I like to think of myself as being relentlessly human in my approach to business, and life really. What I've found is that this can often make people very uncomfortable. That tearing at the walls of our self-imposed dysfunction is a tough position to lead with. Telling people their baby is ugly tends to throw up a few defenses. Who knew?
I've certainly adapted my approach in influencing others to embrace
change, but I am not so willing to go quietly into that dark night. I am not so
willing to succumb to the depression driven cynicism needed to fuel the
business as usual, people-never-change approach. The global culture shifts of the last
50 years guide me to that position. I am however not one to embrace the rah-rah
fluffy, nothing-to-hold-onto, reliance on our potential for
I need pragmatism with telescope more than pragmatism with a microscope. There is always a bigger picture and it needs to be seen if there is any hope for us.
In our work of helping organizations adapt, the argument often manifests as the hard world of real business vs. the soft world of driving the behaviors of our human capital, or simplified further as tools and people and process. To see these two sides of our experience as the only two sides shows our lack of perception and often willful, comfort-seeking ignorance. I see it as cowardly protectionism. I get that it sounds harsh. To me, it's not unlike climate deniers. We are multifaceted creatures who are deeply interdependent. To ignore this reality is dysfunction. It is a lie we often tell ourselves. We obfuscate and build a plausible arguments of rationale bolstered by skillfully curated data, marketing messages, pretty infographics, ROI calculators designed to support our stories and sell a notion to the board, methodologies that increase the number of hits, actions, connections, responses, etc. We apply a laser focus to the things we know we can impact, usually in an effort to make a chart rise or fall, whichever reaches the bottom line goal. We are risk averse (business lingo for frightened) to the ideas we are less sure of having impact on. We idolize and canonize those with the bravery to behave differently and see another road.. but only after they've made a billion in the process… gotta have those hard numbers! We so limit ourselves through fear, and we've all seen the dysfunctional cultural results of leading with fear.
Our org ecosystems mirror our relationships and life outside of the org. All of the complexity and depth required to be truly excellent (or innovative, or effective, or truly successful as an org, or a species) must be embraced to really make a difference and move the world on. A better phone, a new methodology, another way to harvest marketing data, a more controlled way to broadcast "communications" to employees don't achieve this. We achieve this in how we choose to leverage that phone, our data, and where we apply our skill for creating process. The mold needs a hammer and more and more of us willing to swing it. We can't rely on the edge dwellers to be our only change makers. And we have to stop assuming that our edge dwellers are all technologists.
The more idyllic notion of E2 and its marketing-based cousin, Social Business, was that we'd all be so open that the irrefutable truth would be exposed and would be catalyst to the future of work. Where we hire well, trust and share and build healthy working relationships that offer one another a hand up and out of our Tayloristic industrial age. A new model for the new age, an opportunity to put down the stupid stuff and get to the good stuff. We know that hasn't happened yet. Right now we're busy with the microscope and the slide show. We aren't taught or rewarded for any other behavior.
The prevalent business training does not appear to value these notions of improvement. Improvement is simply identified as MORE with no critical thinking or sustainable logic to support what MORE gets us. The education issue is a link in the chain of broken models that we will have to adapt over the next century, to include our markets and governing ideas. You know... the whole notion of how to be a sustainable planet and species. The change we are feeling so impacted by is one that will come in fits and starts for the rest of your lifetime. We'll look up in another 20 years and be astonished by the rapidity with which it is all happening and how far we still have to go. Some of it will be a hell of a lot more amazing than the shiny phones in our pockets or the app that allows us to order dinner on the way home from the office. To that I say, nice. BFD. How's that humanity coming?
To see any of these changes we must first be willing to make the change personally. A collaborative world doesn't work until you participate. You. Not your employees, not your audience, no driving others as they were cattle. It begins with you understanding your part in the change and fighting the urge to be a Human Denier. Talk to your colleagues. Open up the discussion. Get it started. Think about how you can change your part of the work. Think about getting rid of the stupid things. If you think your actions don't have impact you just might be suffering from a bit of denial.
