Tag Archives: Social Media

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!


Game Mechanics and Landscape Design for Customer Value Creation

My daughter checking out the landscape design of Crete (Summer 2010)

I recently met a marketing professional who had seen the “social light”, or should I say Social Business Light. He was stressed about the fact that most of his colleagues and the management “don’t understand the value of social media and what is happening within marketing communication”. Very familiar set up!

At least some of the common misunderstandings and friction is a result of language we use. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to a situation where mutual comprehension is not easy.  Other challenges are – no news here – results of silo-liked work environments, communication and collaboration gaps, and also some kind of idea “inbreeding”.

All these factors complicate the work of management, business operations, and strategy work. More precisely, complicating the way management is use to manage and lead.

People, Process, Tools

What I am trying to do is to learn more about the challenges related to the communication and language issues. In the background I have several years of work with the global community of great IT Service Management people. So I am familiar with a situation where business people are accusing the lazy techies in the IT department for hampering the competitive edge, and the IT folks are blaming (laughing and crying at) business units for their unrealistic wishes and lack of understanding related to the various IT services and systems.

A best practices framework (called IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL) introduced the key processes for IT services and the common terminology for IT people; however it’s clear it isn’t the language of business people. They speak dollars and Euros, hours and minutes. I’m not going deeper into ITSM now; my wise friends from the ITSM sphere can help me with that. I’ll continue with wondering communication and organizational culture related to people, processes and tools.

From Land Border Discussions to Landscape Design

A common language does not solve all the challenges, but it sure supports better mutual understanding. I have recently experienced that often there’s a severe lack of trust between the departments (silos) and no common language. How on earth would they use social tools together?

Both understanding and trust are created in the interactions, in the value-creating relationships, between individuals within companies and also over the organizational borders. This is a must for value creation. An organization, that recognizes the customer value and customer experience as their core tasks, will be successful. I would like to describe its benefits with this metaphor:

An organization that, instead of “land border discussions”, invests in “landscape design”, where each part is creatively fitted into the environment, sometimes with some trial and error. This kind of organization can be more innovative and produce more value for the customer. And further, an organization which has managed to skip the land border talks and proceeds to landscape design, is able to learn both from its existing business environment, and also better perceive the future changes.

This kind of organization also learns not only more quickly but also smarter what ‘social’ really means. Check out one of my favorite blogger Harold Jarche, he discusses about smart learning, working smarter. The foundation for this kind of development lies on an open attitude and desire to learn.

New Structures of Work, Language Bath and the Process of Helping

How a silo-like organization will be a smart, learning, social organization? There are naturally lots of answers to that but here are three suggestions:

  1. New structures of work lead us towards a situation where departments and hierarchies as the operating platform for management, are becoming useless. We need to move towards distributed work structures and new kind of organizational landscape design is needed.
  2. A common understanding that is supported by language bath (nicer term for language immersion) so that the language does not form new barriers. Forget about placing people in the offices by the unit and role, mix them up, let them find their swarm, distribute work, crowdsource, and utilize collaboration tools effectively. This contributes to development of a common language and understanding.
  3. On top of these two, an entirely new process is needed: A Process of Helping. This new process together with the two previous points will help organizations to create value.

Point 3. is an idea which was presented by the pioneer of organizational development and culture Edgar H. Schein in a recent interview ”A Corporate Climate of Mutual Help” (pdf). He says wisely:

”Better teamwork requires perpetual mutual helping, within and across hierarchical boundaries.”

”…companies need to train their teams in the helping process. Most teams training that I’ve seen is focused on making people feel good about one another. But what I’m talking about is something much more profound and essential: knowing how to work with one another as equal partners in an operational setting.”

Beautiful. BTW I think it’s also applicable to a marriage.

Esko Kilpi describes the value creation in this kind of organization – and with this kind of attitude – in his interesting blog post from May 2010, “Online multiplayer games teaching management”. He suggests:

“The new landscape of work consists of the network as the architecture of work and work as interaction between non-co-located but interdependent people. The astonishing thing is that we can find an existing, efficient, working model for this kind of digital work. It is multiplayer online games and the game environment in general.”

