee of $1195 for new members in our network. Membership has several benefits including access to our private community and knowledge base, special discounts to industry events, and opportunities to lead or participate in Change Agents Worldwide client engagements.
We started working on the business almost a year ago to the day. Over the course of the year, various members of our network have blogged about what we think, how we work, and what we believe. But, we never formally “launched” the business. We are still fine-tuning some of our progressive network-era based business processes, so we are still not ready to announce the business formally to the market. That day will come, but we want to be ready when we open the floodgates.
That said, we’ve attracted a nice following of friends and fans who are getting swept up in the excitement around what we’re building. We felt it was time to provide a little more detail around who we are. This presentation gives a good overview of the basics.
So What’s Next?
Our virtual doors are now open and we are ready to work with you. We invite you to experience, firsthand, our collaborative work environment. We can help you create solutions to some of your most pressing business issues. Some examples include:
How to build next generation networks and communities that thrive.
How to implement transformational change from organization design to new technologies like Enterprise Social Networks.
How to prepare for the future of work and increase productivity, employee engagement, customer experience , innovation and growth.
How to make your organization more responsive, resilient, agile and open to ongoing change.
Change Agents Worldwide is ready to help you develop faster and more flexible solutions with some of the best minds in the industry. We’d love to start a conversation and give you a glimpse of how we can all operate successfully in the networked age.
Change Agent Rainer Gimbel is leading change for Evonik Industries AG, a leader in the Specialty Chemicals industry. To convince 33,000 colleagues to change work habits they’ve used for the last 10-15 years, requires a lot of evangelizing, change management and sometimes… poetry.
How do traditional, regulated industries cope with social engagement? Not so well, as it seems. In a series of two posts, we will explore the reasons that hold those industries back from becoming truly social (part 1), taking Pharma as an example. Between real constraints and irrational fears, various avenues of action exist (part 2) to seize the business potential of social engagement.
Stop dreaming. You will never hear a traditional, regulated industry go for social media with genuine enthusiasm. Even when marketers or IS specialists get it, the rest of the organization generally doesn’t. In the face of social business, incomprehension and distrust are the norm.
A typical example is the Pharma industry. Although digital and social initiatives are not rare any more, to make a new social venture happen is still a painful journey. Cumbersome procedures, lack of management support, misunderstanding of coworkers are enough to quench the enthusiasm of social business advocates. Why? Because many preconceived ideas, fantasies almost, distort the picture of social:
“Social is vain”. Social networks are for young people – or people with enough time to lose –, they count for nothing versus real-life connections, and discussions taking place there are futile.
“Social is nasty”. Sentiment is mostly negative against the industry and social media gives echo to the nastiest activism of ignorant crowds. Better keep evolving in the familiar world of press releases, press conferences and media trips.
“Social is unnecessary”. In many fields of business, corporate people still believe success depends mostly on science and lobbying. For public health related business, the recipe for success would combine relevant scientific data + the support of respected scientific opinion leaders + proper channeling of tailored messages to policy makers. A pinch of marketing, slick visuals, and there you have it.
“Social chases away compliance”. Specifically for the Pharma industry, procedures imposed by health authorities are supposedly not compatible with wide social engagement. When you have to report any single adverse drug reaction you become aware of – in just a few hours –, or when any allusion to a benefit that’s not in the drug’s label is strictly forbidden, it’s pretty hard to consider opening the floodgates of social conversation. Imagine thousands of people complaining or speculating about your drug on social channels, day and night, 365 days a year. In the absence of FDA guidelines, how do you manage?
A wealth of opportunities
But, these are convenient excuses for not trying. The reality is that there is a wide space open for experimentation of social engagement. The benefits are clear: as global PR Agency Weber Shandwick states, social media for Pharma:
No one said it was easy. “But digital health can become a solution instead of a problem if seen for what it actually is: an amazing tool for connecting patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, treatment providers, and institutions with the information necessary to advance public health” says Michael Spitz in an Oct. 2013 article.
With the emergence of collaboration and listening tools, Pharma companies and other traditional industries are starting to enter the game. But few leverage the full power of social engagement. Why?
It’s a mindset (and leadership) issue
Traditional, regulated industries and the executives that drive them are deeply influenced by organization principles inherited from the Fordist era. “Control” is an absolute value, and “risk avoidance” a perpetual motto. Not a bad fit with today’s litigation culture and short-term financial management.
Organizations are optimized for business efficiency, segmented along functions and grades. Processes enable a standardized replication of a maximum of activities, to ensure the predictability of production, quality, and business results.
Human “resources” must also meet the demand for control. Talent acquisition and development are very standardized. As a result, the management and leadership teams are amazingly homogeneous from a gender, culture, education, and social origin standpoint. The “dominant while male” is still the leader archetype.
Authenticity, connecting capacity, appetite for complexity, flexibility with hierarchical codes, collective and inclusive leadership, empathy with all types of interlocutors… are enabling skills in today’s social economy, and what precisely is still missing within the traditional industry.
In our next blog post, we will propose solutions for regulated industries to embrace social engagement, based on experience and observations. Your ideas are very welcome, feel free to share!
Or, How John Hagel, David Armano, Hugh MacLeod and Harold Jarche Kickstarted Me.
Here’s how it began.
2011 Back story: In my MarComms job, I had two projects front of mind – launching an Enterprise Social Network (we were the first company in the world to completely replace our intranet with Yammer) and developing a bunch of infographics on business performance (turning heavy PowerPoint slides into something more digestible). Independently, I was mentoring some young communicators who were trying to work out their pitch and career paths.
