Principles of a Social Business Strategist

Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen some incredible successes implementing social business solutions both personally and from my peers. As I look for my next opportunity to drive social business inside of organizations, I wanted to build and share a list of principles that I believe are critical for the success of any social business strategy.

  • Focus on other’s success, not your own – This isn’t about you. Your key objective should be to make the people who can benefit from social successful. You can do this by offering possible solutions to their business challenges without being preachy. Establish a good reputation inside the company as a person who will help you be successful. One way to facilitate this would be to share your goals & objectives publicly so that others can see what your motivations are. (see: Continue reading “Principles of a Social Business Strategist”

You can run, but you cannot hide

Today’s post is a writeup I did for the GIT Society for Information and Communications Technology newsletter which is targeted at information and technology professionals in Austria:

You can run, but you cannot hide

There are changes coming that you cannot avoid. For many, this will change the way we work and will force us to re-evaluate how we share information inside our organizations.

While social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter may or may not be in your future, you may not have a choice but to be “social” inside your organization. Companies are starting to see the advantages of opening up information and allowing it to flow freely. This isn’t appropriate for all information of course, but many topics such as operational excellence, product Q&A and employee communications all benefit from Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and transparency. This allows people who have an interest in the information to find it easily and leads to things such as increased sales, reduced costs and improved satisfaction.

Having this type of accessible information is essential for competing in a global market where time zones and languages may make collaborating difficult. By having information available, it makes finding things faster and provides better agility allowing organizations to outmaneuver the competition.

Even if your organization does not have an ESN today, there is a high likelihood that you will soon. Many business applications you already use are adding social components to their applications, and platforms like Yammer are already accessible to your workers. By understanding how ESN’s drive change in your organization, you can be prepared for this shift before it happens and ready to leverage it when it does.

The loss of in-person communication skills

I was at my local climbing gym last night, and saw something disturbing. A mother and daughter next to each other, each with their noses buried in their smart devices, totally ignoring each other. This went on for over 2hrs. While this isn’t breaking news, I am dismayed by what seems to be  happening to us. Are we eventually going to lose our ability and desire to communicate in person? To entertain each other when bored?

Do you whip out your smartphone in the middle of a conversation without even thinking about it? It would seem to send the message:

You’re really not worth my attention, so instead I’ll focus on someone/something that is.

Are we sending the wrong message to our kids?

We seem to prefer our connections over our relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone, but I have to wonder what it’s doing to me as well.

Is this just normal evolution, or are we choosing a path that will have longer term impacts on our future?

Developing the Social Management Team

I’ve been around Enterprise 2.0 (or Social Business) for more than 3 yrs now. Since going to my first Enterprise 2.0 conference in 2008, I have been fortunate to be part of one of the most successful deployments of social technology in a large company (Computer World) to date. The approach was not filled with business cases and justification, but instead was largely fed by need and opportunity.

As I work with more organizations, I realize that a common trend is emerging. There is a group of people in the company that are generally not convinced that the social enterprise is the next best thing; Middle Management. While many other parts of the organization have been addressed by practitioners, this audience remains mostly ignored, with many feeling that they’ll just come along if everyone else does.

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Information overload is an excuse

One of the things we talk about extensively in Social Business is we are asking everyone to contribute and collaborate. This will ultimately generate a lot of content. We seem to think since the amount of content is increasing that we are going to be exposed to Information Overload. The reality is we will, but only because most of us lack the discipline to focus our attention on what matters and to filter everything else out. Only part of this is a technology issue, most of it is about getting our arms around and managing our attention.

More and more studies are indicating that despite what we may believe (or what today’s teens try to tell us), our brains suck at multi-tasking. Additionally, this constant switching influenced by multiple stimuli is actually making us less productive. Back in 2009, Kathleen Culver and I talked about the Dark Side of Enterprise 2.0 at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco. In this talk, Kathleen laid out that attention is a limited resource and is as valuable as time and money.

I call out this because already people are thinking this is a tools problem, but in actuality the best tools in the world will have a difficult time keeping up with how quickly our priorities can change in our daily business/personal lives. For example, Your boss calls you and says there is a problem that needs to be taken care of right away. Because this was a direct request, you drop everything you are doing and focus on resolving the problem. During this time your tools are providing you information that is in your normal workflow. During this time of crisis, this isn’t valuable information; it’s noise. If we are disciplined, we shut down all the tools that are causing us to lose focus on the immediate goals, but often this only solves part of the problem. We are still bombarded with alerts either on our phones, via e-mail or perhaps Instant Messages. Most of us are not disciplined, and instead we try to ignore all the distractions, often with marginal success.

Why do we have such a hard time with this? Some of it is actually a social problem. Consumer applications like Facebook have conditioned us that there are potential social impacts of “un-following” someone. This consequence generally makes it easy to follow and, awkward at best, to un-follow. This social awkwardness seems to have made the leap into our business lives and actually makes it harder to filter out the noise.

