Sunday, 27 April 2014

Luis Suarez, agent of change

At Social Now Europe I found myself talking with one of the world's most popular social business enthusiasts. Luis Suarez (pictured below) was Social Business Evangelist at IBM until a couple of months ago, helping 400,000 employees embracing the new way of working socially. He is a dedicated member of Change Agents Worldwide with the vision of helping to shape the future of work, one human at a time.

In this exclusive interview, Luis shares important moments in his career from IBM to Solo Change Agent and why social business has to become an imperative. Plus, what he believes the future of work is going to be.

GL: After 17 years of working at IBM, why did you decide to leave the company and go freelance?

LS: Plenty of people think that I left IBM as a result of bad experiences. That was not the case, by far. During those 17 years I was privileged to have worked in six different business units. I was very passionate about all of them right from the beginning. In 2007, my role became that one of a full time Social Business Evangelist along with my long term background of doing knowledge management, collaboration and community building. To me that role has always been for someone who understands that at one point in time your job will become obsolete. Last year I felt it was my turn; my work was basically pretty much done. I had to move on and do other things.

GL: How can you say that your job was done? What made you think that way?

LS: Two facts were telling me this. A few days after announcing that I was leaving, the CEO published the letter to the investors describing how 300,000 employees were actively using the company's enterprise social network (ESN) IBM Connections. When you have 300,000 employees engaged on the platform, your job as Evangelist is done!

The other thing relates to what most people have known me for: in 2008, I decided to create the movement about not using emails at work. Six years later, the VP of Enterprise Transformation started a campaign called #Getsimple to simplify the company's processes and to make the business more agile. One of the main initiatives was reducing the amount of email traffic. So, what started as a crazy idea from one man challenging 400,000 people to work differently, 6 years later became mainstream. This again was confirming to me that it was time for me to move on.

GL: How did you manage to get rid of emails? What's the main benefit?

LS: Before joining this movement I used to spend two to three hours every day cleaning out my inbox probably just like anyone else out there. I realised that there was a big business problem impacting on my own productivity. So I decided to tell all the colleagues on the ESN that I was not going to send any more emails. All my documents would be available on the personal file sharing space, which was open to everyone. As a result of this, since the last 6 years I have saved two to three hours every day to do something more productive (e.g. talking with customers or sharing my knowledge with colleagues more openly). Can you imagine the huge savings when you multiply this by 400,000 employees inside the organisation?

GL: I suppose it was not as easy as it sounds. Today, many people lament the abuse of emails and prefer social communications instead. Yet, in 2008 the scenario was completely different. You must have been strong enough to overcome internal challenges.

LS: It’s true. You need to persevere, be resilient and patient. If you really believe that there is a better way of collaborating, then your job and your responsibility as an Evangelist, is to show others how social business works by doing, not just by talking.

To overcome people's inertia and resistance to change you need to have commitment as well as to offer alternatives. It is then when people start listening to you. When I was at IBM I crowdsourced 44 use cases of how people where using email daily (e.g. to share files, ask questions, send newsletters, project status reports, find jobs, out of office, etc). For each of them I showed with a practical example how the job could be done on a social networking tool more effectively. The message was: "This is how you are working now. This is how you can work on the ESN. These are the benefits of the transition." When people can see from themselves how easy it is, they start getting exposure to these new habits more confidently.

GL: Today, you are a team member of Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW), an innovative network of progressive professionals who assist businesses in dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century. Could you tell us how the organisation works, and why it's important?

LS: CAWW works as a cooperative. It is an employee-owned organisation. Each of us, is either an Enterprise Change Agent - someone working inside a large company helping their workforce in the social business transformation - or a Solo Change Agent - someone like me being an independent freelancer. We help companies and individuals with any type of social business challenge. Depending on time allowance, interests and speciality, each Change Agent can decide on which particular project to work on. He/she gets paid and a percentage of that payment goes back to the organisation. In terms of skills and expertise we cover the entire social business spectrum: from social network analysis, to management and leadership, social learning, change, technology development, etc.

GL: What kind of working relationships does the organisation support? How do you usually communicate with other members?