“Acting in the game environment is always based on uncertainty. You can’t succeed in an uncertain environment without trial and error, without taking risks. You can’t embrace risk taking without accepting failures. Here the game environment is fundamentally different from most corporate cultures. In corporations the often-heard objection to trying out something is: “We’ve already tried it and it didn’t work!” The game environment approach is “Let’s try that again. The situation has changed and we have learned!” Frequent risk taking and confronting risks routinely help players to learn to keep paradoxes alive calmly and to live efficiently with continuous uncertainty.”

Very well put. I recommend that you read the entire post. I do favor an entrepreneurial attitude, risk taking and curiosity, genuinely taking all parties into account – the client first and foremost. Like in the game mechanics.

I do believe in the ideas of game mechanics and a new kind of business landscape design for the customer value creation. I’ll end this post by Esko’s wise words:

“Widespread adoption of game mechanics to communication, coordination and taking responsibility would require a dramatic change in the mainstream organizational culture. However, these games are here today and the generation that has grown up playing the games is growing up and joining corporations. They are going to be the drivers of the change towards a more productive and more fun work environment.”

And I feel genuinely good about the fact that he is speaking about my WoW playing son too. 

PS1. One aspect to the value creation is open innovation. Hutch Carpenter’s recent post about social CRM and innovation is excellent, he says:   “Open innovation is the two-way engagement with external parties to source, co-create and develop ideas that benefit the market and the company.” A topic for another post.

PS2. I’ve earlier written about this topic in Finnish, you’ll find it here.


Social Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, ready for the Social Business?

Supertramp album from 1975 - Photo by me

I recently found my old thesis, and yes, some of its topics and content are (still) relevant, as this one: the evolution of organization and work structures. The very same topic Esko Kilpi is researching. The discussion in my old thesis and Esko’s blog posts inspire me to learn more about this topic.

One chapter in my thesis starts with a quote by Michael Porter:

“Industries are profitable not because they are sexy or high tech; they are profitable only if their structures are attractive.”

Well put. Many industries and organizations are trying to score right under the constant change requiring new type of more adaptable structures. The development has been very rapid and raises increased demand for choice, chance, change and flexibility.

A number of concepts have been proposed and developed over the years. Earlier we spoke about Virtual Organizations, and now about Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business.

The evolution of organization and the work structures has been fascinating. More and more of our core business processes are cross-functional; and cutting company borders. And we all have seen that it can open up for aggressiveness and resistance to change.

If you put fences around people you get sheep

This quote above by William L. McKnight suits well for many organizations. Are we social wolfs in sheep’s clothing? The silo-like organization cannot act any better than a flock of sheep, and the genuine value creation requires a larger ecosystem. Esko Kilpi writes beautifully about this in his post “From systems to ecosystems”:

“Minimal hierarchy, organizational diversity and responsiveness characterize ecosystems. Ecosystems are a response to the increasing complexity of strategic horizons and short half-life of designs. To cope with the uncertainties firms see themselves and the world around them as ecosystems, where every unit, every node in the network, should engage with learning. Instead of centralized design and planning, the activities of exploration are the responsibility of the whole network. Because of greater complexity, coordination and communication cannot be planned in advance, controlled or managed hierarchically.

Authority needs to be distributed; it is no longer delegated vertically but emerges horizontally in the networked ecosystem. Under distributed authority work teams and knowledge workers need to be accountable to other work teams and other knowledge workers instead of a single boss. You need to have many “bosses”. Success at ecosystems depends on learning by mutual accountability and responsiveness. This is much more than matrix organizations or internal markets.”

He ends his post with wise words:  “Value creation cannot be understood as industrial systems any more, but as continuously developing, complex, responsive ecosystems of connected people.” I warmly recommend you read the entire post.

This discussion also reminds me of old article of Normann and Ramírez (From Value Chain to Value Constellation: Designing Interactive Strategy, Harvard Business Review, 1993). They stated that organizations that are going to survive in the changing environment are:

“[…] those looking beyond their immediate boundaries to the social and business systems in which they are enmeshed and discover new ways to reconfigure those systems in order to reinvent value for their customers.”

