Philip Sheldrake

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The hi:project, social business and Flat Army

Dan Pontefract Flat Army and the hi:project
I help organisations work better, so how on Earth is that connected to the hi:project? Given I dedicate not a small fraction of my time to this non-profit endeavour, I'm asked on occasion to explain how the two are related.

The 'HI' of the hi:project stands for human interface. It's our way of describing the technology we think should and will largely supplant the user interface, the UI. Here's how I've begun to explain it of late ...

When we approach digital, we have a natural propensity to digitize the pre-digital; after all, that is all we know. That's how we ended up sticking an 'e' in front of mail for example, and went from having desktops, files and folders to, well, desktops, files and folders.

Yet digital has unprecedented qualities – it just takes us a while to discover and exploit them. It's only with the passing of decades for example that organisations can now explore alternatives to email. And filing stuff looks increasingly anachronistic with the power of near-instant search at our fingertips.

In the same way, the UI is attached to the digital machine / service today because pre-digital physical machines had a physical interface. Read more

McVeillance, coveillance, and socioveillance in the context of social business

Photographic lenses

I was a victim of McVeillance in June this year. I was walking around a shopping mall under systematic surveillance – CCTV everywhere – when I was accosted by security upon taking out my own camera to photograph the mall. (FYI, the mall itself was the subject of my photography and not its customers per se.)

Professor Steve Mann coined the expression McVeillance after he was manhandled out of a McDonalds in Paris where he was eating with his family in 2012 for no other reason than for wearing a computer vision system. McDonalds was watching him. He was watching McDonalds. And 'they' didn't like it.

I wasn't ejected from the mall as I was actually undertaking a project for the mall's owners, unbeknownst to the security personnel. I was escorted to the security office for appropriate clearance – an act which, per Mann's definitions, officially made me a surveiller.

The word surveillance originates from French, from sur- ‘over’ + veiller ‘watch’ (from Latin vigilare ‘keep watch’). It invokes an authoritative orientation where one in authority, metaphorically if not physically above, watches those below. Mann had previously coined the word sousveillance. The French for 'below' is sous, hence the neologism for watching the watchers. Read more

Fancy a coffee? Social business and your non-solicitation terms

Department of Coffee

The recent antitrust lawsuit against Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel for collusion in hiring practices demonstrates a lack of respect for the respective organisations' employees. Fundamentally, how dare one's employer collude with another in ways that may limit one's career progression!

Having been an employer carrying the not insubstantial costs of hiring I know how difficult it is to watch someone in whom you have invested considerable time, money and energy walk out the door, but I think my memory serves me well when I say we encouraged the team to celebrate such departures. If anything, our alumni network grew +1 each time.

When you define social business as I do, what might the clause for "non-solicitation" look like in your terms of business? How about this:

We believe our employees should be free to do whatever they consider best suits them. We do not therefore seek to apply any restrictions on their future employ. Their success is our success.

If such a declaration is representative of your wider values, you might find loyalty actually improves. By investing in our culture and award winning training and development, we felt comfortable wishing leavers the very best for the future. It felt right and served us all well.

[Image credit: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs – a fine selection of London coffee shops in which to have such conversations.]

Enterprise social networks and assimilation – resistance is futile

i want to borg
Enterprise social networking is perfectly suited for the so-called onboarding process.

I say so-called because no dictionary I have lists the word, which is sort of at odds with the fact that they do list the rather unlovely deplane. But I digress. I heard this same claim from Jive, SAP (Jam) and IBM (Connections) at a Eurocloud event last week courtesy of Alan and David @agile_elephant.

It seems academics prefer the phrase organizational socialization, defined as:

a learning and adjustment process that enables an individual to assume an organizational role that fits both organizational and individual needs. It is a dynamic process that occurs when an individual assumes a new or changing role within an organization.

I've been onboarded. Into the Mars way back in the day. Mars prides itself on high performance enabled by a strong culture, and boy were my colleagues keen that I got that culture.

The presentations last week (rather than my time at Mars, promise) prompted me to look up the Wikipedia entry for the Borg, the reason for which will become obvious by reading this if you're unfamiliar with the species: Read more

Organization and personal reputation – from first principles to distributed autonomy

Singapore harbour at night
I'm no etymologist but it seems the verb organize appeared in the 15th Century a few decades before the noun organization. Sometimes we forget that the organization, in terms of the institution or firm, is merely a means to an end, and putting legal entities to one side for the moment, an organization is simply a group of people organized around a common purpose.

