Tag Archives: Serendipity

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?


Best Practices, Enterprise 2.0 and Social IT – with Passion

Let all the flowers blossom under the clouds. I took this photo @ La Gomera, February 2012

I have a long history with many great IT Service Management (ITSM) professionals. For many years I worked in this industry and simultaneously I was an eager ‘activist’ for a global non-profit association called IT Service Management Forum (itSMF).

I have been thinking what was it that strongly drew me to towards this group of IT professionals. Afterwards it is easy to say that it was maybe my strong urge to help and to mediate. It is quite common that there is a communication gap between the IT people and the business people. It was sometimes painful to watch. The gap can be seen in the field of communication especially, but also in the way of seeing how organization should prioritize projects and how the customers should be engaged with.

Many of my (IT) readers know the ITIL framework well and have been utilizing it for a decade or two. Some of you might not have heard about it. To put it shortly, it is a set of best practices for aligning the IT services with the needs of the business. It consists of several books that describe the processes, roles, and many other things. A better definition of ITIL can be sure found. My ITSM friends, you could add those to the comments section, thank you! You know that stuff better than me.

Best Practices, is it a swear word?

Anyways, the inspiration to write this post initiated as the word pair ‘best practices’ popped up yesterday evening from a totally different environment. I was following Enterprise 2.0 Summit conference ongoing in Paris, and suddenly my E20/Knowledge Management/Collaboration guru friends started to speak about best practices in the Enterprise 2.0 context. For example IBM’s Collaboration Evangelist Luis Suarez tweeted the following:

Well, it made me think: how Enterprise 2.0 issues and challenges relate to the discussion in the IT Service Management sphere? It is about people and the organization culture in both cases. It is also about the processes and tools. It is about how enterprises must adapt to change. There are many basic processes within the IT support function (Incident management, problem management, etc…) that are relatively similar for many organizations, so you can pick and choose suitable parts of the suggested processes from ITIL framework. Let us call these, not best practices, but perhaps ‘common practices’.

So, Best Practices, is it a swear word? Yes, if misunderstood and misused as a standard that must be strictly followed. As Luis tweeted “what works for some won’t work for the others”. When best practices are approached as a set of suggestions, it works better.  I’d dare to say that the same that applies to ITIL & IT Service Management works for Enterprise 2.0/Social Business design.

Despite of which business process we’re looking at, we all know that we need easier and more transparent communication and collaboration, and more open information and knowledge sharing. Unluckily it is sharing that is a swear word for many.

ITIL Framework and Enterprise 2.0?

For too many professionals the Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration initiatives are something fuzzy, non-measurable, or too tool-oriented stuff. Similarly lots of criticism has been targeted against ITIL framework. Analyst Stephen Mann from Forrester described the situation very well in his recent blog post. Simultaneously many organizations are telling that they are benefiting from these initiatives. My professional ITSM friends know all this better, and can sure share good examples. My humble point here is that I recognize the same kind of suspiciousness and unhealthy pessimism with Enterprise 2.0 discussions in the organizations as we have experienced with ITIL. The arguments are pretty much the same.

My view on this topic of “IT & Social” is close to how Stephen Mann chose to put it when speaking about the ITIL challenges and bashing. And that is why I’d like to expand this to other areas too (HR, Marketing etc). Stephen says (emphasis is mine):

“However, I can’t help think that WE need to change as much as [ITIL] needs to change.”

That is indeed wisely said, we need to start the change from ourselves. No framework will do the change, the way we behave will. It is important that we are not putting all our energy to finding the threats and disadvantages of ITIL or Social Technology, or any disruptive stuff landing on our path (right now Cloud Technology, consumerization/BYOD, social media, or business models as SaaS). BTW Have anyone studied the headlines about Cloud Computing, the ratio between positive and negative, between the threats and opportunities presented? In Finland you hardly see any positive Cloud Computing articles. Ah, the attitudes, ok, I am biased…

IT Professionals as Social Creatures

IT professionals (as a role) have been around for a few decades, so the fact is that IT is not yet a very mature profession. People within IT have grown in to their (sometimes fuzzy) roles via many different paths, often more or less randomly.

I think IT professionals are Passionate Pioneers, very often much in love in the ways of working they have created by themselves. (Of course, this is a rough generalization.) Passion is good, but stubbornness in front of the change is not. It is totally understandable that it will take some time to adapt to the disruptive changes we have at hands. Social media adoption is challenging for many IT people, as well as for HR people, as it means, for example, that the illusion of full control, that both IT & HR people often have, must be gone. In my IT circles I also hear repeatedly, “social media is not something for a professional IT work, it is a play”. An alarming attitude but I stay optimistic.