"Technology is a big destroyer of emotion & truth… opportunity doesn't do anything for creativity. Yeah, it makes it easier and you can get home sooner. But it doesn't make you a more creative person. That's the disease you have to fight in any creative field... ease of use. "
As someone who spends her days trying to straddle the Berlin Wall of the technology vs. people story and make it more human, I found this statment profound and wonderful. To me, it sounds like Jack demands depth, and that the depth comes from real work, and maybe even discomfort.
Here we have a guy of passion and depth, so intimatley connected to the root and source of his passions that bedazzling them with technology beyond a pickup and some noisy pedals is a degridation of the whole. Beyond Jack White's brilliance there is the framing of the statement. It comes from a fantastic 2008 film called It Might Get Loud. An exploration of three iconic, and very different guitar players, Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge. You bounce from hearing about The Edge's OCD effects rig and Jimmy Page's description of him as a "Sonic Architect" to Jack's contrasting statements about technology, to include the brilliant example in the image above, where Jack crafts a guitar from scraps. The thing is, they are both absolutely correct and the outcomes are equally brilliant. Which brings me to the point.
I say this ad nasuem, it is never all or nothing. It is never technology or people. Our constructs of right and wrong are skewed and out of balance when it comes to that basic, foundational perspective. They have been for decades, centuries, millenia… depending on your choice of diety (or lack of one) I suppose. Marketing has been yanking on this lever for as long as communications have been possible. Our monkey brains find comfort and ease in simple equations and the Tarzan-speak of good vs. bad. We are a species bound together by depth, complexity and surface tension. If we omit an element of who we are we tip, and ultimatley, either course correct or fall. We see this in our trade systems, our health care systems, our emergency managment systems, our enterprise tech, banks, our work, and relationships....
When we cling to stories about what's worked in the past as evidence to 'right' we need to go deeper and explore the whole of the story. Success, in the past, has been defined by very narrow critera. In business it's usually, "did we make the expected profit?". So many strategy plans simply omit any consideration of excellence, sentiment, quality of relationships, or the wellbeing of those involved as "soft" or "not our job". That autistically rationalized answer often came at the expense of someone, and that expense very often does not materialize within the assessment of success. Immediatley we tip again, ensuring ultimate failure and a repeated attempt. Regardless of human or financial costs. The monkeys are at it again.
Our critera for success is broadening. This is felt in the disruption we're witnessing across the globe. We're growing weary of business as usual. We're (at a painfully slow pace) growing weary of inhuman practices in the name of business. Cynicisim is the manifestation of fear that inhibits meaningful change, and ensures long term failure. We're feeling that too. Just read a newspaper for examples.
I'll stand in the front row and testify. I'll shout a loud amen and agree whole heartedly with Jack White. I'll applaud him for embracing those who have wildly different approaches to the same work as well. On the way home from that tent revival I'll bounce from a Jack track to a Flying Lotus track. My mind will be equally blown and my need for rhythm satisfied by both.
I don't want an easy answer when someone asks me "what kind of music do you like?".I'm working hard to embrace complexity, to learn something every day, to freak myself out a little and grow as a person. I don't want a box to check or a best practices plan to follow. The prevailing criteria is too limiting. The models too historic. I'm working on a mind that is open to personal disruption, and hope there are others who seek the same. Ultimately all of this change we're talking about has to begin at a personal level. I can't ask anyone to do something I'm not willing to do. It doesn't matter how good my intentions are, the ask will fail.
Truly meaningful positive change doesn't often come with a strategy plan. It happens in cycles of deconstruction and construction, when we make room for it and get beyond good vs. bad, people vs. technology, right vs. wrong. Grab a wider lens. Let go. What you see will surprise you and change you forever.
btw, if you haven't checked out Blunderbuss yet, wth are you waiting for?
I rant about Facebook. A lot. I'm not sorry. I know I'm among a legion of FB haters. My buddy @rhappe responded to one of my many anti-FB rants by telling me that I should write a blog post titled "Why Facebook is the worst thing that ever happened to social media" and here it is.
