Archives for category: social business movement

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My father worked in the same company for more than 40 years. He started at the bottom, climbed the corporate ladder and retired in his 60’s. His company took care of him. He had a healthy pension, a great social work environment – he felt respected and rewarded by his. In exchange for these benefits, he had to settle: Don’t rock the boat. Keep your head down and do what others tell you. At one point, you can tell others what to do.

This world has disappeared. There are no more pensions. If corporations find somebody cheaper to do your job, you’re gone. No loyalty. No real connection between employee and employer. Just a business deal.

The  sad truth is: you’re on your own.

The exciting truth is: you’re on your own.

If you believe that following orders or going with the flow will get you anywhere, you’re better off try to make a living selling fridges in Alaska. The deal we had is gone. And it won’t come back. That’s why we need to create a new deal.

As an employee, you’re a free agent. You might still enjoy all the benefits of a corporation and the juicy expense accounts but you’re on the hot seat, ready to be  replaced by a cheaper, younger and (insert adjectives here) employee. In order to survive, you need to stand out, tap into your uniqueness. That’s a huge opportunity. Don’t feel restrained by the rules that corporations have bestowed upon you. Those rules are gone. Create your own rules. And change your workplace while you’re at it.

For companies, you need to create an open environment. An environment where free agents feel at home. Enable open communications with all stakeholders, no holds barred. No more meetings where the value of ideas is determined by the status of the employee. No more corporate silos of distrust. No more closed door conversations. Everything should be transparent and accessible.

Corporate culture can be defined as the personality of an organization. It used to guide how employees act, think and feel. Just like the Mayan culture, the corporate is almost gone. We need to replace it with community culture.

Community culture guides the whole organization how to collaborate, innovate and co-create. Develop a community culture that is the living expression of culture in everyday life. Create an environment where all stakeholders take the experiences of their lives and transform them into stories, ideas, innovations – or as some call it ‘expressive culture’.

There’s a bit of nostalgia rattling through my mind experiencing this world of corporate culture disappear in front of our eyes. It used to be the world my father lived in. Let’s make this world a better place by transforming corporate culture into community culture.

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Image and T-Shirt by Origin68

Orson Welles’s first film was Citizen Kane. It’s still considered one of the most famous and highly-rated films, partly because he deployed innovative cinematic and narrative techniques. In an interview in 1969 with Huw Wheldon, Welles explained where he got the confidence to make this new kind of film:

Welles: Ignorance, ignorance, sheer ignorance – you know there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid or careful.

Wheldon: How did this ignorance show itself?

Welles: I though you do anything with a camera, you know, that the eye could do and the imagination could do and if you come up from the bottom in the film business you’re taught all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. And in this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed and I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t do, so anything I could think up in my dreams I attempted to photograph.

Wheldon: You got away with enormous technical advance, didn’t you?

Welles: Simply by not knowing that they were impossible, or theoretically impossible.

Embracing ignorance allowed Welles to challenge the boundaries of existing knowledge and develop innovative techniques still utilized in today’s film-making.

While organizations are racing to embrace Knowledge Management and deploy systems to benefit from it, enterprises that engage in creative and innovative activity need to consider ignorance as a virtue. Accumulating and managing knowledge can become a dangerous trap when it just reinforces biases and don’t drive organizations into new ways of thinking and approaching challenges.

Knowledge Management has to find the perfect balance between deploying existential information, eliminating knowledge that has run its course and embracing ignorance in the pursuit of creativity and innovation.

There’s a reason why companies are looking for fresh blood all the time: They need to get new ideas and new assumptions into the system in order to continue to be a living organisms. Too often, new ideas and new brains are being streamlined quickly to ensure the system doesn’t break and everybody can continue on their merry way.

Enterprises need to develop systems embracing ignorance as a corporate virtue and integrating Ignorance Management into their Knowledge Management system. Human knowledge is limited, human ignorance has no boundaries. Strategic Ignorance Management will transform your business and turn your workforce from order-taking drones to creative contributors.

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Image by Hugh McLeod, the most influential Web 2.0 artist (Not sure if he likes that characterization.)

‘Up in the air’ premiered at an inflection point in the history of corporations. The brightest minds in academia and in the business world have caused terrible suffering in the last two years (and beyond), destabilized the economy and the whole world and sped up the demise of the capitalism as we know it. I don’t believe businesses and their executives had any evil intentions but the fact is that most corporations and big institutions are deeply mistrusted, yes, even despised by most people. If this is not a failure, I don’t know anymore what counts as a failure.