I recently attended an interesting event organized by ITSM SaaS vendor ServiceNow. During the event I heard lots of success stories and, of course, challenges related to all three areas: IT people, their tools and the processes based on ITIL framework. Their Social IT evangelist Chris Dancy is passionately preaching to IT people about the importance of embracing social media. And he does it well :) Here’s a link to one of his excellent presentations.

Ok, now back to the Enterprise 2.0 Summit tweeting rally (hashtag #e20s) where I saw short discussions about the characteristics of the IT people and their willingness to ‘go social’. Here’s an example in form of tweets by Mark Masterson of CSC and Dion Hinchcliffe of Dachis Group:

Interesting indeed! But having worked with IT people a lot, I can see not only challenges but so many great opportunities too. I do believe that we’ll “get by with a little help from my friends” in a Beatlessian style, passionate IT people could and can take a more active role with the social media initiatives and truly be an enabler in the social wave within their organizations.

Right Attitude towards the Soft Social Side is the New Black

How to be prepared? As an ex-girl-scout I believe that you can be better prepared for surprises and new situations when having an open attitude and some curiosity. Even in the most disruptive changes, it is your attitude that counts. How do you choose to approach the situation at hands? The support functions in organizations, as for example IT, Marketing and HR, truly need to stop ‘dragging’ and start to act. Focusing on the customer, internal or external, is vital. The soft side, people & culture related, must get more attention.

I very much like the five recommendations Forrester’s Stephen Mann suggests for the IT Department, the steps which might help you to cope with the challenges (with ITIL adoption):

  • Step 1: Understand what ITIL is all about, especially the importance of people.
  • Step 2: Be realistic about existing ITSM process maturity and improve them gradually.
  • Step 3: Evaluate technology only after you’ve addressed goals, people, and processes.
  • Step 4: Get the initial planning right, but also plan beyond the “technology project.”
  • Step 5: Regularly communicate ITIL’s value and involve the IT and non-IT stakeholder.

I am surprised and delighted how well Stephen’s five steps fit to Enterprise 2.0/Social Business discussions! Let me compare these two, well, it fits like a glove. I modified Stephen’s steps a bit:

  • Step 1: In Enterprise 2.0/Social Business initiatives, you need to understand the big picture and especially the importance of people.
  • Step 2: Be realistic about existing information and communication processes and improve them gradually (and make more social).
  • Step 3: Evaluate social technology only after you’ve addressed goals, people, and processes.
  • Step 4: Get the initial planning on the sufficient level, and also plan beyond the “technology project.” Pilot and pivot, find the passionate firefighters to open the way.
  • Step 5: Regularly communicate the value of social for your organization and truly involve and engage all the various stakeholders, from business side and from all support functions. Social ‘belongs to’ everybody.

These areas — IT Service Management & Enterprise 2.0/Social Business — have a lot in common. Both are about people, processes and the tools. And in both areas the discussion is too often spinning around the technology and the processes, leaving the people play the supporting part in the process and tool play. And it should be the opposite.

Luckily, there are hundreds of wise people in both camps speaking about the essential role of the people. To name a few from the ITSM sphere: Rob England, Chris Dancy, Aale Roos, Jaakko Kuosmanen, Mark Smalley, James Finister, and Paul Wilkinson, and from the E20/Social Business side (a quick selection from yesterday’s #e20s discussions): Luis Suarez, Susan Scrupski, Dion Hinchcliffe, Thomas Vander Wal, Mark Masterson, Rawn Shah, Ana Silva and many, many more. I wish that we can learn from each other, and support in the painful unlearning process as well.

Attitude, Behavior, Culture

As an example of one possible remedy, I would like to introduce to you a new kind of ABC — ABC for IT people, and why not for HR people too. My dear friend Paul Wilkinson has brilliantly coined the term of ABC of ICT, ABC meaning Attitude, Behavior, and Culture.

It is so easy to stick (and to stuck) to fine-tuning of processes and buying fashionable set of tools – and at the same time to bluntly expect:

  1. that people automatically have the right attitude that is needed for the changes in the work processes and tools,
  2. that people behave as wished and that they right away understand the reasons behind why this new behavior is required,
  3. that the employees live, breathe and nurture the culture which the management have manifested in their new strategy slides. Or that the employees easily skip the existing culture that has been around for years.

