Tag Archives: Learning organization

Social Business, Power Balance and Trust

A 360 degree attitude on social business and networking gives you wings. Photo credit goes to my friend Esa Aarnio. All rights reserved.

I had the pleasure to be one of the guest speakers at the International Woman’s Day breakfast organised by “The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries“.

As I was speaking on that special day, I chose this topic “Woman, networking and the social technology”.  I started my presentation by making a confession: about five years ago I was pretty close to becoming a software business professional who enjoys a good flow, best practices and nice control, meaning I was stuck in my comfort zone.

I had a great team, processes in place, supporting tools implemented, and lots of ideas. I lived in a lovely illusion of control. Indeed it was working well at the time, but now afterwards it’s easy to say that for a little bit too long I overlooked one thing: huge, disruptive changes that were already in sight.

Luckily I was curious enough and started to follow some of the trends, mostly via research articles and blogosphere: cloud computing, social media and mobility. It soon started my personal transformation process: I realised that I needed urgently to both unlearn and learn.

The topics I briefly covered in my speech were Social Business, Networking 2.0, the power balance between the organisational units, and the triangle of “People, Process, Technology.”  And finally, the role women have in the social business context.

Here’s a short summary of the key topics of my speech.

Networking 2.0

Inspired by my friend Harri Lakkala’s dichotomy Leader 1.0 & 2.0, I composed a simple comparison of Networker 1.0 & 2.0.  Here we go:

Networker 1.0

  • Internally networked, sharing knowledge carefully thinking what can/cannot be shared, choices often led by the process and strict professional roles
  • Externally networked via traditional ways, as e.g. participating in conferences home and abroad
  • The verb to describe interaction is ‘to exchange’ knowledge, meaning “if I give you this piece of information, you’ll give me that information”
  • Heavy carbon footprint (lots of flying and red wine included in the network building)

Networker 2.0

  • Internally and externally networked, via a combination of the traditional, digital and social channels and means
  • Active sharing inside firewall, over the organisation silos. More holistic view on the value creation. Externally embracing serendipity by being active and open in various communities.
  • The verbs to describe interaction is ’to share and give’, sharing knowledge in an altruistic manner, receiving and finding information and knowledge from unexpected directions. Genuine collaboration.
  • Instead of heavy carbon footprint, Networking 2.0 creates a heavy digital footprint which further enhances the possibilities

My message for the audience was this:

For a knowledge worker, it is no longer enough to be a good team player, you have to be a good network player.

Collaboration is the new black and as professionals we need to have both new kinds of skills and more open attitude. “Knowledge alone does no longer give you the power, sharing of knowledge does”, as my friend Teemu Arina says.

Social technology and Innovation

Social technology is an essential enabler for the comprehensive, almost limitless networking and collaboration. Serendipity boosted, open networking is a must for a vivid idea flow and further for innovation. I just cannot believe that the traditional way of having brainstorming sessions with the same people, in the same meeting room, using the same methods, leads to shiny ideas and sparkling innovations.

On the personal level we need better muscles for curiosity, listening, openness, and ‘go over the borders and outside of your comfort zone’ attitude. The edges are fruitful places for the innovation and also for supporting a better common understanding. The “Power of Pull” thinking (by John Hagel, Lang Davison & John Seely Brown) is one of my favorites.

Additionally, to cope with this change, we need higher tolerance for ambiguity. The networked business environment is increasingly complex, sometimes even a bit chaotic. Some of us have a high need to structure information in order to minimize ambiguity, while others can process many ideas and thoughts simultaneously. I believe we need more of the latter. I have earlier blogged about this topic, “Systems Intelligence, Serendipity and Listening for the Better Decisions”.

What does the new kind of networking and social technology has to do with women?

That was the final question I chose cover in my speech. Out of the support functions in organizations, women are usually well represented in the Human Resources (actually I’d like to call it for Human Capital), Corporate Communications and Marketing. Unluckily these three functions are often in competition about who ‘owns’ social media initiatives and projects. And if you add the IT department to this palette, misunderstandings and inefficiencies are easy to create.

One reason for the poor situation is the unequal power balance between departments when it comes to decision-making in the social business initiatives. This must be changed. The HR department is too often a “Careful Out There Department”, meaning they are too insecure and scared to take the lead in the social technology initiatives.  Also way too many times I have seen that the so-called ‘power departments’ as Legal and IT, stop or slow down the social initiatives started by Communications and Marketing.

The reasons are often related to the data security. Of course security is an important issue, but too often that is used as a bad excuse. The real reasons are confusion and lack of knowledge, hesitance to learn what social business is about, narrow silo perspective meaning not seeing the big picture, and strong professional roles that restrict your thinking.