LS: We get work done and communicate informally everyday through our own Socialcast-based ESN. We don't have any hierarchy, we don't have any boss, we are all exactly at the same level with the same role whatever the role is. We highly trust and help each other understanding that if your network is successful you will be successful as a result of it. While we reject the idea of competition, we embrace the concept of co-operation: we co-operate to compete together. We strongly believe that the future of work will be based more and more on this type of network effect, what we call wirearchy.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Changing the World of Work

"After all, technology is changing everything in our modern world. It's our liberator, our friend, our temptress, and our salvation. But technology won't change the world for the better - people will." Susan Scrupski, Founder Change Agents Worldwide

Changing the World of Work. One Human at a Time is the first e-book by Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW), a network of progressive and passionate professionals who specialise in the future of work.

The resource is the result of a collective effort. Each Change Agent shares his/her personal thoughts on how to introduce change to the enterprise to achieve higher engagement, innovation and productivity. The outcome is a fresh and original collection of twenty-one essays focusing on overcoming organisational inertia and forging a connected workforce founded on trust.

The production of this e-book is a small example of how we work at Change Agents Worldwide: Managerless, but not leaderless. Everyone was engaged because they wanted to be. No one was forced to work, yet all those involved were excited to lend a hand. All work was done transparently, out in the open, working “out loud.” Skills and passions came out of the woodwork and everyone learned along the way.” 

Here are some highlights from each essay. You may want to read the manual all to find the content that inspires you the most, apply it to your work and hopefully, help to change it for the better.

Pivotally and profoundly, unlock your own full potential as an individual worker, colleague, citizen. Cultivate your own brand offering so as to be able to say: “This is how I most add value, this is how I make the biggest difference."

Internally, the omnipresent hierarchies and control mindset that have prevailed during the industrial age no more fit the necessary coopetitive and network-oriented attitude required to accomplish many of the tasks assigned to teams. Most of what could be automatized or reduced to fixed process-based outcomes have been made so, and higher-level tasks can only be dealt with by more sense-making and creative thinking, by continually unlearning and learning.

The announcements about the latest tool will not lead to the business results your organization seeks. It’s time to really understand the importance of two-way communications and bring in the right tools to enable it. And if your leaders use the tools in how they work, your success of adoption will be high. Think about how you send, receive, share, and store knowledge in your organization and what tools will help you the most in your particular culture.

I am Gen Y. Make me treat my job as a business, where I am the CEO and ultimately responsible. Force me to make the tough decisions while also doing the dirty work. If I need resources that you can’t provide, let me seek them out and negotiate. Ownership of the process and execution will give me pride in the outcome, engaging me as I feel the satisfaction of independent accomplishment.

Give everyone a megaphone: Let your employees’ voices be heard — vertically, horizontally, and diagonally throughout the company. The best way to do this today is by introducing an enterprisewide social networking tool. In addition to other benefits, you’ll essentially be giving every employee a megaphone to have their own say. Many will be shy at first — after all, employee voices have been stifled for years — but eventually their ideas, passions, and unique perspectives will pour out onto the pages of your social platform.

The world needs each of us to hear the call in the distance and move. The people making a difference are leaping one step at a time. At the top of the hill you will see more than you’ve ever seen before. You will feel exhausted and exhilarated. You will gain perspective and you will see opportunity. You will find a new way to thrive in the world. Go ahead. Climb.

If you believe change is needed but don’t know where to start, consider a very simple approach: revisit the annual objectives. Make 50 percent of the bonus count for engagement and exploration of better ways of working.

How to ensure the failure of your change initiative: Don’t demonstrate how tools can be used to improve your working life — let people try to figure it out themselves with no guidance. And finally, make absolutely sure that senior leadership and program sponsors never use these tools or promote them.

We don’t know exactly how it happened. Our chroniclers believe it started around 2020, when networks became an invisible fabric of society. Everyone and everything was connected to everyone and everything else. The very notion of connecting didn’t make sense anymore; we no longer connected to a network, the connection was just there. All you had to do was maintain a social presence, a virtual existence within the fabric of society.

Switching a (traditional) company’s mindset from “knowledge is power” to “sharing is power” requires a lot of evangelizing and convincing. Chances are good that you will often receive a positive response. But don’t let yourself be blinded by this. By far, this does not mean that these colleagues will immediately change habits they have been used to for decades. You will need to search for like-minded colleagues to spread the ideas. The good thing is that you can use your network to do this.

Rethinking how we pay people for an era defined by networked collaboration represents an important element in the quest for ongoing improvements in performance. It’s an under-explored yet central issue for tomorrow’s organizations.