And this article is 18 years old.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Yes, it is a name of an excellent album by progressive rock band Supertramp, but also a question Larry E. Greiner raises up. Related to the issues described above I’ll find Greiner’s model of organizational growth and development very interesting. The model describes the way organizations change over time and how these changes can shape not only organizational structures but also management practices.

His model consists of five development phases, which are made of two stages; evolution and revolution. What he means is that each evolution stage causes its own revolution (crisis). The original phases and the following crisis are:

  1. Phase of evolutionary creativity followed by leadership crisis;
  2. Phase of directed evolutionary growth followed by an autonomy crisis;
  3. Phase of evolutionary growth through delegation followed by a control crisis;
  4. Phase of evolutionary growth through coordination followed by a crisis in bureaucracy; and
  5. Phase of evolutionary growth through collaboration followed by another crisis of unknown origin.

In 1998 Greiner added a 6th phase into his model: growth through extra-organizational solutions. It suggests that outsourcing, mergers, networks and other solutions involving other companies come into the picture.

However, the Greiner model emphasizes the age and size of the organization and the growth rate of the industry – but now we have a special addition to that, the paradigm change in the way we communicate.

Do you have the personality structure for the social business?

Associated with the fifth phase of collaboration Greiner speculated that the following crisis could be around the psychological saturation of the employees. He says:

“Intensive teamwork can dissipate employee efforts on the other hand, while on the other some may find the new behavioral concepts and techniques incompatible with their personality structure”.

What an interesting point of view! Think about the development and the challenges many Enterprise 2.0/Social Business initiatives are facing. Indeed, evolution and revolution on-going: on the system, ecosystem, and the personal level. Could we apply Greiner’s phases to the adoption of the Enterprise 2.0/Social Business?

Ha, I think my personality structure is made for social business. How about yours?

PS. For my Finnish readers, another natural association from Greiner’s model & Supertramp is, of course, Ismo Alanko’s song “Kriisistä kriisiin” (a Finnish song called From crisis to crisis).



Entrepreneur: An Adventurer with Inbuilt Crap Detector

Guy Kawasaki's Note to Me @ Paris 2010

Inspired by an interview of Francis Ford Coppola and by an old article about Ernest Hemingway, I compared their advice to my experiences as an entrepreneur.

I’ve blogged earlier about my favorite topic, tacit knowledge and its role in personal and organizational learning. Francis Ford Coppola’s words took me back to these thoughts. In the web magazine The 99 Percent’s interview  ‘On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration’ he describes his working methods and techniques, for example how making notes, e.g. writing down the first impressions of a novel, helps him to find what’s essential in it.

I have a habit of making notes all the time, not only in work related meetings and workshops, but also of novels, TV programs, movies, and discussions. When I look back at my notes I often find a new angle to the subject at hands, and realize that often my notes are implying something tacit, a piece of knowledge, an idea based on the quick unconscious association.

In the beginning of interview Mr. Coppola presents his code of ethics that directs his filmmaking. I’ll find it very interesting:

  1. Write and direct original screenplays
  2. Make them with the most modern technology available, and
  3. Self-finance them.

With little bit of imagination I dare to compare this to mine and my friends’ situation as entrepreneurs. These points tickle my thinking: Firstly, for an entrepreneur it is important to have a clear vision based on your big idea, which in turn should be based on the real customer need you’ve seen, maybe based the weak-ish signals you’ve seen before others have. Anyways, your basic idea must be robust. It is your original screenplay, your starting point.

Secondly, Coppola’s request for the most modern technology: that’s an easy one. In my case it is about utilizing Cloud Computing and during the coming months I need better understanding what part Social Technology have in my business. I have no clear picture of it yet. There’s luckily a very interesting discussion on-going (in Twitter) about social business. Just search #socbiz or #e20 in Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean. Learning new things daily!

Francis Ford Coppola’s third point about financing is one of the key (worrying) issues for an entrepreneur. As both in filmmaking and for entrepreneurship, it is a question about how much independence you have. For Coppola financing must be easy nowadays, but for young entrepreneurs it is often a major pain. It takes a lot of energy and time, which temporarily can cut off some of the enthusiasm.

Learning, Risk Taking and Collaboration as Key Capabilities

All these essential issues points at learning, our capability to unlearn and learn is central. To change and to be able to see what is not visible: the tacit things, the weak signals. One sentence in Coppola’s interview shows how important learning is even with 45 years successful career, he says:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema. Because the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old.