I recommend that you check out Paul’s book of ABC for ICT, it is brilliant. Lots of great examples from real life IT. Could be usable in the E2.0 side too?

To summarize my thoughts on the topic, here’s my two cents:

People practices. As much as we need best (or common) practices for some processes, we need to remember to ensure the continuous focus on people, and also learn and embrace some new people practices. He tangata, as Rob England reminds us.

Healthy Attitude towards Control and Risks. Support functions as IT & HR need to find a new kind of balance for their urge for control. Naturally risk management is always needed, but it should not prevent necessary improvements and changes. To find a balance between risk taking and embracing opportunities is the key. Policy is too often a way of saying ‘we don’t really have a reason, but we don’t feel like it’.

Relationships, Networks, and Innovation. It is all about open, trusting relationships and learning networks. Innovation grows from that. Unnecessary hierarchies must be opened and partly broken down in every silo in the organization. Co-creation and innovation with both internal and external parties should be actively promoted and supported. This is not always easy task for neither HR nor IT as they have strong professional identities with a culture of control. Simultaneously HR people have the advantage that they know the human side, and the IT people are often of curious nature, just re-target some of that curiosity from technology to the social aspect.

Power Balance and ‘People Units’. The power balance of the different organizational units should be studied too. My hunch is that business units and Financials & Legal from the support side have often advantage, power-wise. The strong and the noisy gets heard easier? Maybe. The people in Marketing, Customer Service, IT and HR have the power in certain areas, but it is not always balanced. (I am aware of the fact that there are, of course, exceptions and lots of variation, but please let me play…).  As people issues are essential to tackle in the disruptive change, more power to the ‘people units’ would not be a bad idea.

Finally, yes, I confess that I do oversimplify some aspects here and I am very aware of the enormous complexity in many business environments. But I wish that you take this post just as a quick reminder and continue the discussion in your blogs and in your organizations. I love IT people and I love social media opportunities, and I am for all kinds of collaboration for the better outcome.

We all know that “social” is not something you glue on top of the things, applications, processes…it’s not a feature. It’s about relationships and communication. The ongoing change is something bigger, it is something deeper: it’s in our DNA to interact with other people, despite of your profession. I am optimistic. We have all the ingredients for a continued passion.

And remember to leave room for serendipity!

Thank you Luis Suarez, Paul Wilkinson and Stephen Mann for the inspiration for this post.

Related reading:
Stephen Mann: The ABC of ICT – The Top 10 People Issues
Bertrand Duperrin: How to put the social into the processes?
Dion Hinchcliffe: Next-Generations Ecosystems and its Key Success Factors

More presentations coming to this list from #e20 Summit, will add as soon as I have checked those out!


Innovation and Social Leadership

Mårten Mickos - and some source code - on the stage @ TEDxHelsinki

My brain is bubbling after the TEDxHelsinki event – a creatively built lineup of innovative speakers. The themes were exactly those I’ve been working on lately: Entrepreneurship, innovation, age & generations, and leadership. So here are random thoughts I’d like to share.

Entrepreneurship & Social Leadership

Thanks to Aalto Entrepreneurship Society‘s team entrepreneurship has been in headlines during the last couple of months. (Oh, it feels like it was only yesterday when the founder of F-Secure Risto Siilasmaa was the only entrepreneur media was interested in…) AaltoES team have some secret superpower as they have managed to bring legendary startup gurus and leaders to Finland, to coach and to support Finnish startups and to boost the entire startup scene – even our political leaders are becoming curious about this.

To name a few events, firstly, the epic Steve Blank week (I’ve blogged about it here), secondly several politicians have now visited Otaniemi in order to learn what is going on, for example, recently our Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland Alexander Stubb visited the ‘sauna’.

As a nice follow-up for the AaltoES wonders, TEDxHelsinki team had asked three (originally) Finnish entrepreneurs to share their stories with us: William Wolfram, Pekka Viljakainen, and Mårten Mickos. Interesting stories from all three of them.

The youngest of them, 19-year-old William Wolfram shared his story about becoming an entrepreneur at his age, how he dropped the school and now runs a successful online business in the US.  William’s motto is: “Don’t get a job. Get a mission. Entrepreneurs change the world.” Good one. A funny fact of William: he was a school mate of my daughter, the previous time I saw him on stage was at my daughter’s graduation, William’s (vocalist) band played at Brändö gymnasium.