The idea that openness and connection are the social mission of FB is laughable at best when you consider the relationship that's been built between FB and its users.
Let me be clear right up front that I am deeply aware that users of FB are far from its customers. Its customers are the ones who fork over cash to cack up your stream with ads lightly aligned to the information you've offered up, either through use, or through the rouse of giving an app access to your every move. FB is simply the one who provides the space, ever encroaching space, and the logic to those customers.
Now, onto why FB's mission is disingenuous. Having a relationship with FB is impossible. It's like having the great and powerful OZ as a landlord. It simply doesn't exist. They don't even have a visible spokesperson who engages with the community to figure out what users or customers might want. The model is ancient; a singular, secretive (unless you spend your cycles keeping tabs on their every move or sifting through the double speak in blog posts and press releases) plan to increase the number of eyeballs and hits on links. They are taking the newspaper ad sales approach, but the quality of content is more Weekly World News than WSJ. I've often referred to FB as the awkward, amorous boy on his first date, doing the old Yaaaawn, arm goes around the girls shoulders and hand sinks a little lower than it should, stretch. FB preys on what a friend of mine likes to call "the dumb kids".
(Charming - Thanks Mark, I feel very connected! How did you know I wanted to be an Astrology Counselor at a School?! Wait, is that even a thing?)
The most important way that FB's mission is crap has to do with the information bubble the user is placed in. You'll note this deeply with the "top" stories (based on what? and whom?) vs. the recently posted filter, and in screaming volumes when you move from the mobile app to the web experience. So much filtering is going on that it's common to simply not see all of your friends posts because you haven't interacted with some of them recently (uh, that's why we're FB friends. To stay connected despite a loose tie.) Don't worry though, you'll see the ads! Phew!
Why is the this the worst thing to happen to social media? Because the mission is misleading and it's teaching those with no big picture view (the kind who live and die based on so called best practices instead of personal depth or development) the "successful" way to build a network. When we consider all that's good and promising about social media, transparency (for all), serendipity, connection and the ability to mobilize quickly when we need to, each of these elements are not shared between the user population and Facebook. The transparency is foisted on users, not shared. The serendipity is being programmed out to ensure it only supports FB and ad sales. The connection? Only if your activity patterns align with the algorithm that feeds ad sales. If we can't see and don't know what's happening we can't mobilize, hell, we can't even seem to impact FB's road map. Imagine how the increasing info bubble could have impacted the Arab Spring events.
Facebook's assertions are rarely backed up with actions that match and that's the why FB is the worst thing ever to happen to social media. They are inauthentic, and lack integrity. They still don't understand their civic responsibilities. Pretty harsh statements, I know. But precedent has been set, that with a thin demonstration of acceptable human behavior and a little bit of code, you can launch an app, create a network, then hold that network hostage. It is a model that has played out over and over in the dearth of networks that have sprung up since FB's' ascent, where the wide, dollar-signed eyes of investors got a peek at social networking as the future of big biz. That mere presence assumes engagement. It's 0-1 thinking and it's damaging.
What FB is missing is engagement. Engagement is the human element that keeps things from going off the money-grubbing rails. Engagement meaning, a real relationship with the users of the network. A mutual exchange of benefits, ideas, and involvement. That is what true transparency looks like. That is how you create meaningful opportunities for serendipity, and that is how we are able to act as a connected community. What we are now is batteries in the Matrix. Ducks being turned into foie gras conversion opportunities.
Personally, I'm still on FB because I live 3000k miles away from my family and closest friends. I'm here because everyone else is here. There are other options, however they are not options that have enough adoption to make for a meaningful transition. I'd simply lose touch with a large hunk of folks that I am genuinely interested in keeping a connection with. I use it a lot. I never click on ads, play games, add apps or use the "social news" features. If something interests me I'll Google it. If I'm asked for more information I decline, and if you're my FB friend, you'll suffer from my embittered rants with some (hopefully not too much) frequency.