Reminding ourselves of such first principles is useful when considering how we might create and nurture new forms of organization and how we might improve the current dominant ones.

Jumping forward over 500 years, let's get bang up to date on so-called social business, aka Enterprise 2.0, aka Responsive Organization, aka Future of Work. The question that concludes Attenzi - a social business story exemplifies the new vista:

Do you help all the individuals associated with your organization (employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) build worthwhile relationships with each other and others, coalescing by need and desire, knowledge and capability and shared values, to create shared value?

The verb coalesce conveys the facility to combine, and so the facility to recombine, and re-recombine. The coalescence remains for just as long as shared value is created, and created faster than a new combination might afford. Such process appeals to free marketers for whom efficiency and utilisation are front of mind – after all why should resources be tied up in one combination when they can add greater value faster deployed in another? And there's equal appeal to those on the left of the political spectrum who champion self-management and occupational autonomy.

Relationships

Sometimes I define social business as relationships at scale, and not just in the CRM 1.0 way:

Good business is about cooperative and interdependent relationships, always has been, yet the humanity was lost when organizations scaled way up during the 20th Century. We want to make those relationships more human again, but the answer can’t be to scale it all back down. We have to scale something else up. Read more

“Our goal is to become a social business but how do we get the revolution started?”

revolution Ukraine demonstrators

During a deep and meaningful conversation recently, my interlocutor declared:

Our goal is to become a social business but how do we get the revolution started?

This post addresses two problems integral to this statement.

A means not an end

Social business is a fairly fuzzy concept at the best of times. Some consider it synonymous with terms such as Enterprise 2.0, Agile Business, Responsive Organization, and Future Work, whereas others more deeply invested in any one may argue the differences. For the record, I describe social business by way of the following challenge:

Do you help all the individuals associated with your organization (employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) build worthwhile relationships with each other and others, coalescing by need and desire, knowledge and capability and shared values, to create shared value?

Shared values

Some pundits prefer to talk about shared purpose rather than shared values, and I think this may well be akin to Stowe Boyd differentiating between collaboration and cooperation with shared purpose relating to collaboration and shared values relating to cooperation. In his words: Read more

Stowe Boyd’s manifesto and The People’s Front

The People's Front

Stowe Boyd recently published "A Manifesto For A Third Way Of Work" (although the title will change). The manifesto forms the basis of the book Stowe plans to write throughout 2014, crystallizing the perspectives and insight he has forged and assembled over the years. And if you've read Attenzi – a social business story then you'll know Stowe and I think alike on many matters.

[Update 20th March 2014: the title changed to A Manifesto For A New Way of Work.]

Here are the major theses, and I have identified with an asterisk the four I have chosen to argue below.

_____

Dissensus (versus Consensus)

— active and directed dissent is a better way to counter the cognitive biases of groups and individuals, and to sidestep groupthink; essential to increased innovation and creativity truly driving business

Cooperative (versus Collaborative)

— sidesteps the politics and collectivism of consensus-based decision-making, and shifts to looser, laissez-faire cooperative work patterns

Creativity (versus Tradition)

— new solutions to problems are needed, and traditional approaches may not only be broken but dangerous

Autonomy (versus Heteronomy)

— paradoxically, as we come into a time when we acknowledge that we are more connected to each other than ever before, a great degree of autonomy will become the norm; old demands to subordinate all personal interests to those of the collective will be displaced by a personal re-engagement in our own work and a commitment to a deeper work culture that transcends any one company’s corporate culture Read more

Why I self-published this time

Having gone down the traditional publishing route with The Business of Influence (Wiley, 2011), I decided for a number of reasons to try a different route in 2013 with Attenzi – a social business story. Most of those reasons boil down to one simple fact, the publishing industry isn't yet embracing social business principles. In fact, it's perhaps a prime example of an industry continuously trying to manipulate the application of 21st Century technologies to maintain the 20th Century status quo.

Attenzi - a social business story, book coverI appreciate that cannibalizing ones own livelihood is never an easy journey (heck, even management consultancies find it tough), but I figure it's got to be worth attempting when the alternative is so bleak. I'm hardly the first to levy such criticism (crystallized beautifully in The Innovators' Dilemma of course), but here's a prime example in my particular case.

