We’re pleased to release this collection of essays from a variety of our Change Agents who are changing the world of work. Whether they’re independent (Solo Change Agents) or working as part of a large organization (Enterprise Change Agents), 21 of our network members have provided their unique wisdom on what organizations can do to increase productivity, engagement, and provide richer workforce experiences in order to foster greater innovation and growth.
This is our first published piece. We learned a lot in the process, and we have plans to write more books. Stay tuned for announcements on future works and events from our Change Agents. An easy way to do that is to sign up to receive our newsletter which will be coming out regularly starting this Friday.
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.
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I also helped edit some resumes; and ended up updating mine (I was called to account for having a very out of date one) but was disappointed in the outcome – it did not capture the essence and depth of what I felt I could offer.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.
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.
Let’s be honest: change bites! Most people do not like change. Change brings uncertainty, a loss of security and control, a fleeting feeling of helplessness, and even panic. Helping large organizations embrace disruptive change is a tall order. What’s needed are roadmaps, play books, guidance, intelligence, patience, and a little inspiration. But, change can be positive. And, guess what? If done correctly, it can be painless and enjoyable especially when you’re working with social software.
To that end, Change Agents Worldwide offers a variety of services to help companies make this transition. We do it in a unique, network-based, new economy model. Today, we’re announcing our first group project. We partnered to help Salesforce’s Chatter team explain the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?) of working socially on an enterprise social network. So many of us are used to the benefits of working socially, but it’s still a foreign concept to much of the working world. Part of our charter is to enlighten employees on the benefits of working in a new way. Adoption is still an issue for most social collaboration vendors, and as Change Agents, we want to fix that. We are experts in this, and we believe an understanding of social networks is core to the future of business.
Take a look at the creative tools we helped create for the Chatter team under the tutelage of the fabulous Maria Ogneva. Maria is one of the most knowledgeable social collaboration professionals in the business. We worked very closely with Maria and our amazing creative and brilliant friends at The Tremendousness Collective to create this animated video and accompanying infographic. Also, a hat tip to our Change Agent Bryce Williams who coined, “Work out Loud.”
I’ve been thinking about adding it to the family picture.
But during recent months I’ve started to feel a bit hypocritical on the topic. Do I practice what I preach within my place of work? Yes, fairly consistently. I’m the fastest converter of an email transaction into reusable knowledge this side of the Mississippi. However, I’ve been severely lacking in the amount of sharing and engaging I do in the real open. In the public domain.
The ironic part about my relative public silence on the topic has been that the blog post (in all of its Spaceballs glory) will receive 10 times more views during 2013 than it did during all of 2011-2012 combined. But certainly not by my doing. We all have the likes of John Stepper, Luis Suarez, Dennis Pearce, Julian Stodd (among others) to thank for so eloquently enhancing, advancing and amplifying the message.
In fact, finding John’s and my blogs spotlighted in the recently released “Social Collaboration for Dummies” book by David F. Carr partly inspired today’s post. I realized that each pingback I receive and each reference I serendipitously discover gives me a sense of pride similar to what I tend to feel watching my own children achieve. It’s been fun to witness what feels like a mini-movement taking off. Just this past week alone you saw references to “working out loud” on Twitter at #jiveworld, and simultaneously at the #DevLearn conference happening across town in Vegas.
(No offense John, but the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw us referenced together in David’s book was “Social Collaboration By Dummies, for Dummies!”) :). But it’s also proof that the concept works.
Can I blame my relative silence on an amazing summer of golf club tournament championships, coaching flag football, watching 3rd grade cheerleading events, helping the kids practice piano, and raising a new puppy? Well, I basically just did. But I know as well as anyone that personal discipline is really to blame. But the weather’s turning around here, so as I turn on the heat, I can more easily turn up the volume.
So how have things changed in the last three years with respect to Working Out Loud? I can think of no better way to reflect than through references to my old trusty…Spaceballs!
I’m My Own Best Friend – People are realizing that shifting what you are already doing to a style more conducive to “Working Out Loud” doesn’t just benefit their colleagues and organizations down stream, it increases the Return on Effort (ROE) they get for the time put into the exact same work. More visibility. More potential amplification and recognition for the same amount of work. My three year old blog post is an example of its very own point.
You Went Over My Helmet? – We now understand better that one of the most common roadblock associated with Working Out Loud is the fear of potential retribution for bypassing “proper channels of communication” through the enterprise hierarchy. This is an area that I think we need to continue to evolve, share real success stories to give people the tools and confidence to tackle Working Out Loud in a manner that makes them feel at least a little more “safe”…and not subject to “THAT!” What success stories do you have to share that may help people feel more comfortable in this regard?
The Bleeps, The Sweeps and The Creeps – The What? The What? And the What? We’re doing a better job of speaking a language that real business practitioners can understand. Instead of terms like “Enterprise 2.0”, “Facebook for the Enterprise” and “Social Networking,” which we used heavily in 2010, terms such as “Working Out Loud”, “Narrating Your Work” and “Higher Return on YOUR Effort” are resonating better with our business counterparts. Even my older post about Horizontal Collaboration has maintained a consistent flow of visits.
Ludicrous Speed! – I think three years ago, we were optimistic to think that by 2013 we would have achieved a much higher success rate of “light bulbs” and adoption within large enterprises. Now we are more realistic about how long such a significant shift in behavior and culture will take. We’re now more encouraged by baby steps and daily incremental progress vs. our expectations that “social” was about to “go viral” in 2010 and not getting on the train immediate was a competitive disadvantage. Susan Scrupski captured some industry sentiment on this topic back in 2012. Maybe Light Speed is good enough for now :). I know I don’t look good in plaid, personally.
1,2,3,4,5 – Security and Social. I think we’ve done a lot in the last three years to help dispel concerns around compliance and security related to “social in the enterprise”. In 2010, the main concerns I was dealing with were protecting the loss of IP, preventing people from providing “wrong answers” and inappropriate employee behavior. Now it seems there are enough success stories and examples that the conversation has shifted more to adoption and helping demonstrate the value of shifting our collaboration behaviors. We’ve demonstrated that being “social” doesn’t necessarily open up new risks, but can in fact be more successful at bringing risk to the forefront earlier and when there is still a chance to remedy the issue…in contrast to when inappropriate behaviors occurr out of pure naivete, in private channels, and aren’t discovered until it is too late to remedy…leaving only damage control to come to the rescue.
So in summary, the most concrete conclusion we can make after three years is that…everything I’ve learned about Working Out Loud…I learned from watching hours of Spaceballs in college 🙂
I’d love to hear your perspective of how things have changed in the last three years for you with respect to Working Out Loud, and what do you see coming in the next three years?