The awesome duo then, Pekka “the Bulldozer” Viljakainen and Mårten Mickos, they have both achieved a lot during their careers. Their speeches at TEDxHelsinki were both very personal, genuine & open. The style I like a lot. Pekka told not only about his leadership style (and mistakes) but also about his new ‘No Fear’ book project on which he has worked together with 100+ top leaders around the world. The first reactions towards Pekka’s book idea and its new kind of leadership thinking were: don’t do it, it is impossible, cannot be done. But Pekka stubbornly continued with the project and in the end got most of the leaders to admit that his vision and concept works – and they wanted to join the movement. I recommend you to check out the No Fear Community site and the videos. A funny fact about Pekka: Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has given Pekka his nickname, the Bulldozer, which must refer to his persistence and diligence.

Mårten’s key message was about outside of the box thinking. He spoke beautifully about our fear towards the new and unknown and respectively about our willingness to rely on our existing problem/solution models that we have stored in our brains. He says: “We are slaves of our habits. Too often we do not recognize the enormous potential around us. That is why we need to re-program, re-wire our brains.” According to him one of biggest challenges of the innovation is however “the big egos” that prevent fruitful collaboration and new kind of business development. I think we’ve all met them…

Interestingly Pekka and Mårten shared two key messages.  Firstly, Pekka’s idea on how the fear is killing the opportunities for innovation, and his personal story of the instant resistance for his idea by the top leaders. Exactly the same in Mårten’s story, fear and bad leadership are killing the innovation. As is the big fat obstacle for innovation, our habit of sticking to the models we are familiar with, and neglecting the possibility that “whatever truth you have, the opposite might be possible”, as one of my favorite TEDster, entrepreneur Derek Sivers says in this 6-minutes video.

Secondly, they share the idea of ‘how you can lead’ and ‘who can be the leader’, I am referring Pekka’s words for this: “It’s difficult to lead if nobody wants to follow”. Can you say it more clearly, I doubt that. Mårten had chosen to put it as: “the winner is the one who makes other people to want to follow him/her”.

A leader has to earn it. It is time for social leadership.

It’s also time for More Social Business

The social leadership style that my entrepreneurship idols described, and that is needed right now in the changing business environment, could be crystallized as follows:

It’s all about the people, respect, openness and transparency, shared understanding and responsibility, and about a great amount of courage and hard work. The courage to unlearn from old ways of doing business and leading people.

I find Bulldozers principles of social risk taking quite fitting, see here below in the picture:

Pekka Viljakainen's principles of social risk taking.

I like the ‘value base’ Pekka has built this on. Pekka also describes how young generations see and think the leadership (and often us middle-aged):

“You need to prove your value to the team. You need to earn the right to be their leader. These Digital Cowboys either see you as someone who can help them get things done or an idiot who stands in their way.”

Simultaneously with the new leadership styles and the way of working, we have the new tools that are enabling us to be more social and collaborative than ever before. But that is a topic for another blog post – More Social Business.

Knowledge Workers of the Different Generations

I see, among many others, the field of entrepreneurship and innovation free from any age limits. Yes, the media often prefers to write about the young generation, but I believe that there’s a room for more ageless approach for entrepreneurship, and innovation.

A good example is CEO of StoraEnso, Member of the Board of Nokia, Mr. Jouko Karvinen (54 years old) who was just chosen as The Director of Innovation Year 2011 (a Finnish competition where the three other great nominees were from startup world). Karvinen’s answer to the question ‘how innovations can be led?’ was: “it is a team sport, that must be led from the field, not from the outside of the rink, nor from the stand”. Further Jouko Karvinen explains his 80/20 rule: the ratio of questions and answers by CEO must be 80/20, in that order.  Mårten Mickos highlighted exactly the same, more questions needed.

The message of Karvinen, Mickos, and Viljakainen is very clear: leadership must be earned and it must develop very soon, preferably now. Finland and many other nations desperately need innovation as a driver for our success, and outdated leadership must not prohibit that.

My idea is that it requires not only rethinking and learning, but also great deal of unlearning. Despite of the age.

Another personal addition to this topic is that I believe that “for a knowledge worker it is not enough to be a team player, you must be a network player“. I believe that innovation is best nourished “in the edges”, as John Hagel & co describe it in the book The Power of Pull. Serendipitous encounters in the wide network are needed for innovation.

Another great example of innovation and entrepreneurship I’d like to mention here is Mr. Jukka Jokiniemi, born 1962, one of the most touching and amazing speakers at the TEDxHelsinki. He is successfully running his own company Innojok, despite of the fact that he became blind about 20 years ago. He has a great entrepreneurial attitude and he never let his blindness to come in the way. Amazing person, he must be the only blind Design Director in the world! An awesome Rethink Attitude we can all learn from. Lots of respect.