Quite clearly, I'd love to stimulate conversation and debate about social business – after all, collaboration and co-operation cannot spring forth without first conversation and sharing. So the ebook formats of Attenzi feature hyperlinks at the beginning of each chapter taking readers from the ebook to the HTML version where they can coalesce to comment, to ask and answer questions, to share resources, as they wish. And share hyperlinks to pages of the book wherever they hang out.

That means the whole book needs to be available in HTML – the global, open standard for the presentation and mark up of documents, <sarcasm>lest anyone from the publishing world require an explanation here</sarcasm>. This in turn means traditional copyright terms would be violated, which means I couldn't work with traditional publishers.

I appreciate the economics here don't apply to all authors or all published works, but as both Doc Searls and JP Rangaswami note, I will derive more value personally "because of" the ebook than "with" the ebook. I have secured two projects during the past six months on the back of releasing Attenzi unfettered, creating revenues far in excess of any I would have derived from traditional royalties. (Note: my writing doesn't achieve Harry Potter levels of readership!)

So I have lived up to the principles of social business, and profitably.

Should any publisher wish to have a conversation about business models for B2B publishing, please get in touch. My network of associates and I have plenty to contribute.

Social business in 2014 and your last ever New Year’s resolution

2014 - Happy New Year

We've all done it.

It doesn't matter if you're a professional data driven content marketer, or some poor soul who's been told to conjure up the December post for the company blog, the temptation to write that post about the looming New Year is, well, too tempting.

If you're looking for real link fodder, best include a call to action and sell the idea that something may be learned and put into valuable action before Santa boots up Google Maps, post title bait such as:

Planning for social media ROI in 2014

(but the true value of social isn't quite so straight forward)

14 social predictions that will transform your organisation in 2014

(or read Attenzi)

Your New Year Resolution – Simplify the Complexities of Social Media

(yeah right)

But when you think about 2014, ask yourself what's in a year? "The period it takes the Sun to complete one course throughout the zodiac along the ecliptic" says Wikipedia. And as I ask in my Attenzi story: "Why are the frequency and duration of our plans linked to the time it takes our planet to complete a particular cycle around the Sun? What’s 365 days got to do with our business exactly?"

If you champion social business you champion agility, responsiveness and adaptability. Not the annual planning slog.

More often than not I get shouted down for being short-termist at this point. Yet I believe a long-term vision remains as critical to business success as ever, but flexibility (finding a new course to execute the strategy; operational) and agility (recognizing when the strategy needs adaption; strategic) are business critical too. We're talking about the facility to take complexity into account.

Stowe Boyd goes even further. "The fast-and-loose business that is emerging as the new way of work runs more like a forest or a city than machinery. We need to learn by imitating rich ecosystems, where the appearance of chaos yields to emergent order, and reject order imposed by design." I love this outlook but don't subscribe to it in extremis.

Either way, the most interesting New Year's Resolution you might make for your organisation in 2014 is to make it your last.

“Social business is dead!” … “Whatever!”

Published as a guest post on briansolis.com, Friday 8th November 2013, in response to Chris Heuer's post "Social Business is Dead! Long Live What’s Next!"


As he finished a game of Cut The Rope on his iPhone, my young godson asked what my phone was like when I was his age. I broke it down for him. I was in my twenties before someone offered to take north of ten thousand dollars for a basic digital camera, and not much less for a GPS device. And I got my first basic mobile phone (I explained that means just making phone calls and sending text messages) as I approached thirty.

A few days later, as she dispatched her umpteenth snapchat of the morning, my niece asked me why I obviously enjoy what I do for a living. Imagine a whole lifetime, I replied, during which the only innovation was a tweak to the angle of the plow shear.

Scientists and engineers have been good to us. We’ve come to expect serious technological innovation with the regularity of the seasons. So, just like Chris Heuer, I’m more than ready for corresponding organizational change.

Now.

As in right now!

Having reflected briefly on the vast progression of the Internet and the web, computing, mobile infrastructure and social media services – as if you needed a reminder – let’s look at what’s changed at the typical organization during this time, my adult lifetime. Or more pertinently what hasn’t. Read more