Harold Jarche
All organizations today are dealing with increasing complexity. The answer is to restructure with looser hierarchies and stronger networks. How can this be done? First of all, open social networks in the enterprise can promote “working out loud,” which, in turn, fosters a greater diversity of opinions. These increasing connections will drive innovation. But this new structure requires people who are actively seeking new knowledge, making sense of it, and sharing freely.

If there is any chance of changing the way your company works, employees must be able to exercise more than obedience, diligence, and skill. Rather, they must be able to flex their muscles of ingenuity, creativity, passion, and ingeniousness.

The modern company requires flexible and agile employees. A breadth of skills and competencies are necessary. Your people need to be able to lead and follow in different contexts and circumstances. It is also likely that they will require deep knowledge and skills in one or more disciplines, allowing them to fulfill a subject matter expert role as required.

Visibility through stories and activity streams. Storytelling is more powerful than official, crafted messages. “Look what they did” means more than “Our strategy is to do this.” Activity streams connect people across the organization, showing who’s doing what. Activity streams are always on, in the background, ready for people to tap into when relevant. Stories punctuate organizational change, inspiring people to experiment with new ways of working.

Writers such as Steven Johnson in “Where Good Ideas Come From” and Keith Sawyer in “Group Genius” help us understand that innovation comes from working together, not alone. The best outcomes come from creating an environment where individuals can think and learn together.

In your job, whenever you have to design a project or achieve a task that supports the classical Top-Down frame, think about doing it a different way. Explore how you could turn a passive audience, aimed at receiving messages from the top, into an active one. Leverage collective intelligence and people’s willingness to be treated as adults in the workplace.

Your knowledge, experience, relationships, and background matters, to you, to your company or organization, and to your colleagues. Develop a robust profile, participate in the flow of activity streams. Evolving your network identity helps colleagues and co-workers readily discover the nature of your work and tap skills or knowledge they may need.

Simon Terry 
The most common characteristic of high-performing organizations is to offer employees the ability to exercise their discretion, make improvements, and take considered risks. You can’t do that without a culture of trust. 
Deciding to trust your own choices of talented people is the first step to the future of work.

Working Out Loud (WOL) involves creating and amplifying transparent work within the enterprise via personal behaviors and networked digital capabilities — increasing connections to knowledge, expertise, ideas, and progress.
An important consideration is not always focusing on “What’s in it for me right now?” but on shifting our thinking to “What will best balance satisfying immediate needs, yet still nourish future opportunity in the process?”

Now let me tell you about a corporate leader I know, a senior executive. This leader is most interested in the success of the enterprise...and do what’s right for the corporation...He enjoys hearing about novel approaches to corporate problems...He creates an environment where a certain amount of experimentation is encouraged and wants to bring his company quickly into the future.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Back to Social, Now!

The social enterprise conference Social Now Europe 2014, took place this week on 7th and 8th April in Amsterdam. I was there to report on the international two-day event.

"We are social animals. Social business is about conversation, trust, sentiments, communities." Ana Neves, Social Now

Some companies have become familiar with words like social business and enterprise social networking (ESN). Yet, the majority of businesses are still facing many challenges and uncertainties, especially with adoption. Social Now Europe 2014 was a great opportunity to get a better view of today's social enterprise, and reflect on the whole landscape from both a practical and sociological perspective.

Latest technological developments...

What is different about Social Now is that it is not a forum for case studies. Instead it is made up of a ‘shoot-out’ between a number of collaborative tools demonstrated as part of a narrative through the fictitious case study of Cablinc, a company with 1200 staff located across three countries. Attendees could see how each social tool would help Cablinc to solve their business problems and drive innovation, what their features are and what type of work they are able to support. Some of them were big names, such as Jive, IBM Connections and SAP Jam. Some others were relatively new including Knowledge Plaza, Teamgum, Twoodo, and exo.

Social is not for social sake

Jive was confident in stressing that "social is not for social sake. It is about getting work done." This is the philosophy that underpins their service and latest developments: rich user profiles provide everything employees need to know about a colleague all in one place; the ability to search for information in different ways (via people, content, and places) to make faster decisions; collaborating around shared documents (e.g. seeing co-workers' comments on the Communication Plan and merging their changes accordingly); bringing information from the outside through Jive Anywhere. Analytics are another key aspect of the Jive platform that provides impact metrics on a personal level, community level, business level, as well as sentiment analytics. Resonata, which identifies an organisation's champions and detractors, reveals the motivations that drive participation.