So our chronological age does not matter, our attitude does. Anybody from 19-year-old William Wolfram and the young AaltoES startup teams, to the middle-aged entrepreneurs, as Mårten, Pekka and many others, can be and should be part of the entrepreneurial movement. I am very proud to be one, deeply middle-aged but eager and curious. (I am asked to visit Startup Sauna at the Aalto Venture Garage, and I am excited about it.)

There’s a one more thing I especially liked at TEDxHelsinki: the organizers chose to start the event with young William and close it with an insightful presentation by 85-years old graphic designer and artist Erik Bruun. What a wonderful bridge between the two different generations! The clear common nominator was innovativeness, seeing the opportunity and believing in your own vision, focusing on that and persistently going towards the vision.

Task for myself

After my valuable experiences and discussions in the AaltoES organized events and now in TEDxHelsinki a thought started to spin around in my mind: what else – than talk & blog – can do for the development of the entrepreneurial scene of Finland?

Here’s my idea and its background: I was recently appointed to the Board of the Finnish Software Entrepreneurs. Very glad and proud of it. It is a non-profit association for the entrepreneurs of the Finnish growth companies, a great group of talented people of whom many have already reached a good growing path for their businesses – and yes, there are some startup companies too.

However, a notion of ‘association’ might not sound very compelling for a young entrepreneur…something steel and old-fashioned…but it doesn’t have to be so. I have been active member of it for a few years and many great things are happening there. Those are not getting that kind of publicity as the AaltoES activities, but I believe this will change. So, the next step could be ‘the crossing of chasm’ between the young and the more mature software companies. I believe both would benefit from it.

Accordingly, the task for myself (and for any of you) is to think and act on this: how could we support, stimulate and create the discussions between “the digital cowboys” and people in the more mature software companies? Resulting in fruitful discussions and ideas about the new ways of working together, solving problems, and to innovate. There’s many shared interests and topics here, and of course, a huge learning-from-each-other-potential. We are all swimming in the blue ocean of tacit knowledge.

No fear, but lots of curiosity and open mind, anyone with me?

Thank you – and apologies for the long-ish post…

PS. Cisco Finland’s CEO Esa Korvenmaa blogged about this topic too (in Finnish), read it here.
PS2. I think I must buy Pekka’s book now….
PS3. Startup Sauna already does have a great team of coaches from the more mature companies, sharing their knowledge and helping the teams. A good start indeed but not enough for the whole of Finland. Huge respect for the coaches and the team Ville, Antti, Miki, Krista, Linda & co. Special greetings to Aape Pohjavirta!
PS4. I have no funny fact of Mårten!


Systems Intelligence, Serendipity and Listening for the Better Decisions

A beautiful moment I managed to capture in the Helsinki summer!

I’ve earlier blogged about how I find intuition and seeing the value of the tacit knowledge as very interesting perspectives for the decision-making. As social business and new ways of working are now changing the organizations and the entire business landscape, and further adding to the complexity I’ll find it even more interesting to study decision-making and how understanding is created.

I was looking for something else from my bookshelf and found the good old book by Stephen P. Robbins “Essentials of Organizational Behavior”, and randomly checked out the chapter about individual differences in decision-making.  What I found was an interesting quadrant that describes the leadership styles related to the decision-making, it has two axes: Way of Thinking and Tolerance for Ambiguity. The four styles of decision-making are:  Directive, Analytical, Conceptual, and Behavioral.

Decision-Style Model. Source: A.J. Rowe and J.D. Boulgarides, Managerial Decision Making (Prentice Hall 1992)

So here’s a quick go-though of this model, followed by my free associations from it.

  • Way of Thinking, very simplified: Logical, analytical leaders are processing information serially versus intuitive and creative ones perceiving things as a whole.
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity, again simplified: some of us have a high need to structure information in order to minimize ambiguity, while others can process many ideas and thoughts simultaneously.

A very quick comparison of the types (yes, pretty obvious ones, you can hop over to my associations if you like):

  • Analytical types have a better tolerance for ambiguity than the “traditional” directive decision-makers. An analytical type of leader usually search for more information and alternatives than directive ones.
  • Leaders applying the conceptual style in decision-making are often considering many alternatives out of broad perspective. Additionally they take a longer term perspective. This style gives most room for creativity, the authors claim.
  • The forth style, behavioral style, is the most receptive for suggestions from others, peers and subordinates, and leaders of this style love the meetings! They are also trying to avoid conflicts and find a consensus.