His humble quote is very true in any business. As our business environment is in huge change, we need to see it as new every day. For an entrepreneur this means making best guesses and taking risks. Francis Ford Coppola asks a striking question to which every entrepreneur can relate to:

If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?

Indeed. Further Mr. Coppola shares his idea of collaboration and his role as a director, with wise words:

You must never be the kind of director, I think maybe I was when I was 18, “No, no, no, I know best.” That’s not good. You can make the decision that you feel is best, but listen to everyone, because cinema is collaboration. I always like to say that collaboration is the sex of art because you take from everyone you’re working with.

His words remind me of Mitch Joel’s recent post ‘Market of One’, where he writes:

Just because you do something (or don’t do something) is no indication of how the market actually is and reacts.

A recommended read, you may recognize the pattern in your business environment, among partners, business angels, VCs. For an entrepreneur it is vital to listen to everyone, be curious, to truly collaborate, and not make assumptions based on your personal opinion only.

To me entrepreneurship is about learning, experimenting, collaborating, and taking risks. It is an adventure. And I feel like an adventurer.

We all have our own personal methods and tools to manage the adventure. For me it is a cocktail of many things, the base on my beloved Systems Thinking, but to name one thing that has changed my way of working: social media. After I’ve managed to find ‘my people’, especially in Twitter, social media has opened a new world of knowledge sharing and valuable, most interesting global network of smart people. Whenever I have time to participate I learn.

Another result of intense learning and studying within social media sphere is this blog. I started blogging as I felt that I need to write down the (often unstructured) ideas and thoughts, and get feedback from my network of smart people. The feedback is very valuable for the learning process: when I write I am often developing an ad hoc idea and the feedback makes me think and rethink. I do need that.

Related to this experience of making notes and blogging too, I share a wonderful old article of Hemingway in Cuba (The Atlantic, 1965) which partly inspired me to write this post. Hemingway experienced writing as inventing. Here’s a quote by him which I like very much:

Fiction-writing, Hemingway felt, was to invent out of knowledge. “To invent out of knowledge means to produce inventions that are true. Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down. If you’re going to write, you have to find out what’s bad for you. Part of that you learn fast, and then you learn what’s good for you.”

That’s basically what every entrepreneur needs too: Knowledge (network) out of which to invent, and a curious, open mind with a built-in crap detector.

I believe I don’t have to explain that.


I Gogoled: Social Communities and the Russian Classics

 

I didn’t google, but I Gogoled a bit. This post is not dead serious, it’s a product of my odd association – consider yourself warned.

I have always loved the Russian classics, especially novels by Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Mikhail Bulgakov. Many experience these as too heavy and melancholy, but not me. Ha, I’m a daughter of a librarian.

I am lucky to have a great people around me, many very vibrant ‘souls’, both people that are close to me in real life and also lovely personalities I’ve met in the social communities, especially Twitter. And from the vibrant, living souls my thought wandered to Gogol’s Dead Souls.

I picked up three out of my favorite Russian novels and paired them with a fitting phenomenon we’ve all seen in the social communities and in business. Here you are:

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

In the novel a character by name Chichikov collects dead souls. For Mr. Chichikov the number of dead souls manifests as property, and with large number of those, him being a wealthy man.

Diagnose: Number of Followers Mania

Aren’t the followers which do not share anything common with you a bit like dead souls? For example, in Twitter I am followed by a restaurant owner on the another side of the globe, several real estate agents running their local businesses far away from where I live, and so forth. I must be nothing but a dead soul for them. No harm done, I don’t mind, but I am afraid my SaaS, Cloud and Enterprise 2.0 tweets are pure noise to them.

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard is a story about an aristocratic Russian family who wishes to maintain the status of their present life and of the entire environment they are living, 100% unchanged, refusing to see any need for changing it.

Diagnose: Everything is Just Fine & I Don’t Need to Change Syndrome

Isn’t this family just like an organization (and its management) that wishes status quo to remain, in form of their existing strategy, position and competitive edge? An organization that refuse to embrace the emergence of social and mobile in their business environments?