Social monitoring was also high on the agenda of Jamespot and exo. The Jamespot collaborative platform allows social action alignment with business issues by showing employees how they are doing against the goals they have to achieve.

exo instead is an open source enterprise social platform complete with collaborative and content management features that provides gamification elements in the form of "mood indicators", gathering the sentiments of every employee. The tool provides real-time and automatic translation in 15 languages, plus a mobile application that lets remote employees see all the content through a customised dashboard.

Tagging is becoming part of our DNA

From IBM Connections we heard how "tagging is becoming the glue of everything" when it comes to finding the right people and the right content within a community. According to them, hashtags will continue to play an important role in this respect.

This message resonated among many others including Twoodo, an innovative social task management platform for teams which provides complete email integration and actionable conversations. They reiterated, "Tagging is becoming part of our DNA."

The importance of sharing knowledge

Although a relatively smaller and younger start-up compared to the bigger giants of enterprise social, Knowledge Plaza allows collaborative sharing across big online communities bringing scalability to life even inside large corporations (e.g. Lafarge). "Striking the balance between structured and unstructured approach" seems to be the key for this agile knowledge management platform. They have reinvented how to structure online spaces, distribute vital information to employees and add context through aggregated and annotated content.

Teamgum also focuses on content items as driven by sharing. They offer a distinct solution through a relatively simple user interface: the ability to share external web links without leaving the internal platform. Employees can discover articles and webpages on twitter, reddit, etc., and share them directly with their teams.

SAP Jam also sparked interest with their deep integration of employees' profile, customisable templates for groups and fast social learning led by users generated video content.

Once again, it is not about the technology: it's the people! 

There were many other social tools like bluekiwi, hoozin, and Xwiki, each one with something new, and refreshing to bring to the enterprise.

Yet, if there was something that really resonated during the entire conference, is that being a social business has little to do with the technology: it is about people, social behaviours and change management.

Rather than focusing on tools and new 'cool' features, organisations should reflect on the business value enabled by this technology. This implies starting with a vision of the specific challenges and problems a company would like to solve through the use of social, as well as a deep analysis of the organisational culture, trust and leadership involvement.

Inspiring change...the social way

Leading this type of conversation was Luis Suarez, the Spanish social business enthusiast who presented his top tips on adoption:

1. Identify Business Problem(s) including employee disengagement. "Social business adoption is about inspiring people, helping them to adapt." This also means taking into consideration the importance of language: "the words that we use at work do matter."

2. Have a Governance Model. It is about having clear guidelines in place, not rule. Hence, "allow experimentation."

3. Build a Solid Library of Use Cases. "Work out loud, lead by example. Walk the Talk!"

4. Enable Early Adopters. "Change agents lead and inspire the change. Are you aware of who your early adopters are? If not, you need to find it out."

5. Education/ Enablement. "Help model new behaviours and mindsets."

And finally, "Get started! Stop talking and start doing today!"

Suarez ended his talk by stressing that the future of enterprise social is about humanising work: "we are re-discovering ourselves as humans, looking for meaningful and purposeful work." This is why when it comes to social media at work "you don't need ownership, you need purpose. If you have purpose, then every employee will be able to co-own it."

This focus on humans rather than on tools was also strongly emphasised by Ana Neves from Knowman, and organiser of Social Now. She left the audience with a concise, yet powerful message:

"We are social animals. Social business is about conversation, trust, sentiments, and communities.

"Find the tools that speak the language of your organisation. Make them transparent. Be patient. Create activities."


To ensure success in the digital world, being socially enabled has become a prerequisite for our organisations. This means integrating social into our business processes. It implies an understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, the social capital of the company (social insight that includes people's motivations and rewards), and the selection of the right tools for us. No one-size fits all. This couldn't be truer for technology. We will continue seeing new tools coming to the enterprise, each one having something to offer. Most probably we will move from attempting to integrate all of them, to aggregate them depending of the business and employees' needs.

Making sure we use technology for our advantage rather than being overwhelmed by it requires a look back to our business vision and the people using it. What behaviours are in place? What’s the culture of the organisation? The tool, as important as it is, is not the solution for us to be a social business but rather the enabler to be more agile, and responsive. Back to social, now!

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate  

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Iris intranet, where information meets collaboration

"The triptic intranet, Iris, is a breath of fresh air. It is disarming, funny, smart, modern, and available when you need it." Nielsen Norman Group 

Iris Intranet is context-driven and designed to help employees work faster and better. It has developed by triptic, the Eindhoven-based agency for online communications that won this year Intranet Design Annual Award by Nielsen Norman Group.

