Tag Archives: The Power of Pull

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?

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Trust-based Collaboration and Cultural Differences

Being silent isn't being strong. A wall sign I saw in a pub in Liverpool earlier this year.

This is a summary post of the topics I have been writing about during 2011. This has been an amazing year of social networks for me. I have learned a lot from hundreds of people around the globe. I highly value the network of the brilliant, talented, and trustworthy people I have the pleasure to collaborate with.

Thank you all for 2011, you know who you are!  

As more social business environment and the new ways of working are changing the organizations and reforming the entire business landscape  I’ll find it important and very interesting to study how we create and innovate, make decisions, and further how better mutual understanding can be created. We all know that the existing organizational structures needs a refresh, and that we, knowledge workers, should be passionate about helping our organizations to be more open, learning organizations.

One among many answers to this challenge is to focus on recognizing the value of ‘discovering’ people in your global network and further interacting and connecting with them on new levels. Naturally, different cultures and communication styles can then collide, softly or sometimes violently. Let me share a story about the Finnish way.

The Finnish Habit of Positive Silence

We Finns can easily be silent in company with other people. It’s natural to us. Before the social media we used to love text messages, a Finnish innovation by the way, as you could express yourself shortly and efficiently. Foreigners find our momentarily silence odd – or fascinating. Professor of Communication Donal Carbaugh, from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, have written an excellent paper about this – Silence and Quietude as a Finnish“Natural Way of Being” [pdf], with the following description:

“A Finnish communication code that structures some cultural scenes as occasions for positive silence, exhibiting a social model of personhood for which this is a valued, respected, and natural practice.”

Another expression on this topic is this short article of the Helsinki Times – No small talk please, we’re Finnish, in which freelance journalist Susan Fourtané describes her experiences:

“I particularly enjoyed the thoughtfulness and the moments of silence in between, giving space for observing our own thoughts before speaking. Yes, you have heard it right. Finns don’t do small talk. They don’t think a moment of shared silence is awkward. On the contrary, it is part of the conversation. A direct question gets a direct answer. There is no nonsense talk about nothing. There is no asking “How are you?” ten times until someone says something else, or stating the obvious. Finns are more interested in how you think, how you perceive Finland or what keeps you in this small and cold country, as they refer to beautiful and peaceful Finland.”

We Finns definitely do have lots to learn about the more social and collaborative way of work, but I think we also have something valuable to share with our fellow citizens from other cultures and nations. The habit of small talk is a part of Anglo-American cultural sphere, and please note that I am not saying that there is something wrong with it. Our different habit, the positive silence, is as strange for foreigners as the excessive small talk is to many of us. All in all, what is needed is openness and curiosity in front of the different communication habits.

My interpretation of Professor Carbaugh’s great notion of positive silence is: we are taking time for thinking and reflecting. It is basically about respect towards your discussion partner. I do believe that occasionally ‘shutting up our mouths’ enables better listening, which in the best case this can lead to better understanding. Naturally, being too silent (also typical here) or silent in the wrong situations is nothing to recommend.

The Wrong Kind of Silence

Nilofer Merchant has marvelously described the wrong kind of silence. She tells a story when she was working at Apple: when she saw the problem clearly and others didn’t, she didn’t think she had the right or the capabilities to speak out – she was too worried about being wrong. This kind of ‘wrong’ silence is hurting the outcome, she continues, and emphasizes the importance of thinking together:

“…minority viewpoints have been proven to aid the quality of decision making in juries, by teams and for the purpose of innovation. Research proves then even when the different points of view are wrong, they cause people to think better, to create more solutions and to improve the creativity of problem solving.”

She calls after courage to speak and to take risks. “Enthusiasm, naïveté, fear of repercussions, conformity to the group norms, and even wisdom are all things that can influence whether someone speaks up or not.”

Her thinking inspires me to researching this topic of encouragement, listening, and mutual respect for better outcome and understanding.

The Culture of Curiosity, Listening and Respect

As an entrepreneur I highly value discussions where there are no pre-set ‘rights and wrongs’, where openness and curiosity are self-evident, and where mutual respect gives room for different kinds of thinking and thoughts. If ever now we need this kind of approach. And if in any organization it is in a startup or growth company that this is vital. There must be a place for expressing our ideas freely and also to take the time for reflection.

I truly believe that creativity, innovation, and better decision-making, both in startups and in established organizations, require at least some investments in these three capabilities:

  1. Applying so-called Systems Intelligence,
  2. Recognition of the value and importance of Serendipity (the weak links and the edges),
  3. Recognition of the value and importance Listening.

Luckily many of these are a natural part of the startup DNA. A startup company benefits from an open and cooperative style; we need use both sides of our brains and become better listeners. Let me explain.

Firstly, the Systems Intelligence Theory by Finnish Philosopher and Professor Esa 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 innovation, decision-making, and shared understanding. Being strictly rational in your work role is not working anymore. We need to utilize our full potential.

Secondly, it is important to realize the value of serendipity and of being active ‘on the edges’, as John Hagel, Lang Davison & John Seely Brown describe in the Power of Pull model. 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, curious expedition is needed. We gather around ‘social objects’ and connect, and build relationships for mutual learning and helping.

The third capability is about the value and importance of listening. I serendipitously bumped into a beautiful TED Talk by Julian Treasure. In his talk Julian presents the filters that we use when listening and through which the reality is created for us: culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions. He also shares his 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 these four verbs should be part of our personal decision-making, learning processes, and leadership. Julian says aptly: Conscious listening creates understanding. This is not too far away from the positive silence thinking.

The discussion around topic of listening is not a new one; see this excellent old article published in Harvard Business Review in 1957: Listening to People. The article states that “the effectiveness of the spoken word hinges not so much on how people talk as on how they listen.” There are several gold grains in it, as for example “when people talk, they want listeners to understand their ideas.“ Touche!

Trust-based Collaboration

What it is I mean with all this talk about Finnish traits and the social business? Let me sum it up with three examples, all originated from Finland; Linus Torvalds of Linux Foundation, Mårten Mickos of MySQL/Eucalyptus Cloud, and the newcomer Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio/Angry Birds. I personally experience all three fellow entrepreneurs as great examples of appliers of the communication style and culture that have deep origins in the ‘Finnish way’. All of them are successful in their businesses and more or less global citizens, but none of them have entirely thrown away their Finnish roots and foundation.

It’s not only about the substance, their wide knowledge, experience, and creativity, but also about their specific networking and collaboration skills which could be described as trust-based collaboration (and I am pretty sure that some positive silence is included). 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. Linus, Mårten and Peter are mastering is this. And they are passionately curious.

On top of all this we have now the various social communities which are the true leverage points of the cultural transformation, both inside and outside of the organization, between the organizations, individuals, and nationalities.  Trust and successes can be built on this.

Happy New Year 2012! Let your year be filled with happiness, health, serendipity, and love!


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.


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