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina describes the social issues on the 19th century, especially from perspectives of marriage, class, and from the different kinds of relationships between individuals.  With numerous interrelated plots unfolding on the way, on all levels.

Diagnose: Virtual Relationships & Drama Disorder

The wonderful, rich scene of relationships and the powerful characters forming counter parts, reminds me of the social community sphere: with all its beautiful interactions, valuable knowledge flows, its benefits and with its weaknesses. Altogether forming a sphere where there is room for all kinds of relationships, both growing ones, and yes, some unsuccessful ones. Or even some drama.

There are many other examples in the literature, but I’ll leave room for your imagination.

One more thing, here’s a classic quote by Leo Tolstoy from Anna Karenina’s Chapter 1. For some reason I’ve always liked it:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Luckily social communities don’t have to be like a happy family all the time: there’s room for all emotions, diversity, different opinions. Let us continue to build and develop vibrant communities, with respect towards each other, and focus on learning and value creation!


It is All About Relationships!

My friends Christina Forsgård and Juha Frey have written an interesting book about social media, and how it is inevitably changing the leadership/management, marketing and communication. I’ve discussed this book in Finnish, here are few points I translated into English. The name of the book is SUHDE, which means Relationship in Finnish.

First, a confession: I am somewhat biased in the topic of social media. I do already believe that we’re in the middle of the paradigm shift when it comes to communication and the way we work. Christina’s & Juha’s book have a strong message to C-level, “this is something you have to understand as it affects on your entire organization”.

The book describes and crystallizes the on-going change:

This is not a social media tool exercise; this is about a fundamental change in the way we communicate and work.

Unfortunately the public discussion in Finland has reduced social media into Facebook only. This reminds me of my favorite quotes from Sirkku Peltola’s play (my translation):

Poor you, carefully watching the tiny candle on the table while the entire mansion is burning behind your back!

I very much like the clarity by which Christina and Juha have identified the key areas of change, and managed to draw the big picture for the leaders – including the threats. Ignoring social media is a big risk, your mansion will burn, (and your bonuses too).

It’s Management Responsibility. The power of social media will be realized only if the management is active part of the game. The success requires new kind of leadership and a supporting organizational structure. In ‘Silo Organizations’ with high power distance between the management and personnel, acting in a collaborative, social way is not familiar inside the organization, and therefore double as hard if not impossible, outside of it. Collaborative, social way of working is not a responsibility of the communication or marketing department, but the management’s!

All the Moomins in the Valley? In the cosy launch event of the book Juha Frey compared collaborative, social way of working to the Moomin Valley and its lovely inhabitants. If the personnel of the organization acts impersonally and by too strict rules when communicating with its various stakeholders (blogging, tweeting and discussing) – it will be experienced as not genuine but fake. Successful utilization of social media requires personalities, or at least a personal touch!

Companies should build their social media presence as a joint effort, with passion and authenticity. In case where social media activities are mechanic and not interactive, or the activities are outsourced to an external Social Media Guru – there’s no way to become ‘digi-mature’ (Juha’s word referring to organization’s maturity with social media), not even ‘digi-teenager’.

Marketing Communication Professionals must unite. Juha’s and Christina’s message to every communication and marketing professional is clear: stop complaining and defending your responsibility area, start the work to find suitable roles, and finally explore your own attitude towards the new way of working:

  • Customers and partners are not passive targets for your activities but active players in the same equation.
  • Social media is primarily not sales and marketing channel, but a channel and tool for the new kind of PR/work on the relationships.
  • It’s time to leave the illusion of control. The discussion about your brand is no longer possible to control – but you can, and you should, participate in that discussion.

The book very vividly describes how the mechanisms of influence have changed, and further how good social media strategy and activities, and relationships based on trust, lead to a more stable and long-lived customer and partner relationships. It’s all about the relationships!

One of the wisest moves the writers have made is to leave the tools discussion out of the scope: various tool set instructions get old at the moment they are written. I would like to call SUHDE book as “A Handbook of Understanding the Collaborative, Social Way of Working”. There are many important themes in the book, which I did not touched now. I will certainly come back to these later on. A recommended read (if you can Finnish).

Move your focus away from the tiny candle – it does not warm up for a long time.


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