In Finland we call the behavioral style as a Swedish leadership style: it is based on utterly politeness and caution, and taking ages to get any decisions. Meanwhile the traditional Finnish way has been the opposite; very direct, focused on the matter (seeing people as resources, no space for feelings here) and with low tolerance of ambiguity. The formal business education in Finland has a long time emphasized the rational analysis and thinking which have led to this ‘inflexible’ style. Naturally leadership styles are developing here in the Nordics too. But I think we Finns have much more home work to do than our friends in Sweden.

An essential perspective to this very topic comes from the always inspiring Rachel Happe who recently blogged about decision-making in the networked world, here’s a quote from her excellent post:

“We need to move forward boldly and make decisions despite incomplete information… but also be prepared to change our path. It’s easy to just shut down when faced with an environment in which you can never be certain or absorb all the information available. But if you are a leader, you need to accept the uncertainty and move forward anyway. “

I very much agree with her and that is exactly why I wanted to look at the model, via three associations I spontaneously got.

My three spontaneous associations on the model

This decision-style model gave me the following associations:

  1. Systems Intelligence Theory of Esa Saarinen,
  2. Value and Importance of Serendipity (the weak links and the edges),
  3. Value and Importance of Listening.

Firstly, this decision-making style model and its division associated with the Finnish philosopher Esa Saarinen and his research of Systems Intelligence. Saarinen and his fellow researchers describe the two ‘thinking systems’ we all have: 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 – and for better understanding and decision-making.

Being strictly rational in your work role is not working anymore. We need utilize our full potential. I have blogged about this earlier e.g. in posts “Mental Bodybuilding for Knowledge Workers” and “Are You Systems Intelligent?” featuring my favorites Hagel and Saarinen.

Secondly, I thought of the on-going lovely discussion about serendipity, a discussion where John Hagel, Luis Suarez and Ana Silva are the ones I love to follow, to interact with and listen to. When I saw the decision-style model I was right-away thinking about replacing the Tolerance of Ambiguity into the Level of Embracing Serendipity.

It would broaden the model towards the thinking of the “Power of Pull model” (by John Hagel, Lang Davison & John Seely Brown). I agree with them that the cloud-enabled new platforms for serendipitous encounters lead to new kind of innovation, decision-making and leadership.  We can now easily meet companies and people we did not know existed, and this helps us to be more creative and also broaden the basis we rely on when making decisions. The edges are fruitful places for the innovation, to help us to make innovative decisions, but also for supporting a better understanding.

The approach both Esa Saarinen and John Hagel & his fellows suggest helps us in achieving our full potential as individuals, and the same applies to our organizations, via the people in it. In addition, serendipity can be shaped, and utilized in decision-making.

The third association I got is the value and importance of listening in decision-making, and in life in general. I serendipitously bumped into a beautiful TED Talk by Julian Treasure (what a lovely last name he has) about the importance of listening.

I warmly recommend you to listen to his talk (7:50 min), very inspiring.

Yes indeed, active listening deserves our attention in the chaotic and changing environment, too often forgotten. In his talk Julian shares five tips for better listening. I found the fifth one, his RASA model, beautiful and absolutely something every one of us should apply in our daily life and the decision-making situations. Acronym RASA comes from Receive, Appreciate, Summarise, Ask and these four verbs should be part of our personal decision-making, learning processes, and leadership.

Julian says aptly: Conscious listening creates understanding. I’d like to add that listen not only your peers, colleagues, family members and friends, but listen to yourself too.

I believe that better decisions and shared understanding are both enabled by these notions we associate with the social business:

Genuine interaction, collaboration, learning, openness, sharing, trust, P2P instead of B2B & B2C, living network instead of stiff hierarchies, listening, intuition, passionate creativity, and embracing serendipity.

All these leading to not only learning and better understanding but also to better decision-making, and success in whatever you are doing.

Personally I have so many things that I need to do differently. Starting today.

–Riitta

Related reading:
Rachel Happe’s beautiful post: A Vision of The Social Organization
Dave Gray in Dachis blog: The Connected Company
Christoph Schmaltz  in Dachis blog:  From traditional business to social business
John Hagel’s grain of gold: Reshaping Relationships through Passion

EDIT 2011-08-02: Professor Esa Saarinen’s research can be found here.


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.


My Nostalgia Trip to Pre Social Business

As part of my unlearning and learning process towards better understanding of Social Business I’ve been thinking back the time I worked for a Swedish Supply Chain Management (SCM) company IBS.