I've considered leaving a million times. Of late, I've been thinking of returning to my blogs and inviting my friends to grab a feed if they are interested in one of them. I know with that route that I'm back to losing hunks of friends. FB has made me a bitter, willing captive. The one thing that is true on this planet is change, especially in the fickle and ADD world of tech. Empires diminish and fall quickly. I honestly don't expect all of us to be here 2-3 years down the line. I'm really looking forward to the next step in the evolution of social networking, and the time when we mature meaningfully around the offerings and use of social media.
Grow up, Facebook. It's time to leave your awkward 20's and move on to more adult relationships. Those who don't grow, die.
A quote that went well with an earlier BoingBoing post - Boing Boing
I saw a post from RWW over the holiday weekend. It irked me in the way uninformed infographics and Fox News irk me. Promoting a salacious little sliver of a larger story in an already highly confused environment does little to help anyone. It tends to promote a bunch of rubbernecking that keep us distracted from real issues. I do get that these polls are usually more about increasing page views than scientific research. In the end, it does offer illustration to a long neglected point.
The post came in response to a marketing gimmick Huddle is touting. The story we get? Huddle is guaranteeing adoption! Should all vendors do that?
The story we don't get? Adoption is defined as well as many enterprises are defining it. Here's what the Huddle site has to offer in defining adoption:
Let me change the language a little bit to clarify. An active user is one who has "performed at least one auditable action" over the course of the 90 day period. I'm guessing that means it's an action you can find record of in the db. Not sure what that set looks like in Huddle's reporting. It could be logged in, perhaps a page view, updated a profile, performed a search.....
Once. One time. That means a user has adopted. Does that sound like meaningful adoption to you? Worth the money? With numbers like that we've all adopted Google Wave, Path, and other screaming tool successes. Right? What do you think user sentiment is for a site visited once in 90 days?
The reality is that it's time we woke up around our responsibilities in successful adoption. We are doing more than buying IT, deploying it, and posting a mission accomplished banner in the office. Adoption, meaningful impact-yielding adoption, demands true engagement, a cycle of member feedback that is acted upon, relevance, and trust in our relationship to the tools as well as those engaged in the network. None of which happens in 90 days, and certainly not in an environment where adoption is consciously defined as one log in = success.
We're smarter than this folks. Know what you're solving. Listen to your members. Fix an actual work problem. Engage your employees in a meaningful, authentic way. Define adoption up front, as you should the terms collaboration and engagement. Know what these terms mean to your organization. Steer clear of gimmicks. As much as we all may want one, there is no magic pill. We're being challenged to steward a change to a better work experience. The deft weilding of thoughtful tools to facilitate that can speed things up dramatically. The opposite, well, you know the rest.
OK. Soapbox, dismount. How about a poll where we see how enterprises are defining adoption? Does anyone have links to real research there?
What we could all really use in our work is a scratch track. In recording it's a running back up, a live reference mark. You use a scratch track to record a rough expected outcome that guides the finish work. If you're lucky, it's a lightening in a bottle. You may find yourself with a spectacular new idea. You press record knowing that there's a much higher (almost expected) rubbish outcome to be achieved on that track, that the focus is the finish work. Doesn't matter. It's muscle memory to do it. It's the process you trust. It's through that process that you make room for the really good stuff. Most creative activities have some version of this.
Social collaborative tools offer a scratch track. Our trail of serendipitous breadcrumbs. A bubbling of an idea that someone, or some group can align with and get excited about. I often wish we realized how creative seemingly rigid corporate roles really are. Especially through times of shift. I believe its part of what we talk about when we cry for innovation in corporate spaces. When we exercise that muscle memory and build a trail of breadcrumbs we see trends, opportunities, and flaws faster. With that intelligence we might not be so married to the oft repeated, not-so best practices and wasteful habits large enterprises tend to assume as operating norm. We also open the door to lightening in a bottle ideas that rigid processes often close.