I spent a lot of time thinking about these topics; with plenty of online research. I was working out how to not just understand these topics, but put them into practice. I was on twitter rather passively, following a fist full of thought leaders – among them meme capturer / destroyer Hugh MacLeod, (Center of the) Edge thinker John Hagel and the social / design maven David Armano.
I also helped edit some resumes; and ended up updating mine (I was called to account for having a very out of date one) but was disappointed in the outcome – it did not capture the essence and depth of what I felt I could offer.
Then, one day, the three topics coalesced around a single idea: develop a social (shareable) infographic resume, for myself, as an intellectual exercise in creating content that people want to talk about and share, that allows them to know me better / deeper, and that drives my own career trajectory (I was not looking for a new job, but I did want to own my career path more keenly.)
That process lead to the development of the personal branding BrandBoards product. But there’s more.
Soon after, I was invited by Yammer to attend a Customer Advisory Board meeting in San Francisco, and to present on the social journey we had been on using yammer-as-intranet. I met many corporate social technology mavens there, real thought leaders and active practitioners. Who was on as keynote before me? None other than John Hagel. Neat. It was a most inspiring event, and one name came up a few times as someone to follow and study: Harold Jarche.
No-one has since guided my own social journey more than Jarche. Deep, patient, profound, inviting, his writing and approach to net work is something I have appropriated for myself (the approach, not the writing!)
Flying back to Vancouver from that event, I was both lifted and highly focused. I needed to show up differently at work, to stake a claim for a new way of working, to work out loud.
And touching down in YVR, I saw some tweets about Armano being in town the next day and hosting a Q&A. Synchronicity. I went along, had a chat about ESNs and social business. Things were moving.
I have been a fairly heavy poster / participant in the Yammer Customer Network over time, especially in the ‘thought leadership’ category. Therein I cultivated relationships with many strong, vibrant social leaders.
That lead, via Ernst Décsey, to an invite to a new, progressive group of social business (or whatever we are calling it today) leaders who were developing a new model of working around change, social, network theory.
Rather fraudulently, I joined Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) crew here, and suddenly I was (virtual) face-to-face with people whose content and ideas I had used and pushed inside my own organization: the amazing graphics of Joachim Stroh; working out loud with Bryce Williams; sharing wirearchically with Jon Husband; and then, (network theory crush!) The Jarche himself!
Now, why did I write all this? Oh yes, to talk about friendship, and trust.
The social journey for me has been an immense undertaking as I uncouple the vestiges of my (the?) old ways of thinking and embrace the opposites of what I have known to be normal:
In this process, on this journey, I have made new friends, quick friends, high trust friends, guiding friends, virtual friends. I am sure neither John Hagel nor David Armano remember who I am [Update: Armano told me he did remember me. Nice.], but they are still friends, because they have given freely and I have received gratefully, and amplified their gifts to others. From them and others, I have learned to ask “How can I help?” to strangers with no distinct quid pro quo other than, we are all in this together.
“Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. … Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn.
The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.
After that day, we become seekers.”
I return to it regularly for two reasons. As a parent to two young kids I get to see through their clear eye every day. Also, it helps me reflect on how in the last few years I, too, have become a seeker again. Much of that is down to social, virtual friends who have let me into their trust.
And what of Hugh MacLeod? Well, I have yet to meet him so, for now, one of his limited edition prints above the toilet will have to suffice.
Change Agents Worldwide is in production on its first e-book. Our individual approaches to the market is unique and varied, yet we all share the same core beliefs about how the workplace is changing and what leaders need to do to prepare for that change.
Sign up to get a free copy of the e-book once it’s published. We are targeting February 2014. The e-book will also be available on a variety of electronic reader platforms for a small fee.
Today, it’s all about networks, something you were most likely not taught about in school. This means that most of our education is useless in understanding the world as it currently exists. Yes, useless.
Yes, we need to build fluency in how networks operate, and our very active role within them, as they usurp organizations and tribes as the most powerful force in our communities and workplaces.
However, it is a single sentence within the article that got me thinking today:
For individuals, the core skill [for such fluency] is critical thinking, or questioning all assumptions, including one’s own.
Working out loud (WOL) is part of this process of questioning one’s own work and positioning; and then answering those same questions. It is critical thinking made bare. Sometimes the answers are definitive – this is how it is now. More often, they are placeholders for the next iteration of thinking.
WOL is a constant challenge. It is a wrestling match with oneself; and the outcome is always both defeat and victory, as beliefs mutate, positions shift, gaps appear as others disappear.
WOL is edge work, as one risks toppling over the precipice of one’s own preposterousness. Our own network of colleagues, friends, contacts may scratch their collective head, with a ‘what’s this guy up to?’ shoulder hunch.
Still, it is profound work. If you follow the arc of learning – and unlearning, relearning – then you will discover something from the deep well of humanity within us all. It is an invitation to the inner workings of every individual’s genius.
Change Agents navigate the choppy waters and uneven terrain toward the future of work. They invite you along for the journey – as guides, as co-conspirators, and treasure seekers.
They are in the vanguard. This puts them ahead of the pack. It means they are ready. It also makes them vulnerable. There are bruises, and battles, yet Change Agents still ask:
How can I help?
The currency of social business is a deep understanding of emergent themes and practices in culture, technology, organization design, and the impacts on, and motivations of, individuals. Change Agents are rich in life and learning.
Change Agents are in the flow. They believe in networks and net work. They trust. But flow without hustle is mere meandering. Hustle is a willingness to connect with others and (co)create a vision of a better tomorrow. Change Agents say
“I am part of the solution. I can help. Let’s talk / work.”
Change Agents work out loud. They do not have all the answers. They believe ‘share’ is the new ‘save.’
Mostly, Change Agents are curious. Curiosity is the kick-start, the prerequisite. It is the muscle that helps us manage deep, continuous, uneven change.