In companies one of the biggest activities is the “project”. Most projects have a start and and end. When a project is over, the work is complete, the team disbands,and in some cases, you may never interact with some of the people ever again, yet we don’t take the time to go and un-follow them and instead try to ignore the alerts, crying “foul” and “information overload”.

We are all responsible for managing our attention. The amount of information we are confronting will continue to increase we have no control over that. We need to educate co-workers that it’s OK to un-follow and that Social Business is not a popularity contest. We need to tell vendors that the tools need to improve and make adjusting information flow quickly, easier. In the end, it is still up to us to be self-disciplined to ensure we are properly managing our attention to avoid information overload.

What are your techniques for managing your attention?

Image courtesy of: TZA

Uncertainty of Change

I must admit, it caught me totally off guard. It snuck up on me at the most inopportune time. It was my first call with my new boss. As a result, I didn’t represent myself in a way that I wanted. It  caused me to act out in ways that reminded me of my kids. Yet, I remind myself even more that could be exactly how I make others feel when trying to push change through an organization.

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Social – It’s about being yourself

Occasionally, I want to share posts that I post internally with a broader audience that I believe we all face in the Enterprise 2.0 space. This post was a result of real conversations that I’ve had with people about our internal social collaboration space (called: “Engage”).

From: thedailyblonde.comI’ve had some interesting dialog with people lately about Engage. From “My boss is making us do this ‘Engage thing'” to “I don’t have time”, to “This is so confusing”. These are all real concerns and apprehensions. I believe that as a community, it is our job to welcome and help these people face and perhaps overcome these apprehensions and help them “fit in”.

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Arrogance: The 2.0 Killer

Let’s face it, most of us disdain arrogance, yet some of us practice this unbecoming behavior unintentionally. In this very competitive world, it is very difficult to exude confidence to make people believe in you without sounding arrogant, but yet that challenge is what each of us must consider when managing our brands.

As brand fanatics, we align ourselves to certain brands in both our personal and professional lives. How would you feel if that trusted brand started trying to make itself look good by putting the competition down or embarrassing you? Would you still be a brand fanatic? For how long?

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What’s wrong with being “Social” at work anyway?

Social may be a 4 letter word in some companies, but I have to wonder why? Social is nothing new to enterprises, the only thing is we are now labeling it.

In the “Old Days”, companies encouraged their workers to socialize and party together. Sometimes even going so far to build communities for their workers to live in. Why did they do this? For the company of course. The feeling was that this interaction made people work better together producing more, generating more profit, building loyalty.

A more recent trend was to replace offices with cubes. While some would state that the purpose was to reduce cost of  real estate, others suggest that this was done to encourage casual knowledge exchange. While I personally didn’t like the distractions of a cube, the things I heard over cube walls helped me on many occasions.

Continue reading “What’s wrong with being “Social” at work anyway?”

The importance of being positive

As a “technology guy”, I used to say, “All I need is a computer and a problem”. But over the years, I realize how wrong that was. It’s working with people that gives me the greatest energy and reward. But I realized something about myself. When I get frustrated, it becomes harder to keep a positive outlook on things. Staying positive takes a lot of energy.

I recently presented to a group of colleagues during a Professional Development Conference in Naperville, IL. During this presentation, it was easy to be positive, as I was talking a lot about Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration, both of which I am passionate about and feel are vitally important to the success of our company.

At the same time, I also deal with a lot of critics. I found myself drafting e-mails with a certain “edginess” to them. Chances are, if I sent that e-mail, it would have been taken poorly. Fortunately, after many years of failures with this approach, I had the foresight to take a step back and try to think about how my e-mail would be received. I went back to one of my Key Takeaways from the presentation I had given:

Stay positive, even when dealing with Jerks

Now, I won’t say that this particular correspondent was being a jerk, I did find myself remembering to practice what I preach. And while being in person gives the recipient the added benefit of engaging all 5 senses, on-line communication only gives you words, not emotions, no body language, no visual clues whatsoever.

With that, I took some time, went back and deleted the draft (yes, deleted, no editing) and started again.  This time, focusing on making sure that I was looking to maintain my positive attitude. I felt much better about the correspondence and even received a much better response than I expected. This stuff works.

I have somewhat of a reputation of being a “Corporate Pot Stirrer”. While this clearly makes some people feel uncomfortable, I try to raise issues in a way that is respectful, and ultimately what is best  for our company. With this approach, I am able to get my points across, raise some eyebrows, but get people to engage in the discussions. That is the most important thing for me, as this is how I learn, how I teach and shape (and sometimes change) opinion on any give issue. If I was negative, flaming, condescending, etc. I know I would probably be engaged in many different discussions (possibly even with HR).

While this all may seem like common sense, I felt that writing this might help remind us all of the importance of being positive, no matter what.