Watching ‘Up in the air’ almost felt like an obituary, remembering the worst excesses of corporate dehumanizing strategies. For people that didn’t see the movie: George Clooney works for an agency that helps corporations fire their employees, and escape the messy situation of having to do it themselves. His job keeps him on the road, rather “up in the air” for more than 90% of the year. The agency hires a recent Cornell grad that proposes the money saving, highly efficient, zero travel requiring idea of firing people over the Internet. Making one of the most humiliating and dehumanizing moments in a person’s life even more dehumanizing.

According to the 2009 Financial Trust Index, only 10% of Americans trust large corporations. In the mid-50s this numbers was around 80%. Corporations now stand for cutting costs, outsourcing, off-shoring, downsizing. It’s pretty obvious that corporations need to salvage what’s valuable in their business practices and models and focus all their energies into a new model: New foundation, new rules, new game:

1) Change your perspective:

Businesses used to look at the world from their perspective: How does it benefit me? How does it benefit the shareholders? How does it benefit the overall organization? Corporate darwinism at its best. And people followed along, slaving away to increase shareholder value. Not anymore. Now, it’s about the needs and desires of individuals. Who can help people to solve their problems, help them with their challenges? Organizations that stay behind the corporate wall will fail. Organizations that step outside, connecting with real people trying to help them will prosper.

2) Stop competing, start collaborating

Yes, C-level executives, you better start talking and co-creating with your competitors or you will fail. New networks will arise that will be more powerful than just one corporate entity. The power of networks will severely diminish the power of corporate organizations. Start building networks with partners that share your vision, values and valuation of transparency and trust. Individuals don’t care about your corporation, they care about their problems.

3) Employees are not resources. They are humans.

While companies should focus on the new consumer, the best way to start is with your own employees. In most industries, they are really all you have. They make or break your company. Cherish them by listening to them. Don’t just buy another piece of social technology because everybody is talking about Enterprise 2.0. Listen to their needs. How can we help them not giving in to Email bankruptcy? How can we make their work life more valuable, exciting and energizing?

The last few years have been tough for many people and businesses. And I’m not diminishing the effect the Great Recession had on so many lives. In order to move forward, we need to experience this inflection point as the biggest opportunity companies ever had. We’re in unchartered territory. No GPS, no Org-Chart will guide us through this messy new world. But, we all feel the current strategies and rules don’t apply anymore. Let’s build this new GPS together. And one day the idea of outsourcing the termination of your own employees will feel like the Berlin Wall: What were we thinking?

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Below is the speech I gave at iMedia’s Agency summit in Scottsdale:

Most of you remember and lived through the dot-com bubble. All these promises of the new economy and new world and new life just disappeared in a few months. Looking back, Etoys, Pets.com, Kozmo: they all resembled Madoff-like Ponzi schemes. Amidst the ruins of the dot-com bubble, people got back to work, started mature conversations by trying to understand how digital communications can increase the value of relationships and a business.

When I think about Social Media in 2009, I have this nagging déjà-vu feeling. I see proposals for Twitter and Facebook for up to $80k. I see false promises. I see laughable Social Media Certification courses for $3000. Every other person on Twitter claims to be a Social Media expert. I think most of feel that the current state of Social Media is a huge bubble and my prediction is that it will burst in 2010.

The reason why it will burst is not because Social Media is just a fad. I would propose that most of us think about Social Media in the wrong way. The majority of marketers think Social Media is a cheap way to further their corporate and marketing strategy. I would argue, the majority has it wrong.

Post-Lehman, when the great recession hit, my personal experience was that all the glossy, snotty restaurants were struggling. But when you went to your local restaurant (upscale or coffeeshop style) their business was booming. Why? Because local businesses are rooted in developing, maintaining and strengthening relationships with customers. They listen to their customers, improve their business based on suggestions. They provide great service and thank their patrons. If you want to learn about Social Media: Skip Twitter conferences. Rather go to your local Farmer’s Market.

Social Media is such a unique opportunity for all of us to have a direct connection with customers. By conversing with them, they and all the other stakeholders in your business will help you determine your corporate and marketing strategy. That’s the real objective of Social Media: transforming the faceless corporation into a human business. Where people are heard and respected.

When I grew up, my father told me that my only job in life is to create heaven on earth. I’ve tried hard, I failed many times. And tried again. I believe Social Media or as I call it Humanizing Businesses is such a precious opportunity to get closer to that goal. Let’s not waste it with Twitter ads or Facebook pokes. Let’s take it seriously. Because creating heaven on earth is serious business.