What I wish to see is more healthy approach to risks and control. We need to have a better balance between risk-taking and the possibilities. If you aim at zero risks, you narrow down your possibilities as well.

My wish is that women would embrace the social technology in the sense of opening wider possibilities and developing new skills. Understanding the technology, networking and people skills have a central role in the social business design thinking. If the organizational and social change is led by the technologists alone, the results will be formed accordingly.

We should focus more on possibilities and opportunities, rather than worry about the loss of 100% control.

My message is especially targeted for all the talented HR women. You have the notion ‘human’ in everything you do now, and that is desperately needed in the on-going change. You should take one of the leading positions now: don’t stand by, take the lead.

Time for de-centralised and humanised IT  

New technology, the cloud-enabled new platforms for serendipitous encounters, lead not only to new kind of innovation and leadership, but also to new kind of organisational structures. Away from the silos, forward to co-creation and building of trust-based relationships, both internally and externally.

Dion Hinchcliffe of Dachis Group speaks for decentralized IT support and says:

“It now seems more likely that the transformation to social business is going to significantly rewire the org chart.  […] the urgency and tech-centricity of digital engagement is creating an irresistible need for strong technical and implementation leadership under not just within marketing, but other key business functions as well. Just not in the faraway centralized support group represented by traditional IT.”

Decentralizing the CIO, picture credit: Dion Hinchcliffe, Dachis Group

Quite an interesting vision. Dion Hinchcliffe further explains:

“So, to my mind, this is the coming decentralization of IT that I’ve been predicted will be the inevitable consequence of 1) nearly everything becoming digital, social, mobile, etc. and 2) much savvier workers that can and will feel more comfortable locally enabling new IT that works best for their part of the business.”

I had the pleasure of meeting one of Dion’s colleagues Lee Bryant while he was recently visiting Finland. He gave us an excellent speech about Social Business with many great insights on organisational change. He also described the “one-size fits all, top-down, command & control, no choice” type of corporate IT services, and he said something that stuck in to my mind:

Corporate IT is ripe for re-invention and humanisation.

Humanisation, what a big lovely word.

But here’s a word of comfort for IT professionals. I do know that there are lots of IT people who are awake and understand that the social change must be on the top of the minds of IT leaders.  There has been a discussion about “People, Process, Tools” triangle for a long time, where the people part is getting a lot of attention.

The next discussion topic will be more social IT. Already seeing signs of it. And I am sure more social IT will result in less hated IT as well.

Naturally, we need humanisation of all business units, not only IT, in order to cope with the disruptive technological and social change.

Social Business, Trust and Social Capital

Dachis Group describe Social Business Design as follows:

The intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.

They further state that “technology, society, and work are all changing at breakneck speeds, but businesses are not keeping pace. When these emerging trends work together, they call for a new kind of business – one that is distributed, collaborative, agile, and better positioned to succeed.”

Well put. They know what they are speaking about.

I’d like to add a short discussion of my favorite aspect of social business: trust.

I do believe that successful social business must be built on trust. Social Business is about collaboration, engagement, sharing knowledge and experiences, capturing tacit knowledge, creating value, and with all this enhancing creativity, productivity, and innovation. Therefore I often use the notion of trust-based collaboration (with some inspiration from John Hagel).  The fruitful network of relationships can be based on acknowledging, helping, and appreciation of the people you meet and work with which in turn create trust between individuals.

Trust is a powerful fuel for the relationships between employees, leaders, organisations, departments, and of all social interactions. And social technology is a key enabler in this.

A recent Fast Company article “Community Revival: How Technology Is Reconstructing Our Shared Lives” said:

“Modern day social capital is increasingly associated with technology-facilitated trust.”

Such a brilliant crystallisation. Social technology enabled social communities are the true leverage points of the cultural transformation, both inside and outside of the organisation, between the organisations, individuals, and even nations.

Success, growth of social capital and trust can be built on this.

Thank you all of you who attended the Woman’s Day event with me and our lovely hosts, Jukka Viitasaari, Teemu Arina, and Sam Inkinen!

Related reading:

Dion Hinchcliffe: The architecture of Social Business
Are you Systems Intelligent?


Mental Bodybuilding for Knowledge Workers

These two beauties live with me: the one on the left have managed to develop quite good muscles, the one on the right side have a style of her own, a bit Picasso-like shape. She's a creation by my talented ex-father-in-law Georg Korolkoff.

I stumbled upon a beautiful video about Michael Wolff, an acknowledged British graphic designer. I am not a part of the design professionals’ clan, but his message touched me. I think his way of thinking is applicable to all of us knowledge workers who are trying to cope with the changing work environment.