Yes, I am recalling the attempts we made in order to build a platform for a global wholesale distribution, the concept was called as Virtual Enterprise.

It is now most interesting to follow the discussion about social business design and to find many similar perspectives.

Simultaneously with The Power of Pull, a warmly recommended read, I have been re-reading older European research about business process design (pdf), written by two Swiss gentlemen Elgar Fleisch and Hubert Österle. Already eighteen years ago (!) in 1993 they created an interesting concept of Integration Area that refers to organizational processes which are characterized by high dependency, and therefore require a high degree of coordination.

They discuss the complexity of inter-organizational networking which is associated with human interaction, organization structure, and the culture. In order to reduce this complexity, Fleisch and Österle presented the Coordination Areas. The five coordination areas that are highly dependent of each other are: Supply Chain Management, Relationship Management, Innovation, Infrastructure, and Organization Development.

Here below their model for inter-organizational networking for complex environments:

Coordination Areas. Source: Fleisch & Österle (2000)

The difference between these two concepts is that the integration area pursues integration through integrated information processing, while the coordination area pursues integration through the organization of dependencies.

Related to the latter, organization of dependencies, an interesting parallel could also be drawn to the systems theory and its qualitative determinants. Two system determinants, attributes of the elements and the degree of the organization among system elements, employ the same kind of complex dependencies.

Fleisch & Österle also used a notion of networkability:

“The inter-organizational dependencies within coordination areas are contrasted by the intra-organizational dependencies across areas. Both play a decisive role in the networkability structure of businesses.”

It is easy to find confluence. After reading some of the recently published books related to the social business and comparing the models and messages in those to this older research – you can find many themes that are in common.

Good old SCM and the Social Business

Fleisch & Österle state that coordination of business processes have to cover both outputs and all associated design areas such as process, IT, people, organization structure, and culture. The efforts my company made 10-15 years back, associated with Supply Chain Management, were directed towards this kind of coordination of the inter-organizational processes.

Yes, there’s a clear connection between these SCM development efforts and Social Business/Enterprise 2.0! Exactly as Jacob Morgan tweeted while ago.

Here’s few more pickings from the nostalgia period research (1997-2001):

Fleisch and Österle developed a model called “Five computerization phases towards business networking”. They describe an integration area as an indicator of the degree of “informatization” of an organization. The size of integration area is growing while technology develops. Well, this reminds me of Enterprise 2.0 when seen from a tool & information perspective. However, their model was not yet very social one.

Some of the nostalgic themes of that time were:

  • On the tool side, the new portal technologies as the tools to give a common view of supplier relationship related information and system integrations for integrated processes. For example information stored in the ERP, CRM and Human Resource systems. Very much system and information flow centred approach.
  • On the process side, the concept of Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) was a hot topic as the supplier relationships emerged and companies wanted to create a strategically managed structure around their supplier relationships. In 2001 Gartner Group stated about SRM as follows: “[…] this goes beyond e-procurement and strategic sourcing to embrace the collaborative creation and management of supplier-enterprise products and processes.”

A bit like pre Social Businessian, isn’t it?

Summarized it can be said that the focus were clearly around the processes, work flows and managing information within the processes.  Some initial ideas for the collaboration on the individual level were present, but were still rare in the businesses. What was missing then was naturally the emerging new communication culture and the possibilities enabled by social media – to connect, discuss, and to create value also on the individual level.

From a System Level to a Human Level & The Power of Pull

The focus is now broadening from the system level to the human level: how individuals communicate, interact and create value together has become essential. The core concepts have changed from the pure process view with task descriptions, detailed instructions and strict control towards empowerment of people, enhanced interactions inside and outside of the own organization, away from the information/knowledge silos – all this supported by the new kind of social technology.

However, there’s much to do. Firstly, we are still often calling people as resources or assets, sigh! We do have Human Resources departments, like people were parts in a machine. And secondly, social media is often reduced to a set of tools only.

One of the best readings on the topic is the latest book of John Hagel, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison. They present a Pull approach with which you can turn uncertainty into opportunity, and further enable small moves to make a huge impact. The Pull approach consists of three levels:

  • At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them.
  • At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to you that are relevant and valuable, even if you were not even aware before they existed.
  • Finally, the third level of pull – the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential.

I do believe that the Pull approach enables us to learn faster and translate what we’ve learned into improved performance; the performance of ourselves but also the people we connect with.