Several elements make Iris different from traditional intranets. First, its user-centred design. The homepage recognises employees' profiles, and adjusts information to them based on their tasks, working relationships and locations.

"For instance, if you were a doctor working at hospital A you will get access to certain information, protocols or procedures different from the ones you would get access to if you where working from hospital B," explains triptic's Communications Manager Jos Rouw.

A social intranet: when information meets collaboration

While many companies still face a divide between their intranet and their internal social network, Iris is all in one place. Information about the business, documents, files, calendar, and all sources of content relevant to get work done are combined with the social wall where people see colleagues' most recent posts and access profiles, timelines and discussions. "Employees are enabled to share their ideas while being informed. They can get insights on their project and immediately talk about it together, discussing their thoughts with the distance of a click."

Team blogs, used to share articles and post updates, generate daily opportunities for groups to come up with new ideas to improve the business. Rouw recalls a concrete example:

"Recently, we have had a discussion on how to tailor our ROI argument to a company that was working with an old fashioned intranet: its people were not communicating enough, and collaboration was seen as a distraction. Our people from technical development, sales and management joined the conversation on Iris. The group formulated an argument to explain how valuable the platform could be for this organisation. That proved to be successful. Afterward, our Senior Technical Consultant posted a message: “This is an example of what the platform is for: getting new insights together.”

“The happy faces overview” is another group where employees share the reactions from clients on the projects that they do for them. This has also been instrumental in driving discussions around improvements.

Enhancing digital communications through a responsive-design

Employees at triptic call their Iris's search engine 'find engine' because “information should find you and you should not look for it too much,” says Rouw. Aligned with this principle, they can tailor their own dashboard by choosing the widgets to be displayed on their screen, move them around to create the order that they like, have the information relevant to their own work and see potential new projects of interest to them. According to Rouw, this helps to save time - for example by preventing the exchange of unnecessary emails - and it encourages adoption.

Iris is also capable of prioritising content to accommodate all the different mobile devices and computers, thanks to her responsive design. “That way employees can have the information relevant to their own needs anytime, anywhere.

"There was a lot of research put into this specific element which involved responsive design techniques, design-thinking and the use of personas (e.g. What does a typical sale manager need when he/she is on the road?)

"For example, while every colleague has an elaborate profile page, when you are on the road it is most likely you want to have their contact details or see whether they are in the office or not. So the first thing Iris lets you see is their phone number, schedule and availability."

Another way of adjusting content and features depending on the device, appears with an helpful status display: without the need of clicking, a red icon shows the employee’s number of notifications including updates, reactions, posts, and mentions.

The use of Iris inside Dorel Juvenile Europe

"At triptic, we see Iris as a small start-up in the sense that the product has its own life," says Rouw. The intranet is being used not only inside triptic but also by a number of large organisations including Dorel Juvenile Europe, the creator of innovative products for children such us Maxi-Cosi, Bébé Confort, Quinny, Safety 1st & Baby Art.

Less than a year ago the company introduced 'in touch', their Iris, to better benefit from the organisation's collective brain, to meet Gen Y's communicative attitudes and to stimulate Europe-wide commitment, creating one identity across 13 countries. They also use in touch to innovate and make children products safer.

Marlou Kessels, Communications Consultant at Dorel Juvenile Europe, comments: "A good example is a team we created to discuss the development of the longboardstroller, an inventive Quinny product. It's a new 'urban mobility concept' that makes it easier for parents to cover longer distances in the city with their young children. The people who worked on the longboardstroller shared their updates, thoughts and insights on in touch, enhancing the internal transparency around innovation and encouraging colleagues from different countries to give their opinions and ideas. This has been invaluable in connecting employees with product innovation, company-wide."

A design that speaks to people

It is unusual to see such a sophisticated intranet platform developed by a company that does not have millions of dollars of Silicon Valley investment behind it. Time will tell whether triptic will be able sell it in to the large corporates. However, on first sight it appears to be an innovative and flexible option.

When considering how to boost adoption of an intranet there are many cultural and change management elements to take into account; yet with Iris the design makes things easier: "it is just very inviting. It doesn't scare off employees like many other very techy systems often do. Once people are on board the rest follows, since they immediately realise that they can do their work much better, find everything they need and save a lot of time."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate