Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Encouraging Social Maturity

In a high-level but realistic post today called The Microblogging Maturity Model , Bryan Menell of the Dachis Group describes stages through which organizations evolve as they adopt microblogging culture and value. Cast in the old format of norming, storming, etc, the post delineates four stages that could apply to any social situation, which could be described this way:

  • Cautious introduction: you’re one of the first to arrive at the party, nobody else is there and you look around to get a lay of the land.
  • Social niceties: the first few people arrive and, very politely, you introduce yourself and others do the same.
  • Breaking the ice: conversations ensue, positions are taken and challenged
  • Substantive exchanges: real work gets done.

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Written by tstaley

December 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Culture

Changing Instinct, Changing Behavior

Underlying the seemingly simple move toward adopting an internal social platform is the much trickier and more nuanced change in attitude that is required. Personal information storage and managment is generally a private process, and the instinct to make some portion of your stores of intellectual assets available doesn’t always come naturally.

growing plant, isolated on white

Effective use of this kind of communication environment is no small change for an organization. It requires new instincts and new priorities, which result in new behavior.

For generations – maybe forever – people have been accustomed to sequestering information, and meting it out judiciously, often for some kind of personal gain. Even the simple act of sharing news or gossip can be done to position oneself as a valued source of information. In the extreme, and often in political organizations, jealously safeguarding information can feel like a survival strategy. Though the behavior may vary from one organization to another, from one person to another, I do believe information hoarding is a natural human instinct.

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Written by tstaley

October 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Culture

New and Required Skills in Ten Years

The Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute recently delivered a report called Future Work Skills 2020, which analyzes the key factors that will impact the nature of work the next 10 years and identifies key work skills needed.

This report was sufficiently interesting to me that I thought it would be worth simply summarizing its findings. The report itself has much other interesting and evocative information, but for the sake of efficiency, I’ll simply include the top-level points of the report.

The skills are based on six drivers, which it defines as disruptive shifts that will reshape the workforce landscape:

  1. Extreme longevity: Increasing global lifespans change the nature of careers and learning
  2. Rise of smart machines and systems: Workplace automation nudges human workers out of rote, repetitive tasks
  3. Computational world: Massive increases in sensors and processing power make the world a programmable system
  4. New media ecology: New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text
  5. Superstructured organizations: Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation
  6. Globally connected world: Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the center of organizational operations.

In the report, these six drivers create the following ten critical skills. What I find interesting about these skills is that they are both the product, as well as the drivers, of new social engagement especially within organizations.

1. Sense-making
Definition: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed

2. Social intelligence
Definition: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions

3. Novel & adaptive thinking
Definition: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based

4. Cross -cultural competency
Definition: ability to operate in different cultural settings

5. Computational thinking
Definition: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning

6. New-media literacy
Definition: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication

7. Transdisciplinarity
Definition: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

8. Design mindset
Definition: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes

9. Cognitive load management
Definition: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques

10. Virtual collaboration
Definition: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Written by tstaley

June 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Culture, Enterprise 2.0

Changing Instinct, Changing Behavior

As a new social Intranet program moves ahead, I’ve been been thinking increasingly about how employees will respond to the sharing behavior enabled by a new social collaboration Intranet. Effective use of this kind of communication environment is no small change for an organization. It requires new instincts and new priorities, which result in new behavior.

For generations – maybe forever – people have been accustomed to sequestering information, and meting it out judiciously, often for some kind of personal gain. Even the simple act of sharing news or gossip can be done to position oneself as a valued source of information. In the extreme, and often in political organizations, jealously safeguarding information can feel like a survival strategy.

This instinct may vary from company to company, but I suspect that information hoarding is a natural human instinct.

The Social Web frames the information hoarding model in a more dubious position. The remarkable uprisings in the Middle East, enabled in large part by open access to information, are a stark reminder of this. When populist information is scarce, or the channels are mediated or occluded, it’s easier for regimes to wield power. The same is true for large organizations.

But once those communication channels are open and unencumbered, and information is no longer a scarce resource, what becomes of our information hoarding instinct? There are surely times where it’s still valuable, as when doing strategic planning or employee assessments, but for many other situations there is a need to develop or enhance the opposite instinct for sharing, generously.

This new instinct is more than a need, it’s an imperative. It leads to deeper engagement and ultimately greater job satisfaction. From the business perspective, information sharing leads to higher productivity, better alignment, as well as greater market awareness and responsiveness.

In a recent post called Change Is Good, But It’s Also Really Hard, Om Malik wrote:

Large companies are somewhat like me — once they get used to a certain behavior, they develop a certain culture and a set of procedures, processes and a work environment that defines them and their future. These define their corporate DNA. It is hard to change. You can’t buy new DNA, and companies can’t acquire their way into new corporate cultures. Furthermore, companies that lack that self-awareness of their DNA and behaviors, in the end, find themselves extinct.

Later in that article, Malik makes it clear that the required change is not about changing the DNA – the essence of a company, which is virtually impossible to change – it’s about changing behaviors that aren’t useful or constructive. Information hoarding can be one of those unhelpful behaviors.

As mentioned above, a vital element of the new information sharing instinct is engagement. With an online sharing environment, this can be seen as participation in the constructive, creative and enabling conversations that move the business forward. In a post called, Is Innovation Possible in Communications?, Valeria Maltoni frames engagement this way:

The difference between a motivated and energized group and one that sleep-walks through the day is engagement. And isnt that the very thing so many organizations are seeking from teams? What is engagement if not awareness, seeing whats going on around you, and responding appropriately and accordingly?

Information hoarding is the stuff of previous centuries and outdated regimes. But how do you change organizational instincts, which collectively is about changing corporate culture? Perhaps an infusion of new blood, though Om Malik was understandably not sanguine about those prospects. A populist uprising, though compelling on the world political stage, seems unlikely in a corporate environment, especially during a down economy when job security is paramount to most. Execs, comfortable in their relative isolation and unconvinced about the value, are unlikely to lead the charge.

Our approach is to tap high-value and catalytic people in the middle and upper levels of the organization, individuals we’ve dubbed Social Network Champions. These are people who are moving fast and generally making things happen in the organization. Not rooted in tradition, they can see the value of a new platform that will help drive, even accelerate, their agenda. We’ve also seen that if the platform is cumbersome, or the UI is ineffective, these people won’t waste time and will find other ways to get their work done.

These highly engaged individuals, we’re just beginning to see, don’t see information as something to wield selectively, but they instead distribute it freely – spewed out as a kind of collateral value, a by-product of their main activity.

So the hope is that the social platform will highlight the high-value sharing behavior of these Social Network Champions, and provide a clear example to others in the organization. This is the hope for changing behavior and, ultimately, instincts.

Written by tstaley

February 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – We’re No. 11! – NYTimes.com

Stark and candid truth:

Our generation’s leaders never dare utter the word “sacrifice.” All solutions must be painless. Which drug would you like? A stimulus from Democrats or a tax cut from Republicans? A national energy policy? Too hard. For a decade we sent our best minds not to make computer chips in Silicon Valley but to make poker chips on Wall Street, while telling ourselves we could have the American dream — a home — without saving and investing, for nothing down and nothing to pay for two years.

Op-Ed Columnist – We’re No. 11! – NYTimes.com.

Written by tstaley

September 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Culture