One driver for this nostalgia trip was actually this sentence in their book:

“These three levels of pull go far beyond the “on-demand” focus of technology industry in recent years. On-demand initiatives generally seek to facilitate the first level of pull, but they have very little to offer regarding the second and third levels of pull.”

I fully agree with them.

I will continue to study social business design and how to use the power of pull to access new sources of information, to attract like-minded individuals, and to shape serendipity to increase the likelihood of positive chance encounters.

Still much to learn for a Serendipity Hippie like me. The passion will help me on the way.

PS.  Dachis Group describes the Social Business Design in a way I like a lot. Their model covers how customer can participate in the value creation, how to enhance collaboration, and how to rethink and optimize the value network. The latter – Business Partner Optimization – is quite close to the Virtual Enterprise concept I was working with in the end of the 90’s. It is fascinating to notice how the basic ideas of social business have been around for a long time, and now finally becoming part of our daily business.

Related reading from Dave Grey of Dachis Group – The Connected Company.


I am a Knowledge Worker and a Serendipity Hippie

My Serendipity Hippie T-shirt! | Copyright Serendipiteettihipit 2010

 

Last weekend I attended Professor Esa Saarinen’s seminar, and as always I was touched and inspired by his thinking. Few days earlier futurist Jarno M. Koponen wrote a beautiful blog post about creative future thinking. Both of these gentlemen touched on a question I’ve been thinking lately:

How to be creative in a hectic entrepreneur/knowledge worker life?

I’ve earlier blogged about Esa Saarinen’s theory of Systems Intelligence and the two thinking systems that we all have: the automatic, associative, and intuitive, and rational, systematical one. This theory of Saarinen’s emphasizes how we often have a surprisingly narrow sense of ourselves – meaning that we seldom utilize our associative, intuitive System 1 in our work life, instead we are blocking it by System 2 kind of rational thinking.

Futurist and designer Jarno M. Koponen brought up an interesting topic in his Futureful blog: the role of reading and writing in a creative process and future thinking. For him, written words lead to constructive reflection and reflection leads to action. Further he describes how everyone’s creativity is different, how we all have our own ways of nourishing our creative thinking.

Touché! These two gentlemen made me look closer at my mental habits: how do I approach challenges and act in various business situations.

I recognize the need to mix the associative and intuitive with the Rational Riitta. As a knowledge worker I need to be more open and creative in order to find solutions that are not the obvious ones. One of my methods is to imagine the present situation couple of years ahead from now. Often this opens up a couple of new doors for thoughts.

Other means I often turn to are writing (not always publicly as now), reading (The Power of Pull is waiting for me), mindmapping, enjoying visual beauty in form of photographs and movies from different decades, and listening to the music. I am letting System 1 to have a proper leg room during the flight. There’s one more thing empowering me: positivity.

The Power of Positivity

Esa Saarinen discusses positivity in a wonderfully inspiring way. Most of us easily understand the value of the positive emotions; still we systematically understate the long term effect of positivity. This is what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Saarinen’s research partner, claims. Similarly to Saarinen’s thoughts, Fredrickson says: we can expand our awareness, by taking in from all of our senses. Fredrickson’s urges us to invest in things that bring us positive emotions; music, dance, books, walk in the woods, a hobby you love.

Fredrickson also speaks about 3-to-1 tipping point ratio meaning that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every negative emotion that drags us down. Further she states “in the long term, our positive emotions broaden and build, and therefore result in more resilience and life satisfaction.” If you became curious, read more about Fredrickson’s thoughts in her research paper “The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion” (pdf).

I found this lovely video (6 min) by Barbara Fredrickson, warmly recommended:

My favorite part of the video is her recommendation: create the mindset of positivity by being open, appreciative, curious, kind, and most of all, real. Very beautiful and doable!

A Serendipity Hippie

Inspired by these ideas I recently named a group of my friends, including myself, as ‘Serendipity Hippies’. I think the name describes quite well the attitude and spirit I wish to nurture.  As a startup entrepreneur and a knowledge worker I need to be a Serendipity Hippie too – I need to keep my both ‘systems’ active, let intuition, interaction and positive emotions affect my actions and decisions, which in turn hopefully nourishes my creativity, and also help me to develop ‘Hagelian’ trust-based relationships.

Via all these means and with help of my social (media) interactions I wish to give creativity and serendipity a chance, every day.

Finally, I would like to share a story Barbara Fredrickson told her audience during one of her lectures:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Negativity. It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is Positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’.”

We can become better versions of ourselves.


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