In this lovely video (see below) Michael Wolff shortly describes the three muscles he needs in his design work. These are very much needed in the knowledge work too:

  1. The Muscle of Curiosity
  2. The Muscle of Appreciation
  3. The Muscle of Imagination

According to Wolff the first muscle, the Muscle of Curiosity, enables him to notice things in an active way and to ask the key question ‘why’ more often. He sees ‘seeing’ things as a muscular exercise, a way being open. He claims:

You walk around head full of preoccupations; you’re not going to notice anything, in your visual life.

As a busy entrepreneur I find this interesting. During a work day, full of meetings and tasks, this muscle can easily weaken. However I think I’ve managed to strengthen this muscle via social media, especially via Twitter. The people I follow in Twitter are amazing; they share the most interesting thoughts and articles, and write wonderful blog posts. These active, wise and open-minded persons form my “Serendipity Heaven” in Twitter, and elsewhere in the social media communities, help me to notice things and pick up ideas I’d never found without them. They exercise my muscle of curiosity. Thank you, you know who you are!

The second muscle, the Muscle of Appreciation, is the one that interests me most. I do agree with Michael Wolff, it is the attitude that is crucial: our attitude and the level of interest towards other people – and further to learn from them.

To support innovation and creativity, it is also important to not only notice the obvious (things) around you, but to take it further. Look around, ask, listen, and take all the wonderful opportunities to learn more. You will be able to understand a bit better, and nourish your imagination.

I’ve always been interested in people – their stories and experiences, their hopes and fears, their values – and can’t get enough of that. However in my work life this skill hasn’t always been considered as strength. Sadly enough, way too many bosses, even in the personnel departments, still see people as ‘resources’, like movable parts of a machine. With no interest of their thoughts. Luckily the signs for the change are here.

Out of these three muscles the third one, the Muscle of Imagination, is enabled by the two other muscles: curiosity and appreciation. I think that something else is required here too; read further and I’ll explain what I mean.

Now enjoy the video, I find it beautiful both visually and verbally:

What can I learn from Michael Wolff?

Michael Wolff encourages me to compare his profession to mine: what can I, as an entrepreneur and a knowledge worker, learn from this legendary graphics designer and brand guru?  Probably a lot, but I chose two aspects that I wish to look at with fresh eyes. Neither of these two aspects is new, but I try to see a new facet in these:

Firstly, he speaks about the power of the parts for the success of the whole.

From his video we learned that not only knowledge workers in the technology industry but also the different kinds of designers are working in the silos. And hindering the best results to come out.

Michael Wolff uses a meal as a simple metaphor. He says “it’s only through the parts that the dinner gets delivered”, and “you never cook the same meal twice”. I think in my industry – software & service business – we do this often, time and time again, totally unnecessary. Is it out of laziness or due to a lack of perception? I don’t know. But I do agree with Michael that the role of the details is important, of a single tiny part of the equation has to be seen. And for that we need to develop our ‘seeing’ muscles and attitudes.

I’ve earlier written about the on-going change and the silos in the work places, silos that lead to idea poverty and ineffectiveness. As a remedy for this our existing organizational structures needs a refresh, and we knowledge workers, should become more passionate about helping our organizations to be open, learning organizations. Mr. Wolff’s thinking helps us in this as both the acknowledgment and appreciation are the key ingredients in this.

Secondly, Michael Wolff states the kind of obvious but easily ignored idea: Emotion is most important component in graphics design.

In line with Michael I do believe that active observations combined with having our emotions ‘open’, is an essential fuel for our creativity, for better thinking and for the innovation.

I find here a clear connection to Esa Saarinen’s theory of Systems Intelligence about which I’ve blogged earlier:

We all have two different thinking systems, so-called System 1 and 2: System 1 thinking as automatic, associative, and intuitive. System 2 thinking is dominating in the work places: you better be strictly rational. In every day work situations the System 2 thinking is active and often unintentionally blocking System 1 thinking – and therefore narrowing the possibilities at hands. When both systems are active, there’s a room for intuition, interaction and emotions.

An interesting connection between the System 1 thinking and the Muscles of Curiosity and Appreciation. Genuine two-way engagement with other people enables us to better co-create and develop ideas.

Systems Intelligence & the Three Muscles Combined

The unpredictable, more global, mobile and social business environment brings tough challenges for the areas of communication, coordination, learning, and leadership.

I believe that acknowledging the role of Esa Saarinen’s Systems Intelligence theory in the knowledge work and combining it with Michael Wolff’s idea of exercising these three muscles – Curiosity, Appreciation, Imagination – takes us a step closer to a more creative, productive and human working environment.

Do you think there is a need for a mental bodybuilding for us knowledge workers?

Related reading:

PS. My long-time motto is “Always in Beta. And passionately so”. I think I’ll modify it with Michael’s wonderful motto, which is: Obsessively Interested in Everything.


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