It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks since my last post. I think that I should scribble notes into my note pad every time I have an engaging and mentally stimulating encounter with people so I don’t forget what we talked about. Even better, I wish I could bottle their passion, enthusiasm and explosion of good ideas instead. (No, don’t be surprised, I don’t use devices for this all the time because I’m also in love with paper and nice pens).
Last week four people reached out to connect with me in person through Yammer, LinkedIn or Twitter – and I accepted them all. Buzzing from the caffeine hit, after I returned to my desk to face my work, I reflected on what I was feeling. I was excited. My mind was buzzing with ideas and possibilities.
I felt ‘wondrous’.
I don’t know how or why this word popped into my mind as it’s not a word that people use to describe their work – but it’s how I felt.
It was a feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself but you don’t know what it is, where it will take you or what it will do for you. Somehow, you have a feeling that the answer will be revealed in time. You don’t know when, so you may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I feel there’s a change in the air. I’m straddling two worlds. One foot is stuck in the mud of a traditional hierarchial structured world of work and the other is on the skateboard of the brave new networked world. As I try to dislodge my foot from the mud, I’m in fear that the skateboard will roll off on the other foot. I’m hoping I have my body over the line so that I never have to fall back into the mud ever again.
It’s all about the Coffee
Recently I shared a post on Yammer about a networking tool that pairs people for coffee meetups called Coffee Who. For example, if you wanted to learn more about a particular business unit, the tool generates a meetup that is scheduled into your calendar and the two people then go for a coffee, they talk, they learn more about each other’s business and projects and it sets up a new connection into a new business. The more coffee meetings you have, the more connections you make. Although what the tool looks like for me is irrelevant, it’s the concept that I immediately loved when I first heard about it.
It provides a simple way for people to connect to each other without having to make the first move. For those who are not confident, fearful or anxious about networking, then this is the answer for them. It’s a start to building and creating their own network.
Over time, the post generated much discussion about the value of conversations, networks and learning more about our organisation. There was a genuine interest to learn more about how these tools allow people to connect with others. I also believe the ‘coffee meeting’ factor provided something that was a bit of fun and people seemed more open to this idea and using this tool over a social networking platform.
One person then joined the conversation and mentioned that they had trialled this tool into their business unit with success. Having a positive story backed up with real data and anecdotes then changed the conversation entirely. Now, people were interested to learn more. The tone of the conversation changed from ideas and possibilities to action: “When do we get to learn more?”
As a result of this interest, I invited the company to come in and present to us in the next week with an ‘open door’ invitation to anyone across our organisation who would be interested in learning more.
(There’s another story about how I got to meet this company through Third Place – my social networking group for learning professionals but that’s for another day. The serendipity and coincidences that have been prevalent in my life recently aren’t questioned anymore. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I am leaving the screen door of my life open and seeing what flies in).
It’s all about the Ukulele
At the same time of our meetup, our building had a fire drill evacuation. Standing outside with thousands of people waiting to get the order that it was safe to go back into the building, we texted our respective locations and found each other. Rather than stand around and wait for the lifts to take us back to our floor, we decided to go to a nearby cafe to continue our meeting instead.
He talked about the challenge his change managers had using enterprise social networking in their role and how to inspire them to use it to build their own internal networks. He asked if he could use a recent example of a post I had put on Yammer about learning to play the ukulele. I shrugged my shoulders.
Where was this going?
He said, “Helen you posed a question on Yammer about you learning to play the ukulele. I want to show my people that it’s not about the topic but it’s about the networks and the channels that are opened by it. Within 2 days you had 44 replies; you had someone tell you to buy new strings; you had someone from another business unit put you into contact with his daughter who works in a music store; you were provided links to references. Now imagine that was for a work related problem. From people from ALL PARTS OF THE BUISINESS. Can you imagine what kind of creative joint problem solving of organisational problems we could solve? ”
Of course, he said it in nicer words but his point was that sometimes organisations tend to focus on the conversations… “Oh I don’t want my people to use this for irrelevant stuff when they should be working!” without seeing the bigger picture that as humans, we talk, we socialise, we make connections. The value comes from that.
He also gave me the perfect answer for answering the constant question I get asked, “Yammer is like Facebook isn’t it?”
Of course, at the time of posting this question, I didn’t think about the wider implication of what this meant for organisational problem solving. I simply use tools like Yammer, Twitter and others to get information, to do my work – it’s just part of the way I work. If someone finds out that I like to knit jumpers for penguins or I’m learning to play the ukulele, frankly, I don’t care. This is me.
I’m glad that my ukulele question was used to explain the benefit of social networking.
“It’s all about sharing!”
Believe it or not – this comment came from dark suited business bankers.
I attended a Innovation Series Presentation at our work last week where a representative from LinkedIn gave a presentation to a group of business bankers and our customers. As well as talking about the LinkedIn tool, the presentation was heavily focussed on the building and creating networks and relationships with customers. I was surprised to hear that only 1% of our staff are connected to each other on LinkedIn! Also they had a couple of bankers who shared their stories of how they built and created a network around their subject matter expertise and shared content with their customers and others to start conversations. There was no mention of pushing products and services – it was all about the focus of bankers changing how to grow a network of their own.
The clincher was when a customer in the audience raised his hand to ask a question that floored me. He asked, “what if we wanted to learn more about the knowledge and skills of each other, not just getting banking and finance advice – is this something that would be of value?”
It was at this point that I wanted to yell out, “YES! I offer Twitter for Professional Development workshops!” but it was obvious to me that people were now exploring networks beyond just pushing products but actually learning from each other.
This made me think of my own business model. Was I narrowly focussing on the wrong target audience of Learning and Development who are usually hard task masters and not on people and teams who need these now, today, immediately because they have direct connections with customers?
I parked that thought and made a mental note to come back to it.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking that it’s easier to show the value of these social tools directly to businesses than to constantly struggle with showing the value to L&D and HR. The people who I thought would be the first to support this are surprisingly, the laggards.
This irritates me.
Luis Suarez (@elsua) talks about this very thing in “The Future of Collaboration is in HR’s hands” where he says that we are still questioning the inherent value of collaboration because of “Human Resources and its inability to get it right by empowering knowledge workers to excel at what they already do: collaborate sharing their knowledge more openly and transparently.”
I gave a presentation to our customers at the NAB Village (a co-working space for our business customers) on using Twitter to Build and Create a Network. People came from a variety of backgrounds. Many were small businesses and not-for-profits and some had Twitter accounts that were unused or forgotten.
Although I presented the topic around building networks that will assist their own businesses, connections and development – you could literally hear “the penny drop” in the room. In my sessions, I ask people their business, their subject matter expertise and use their example on the big screen, demonstrate the hash tags and follow people who are reputable in their line of work.
I contextualise it to their own situations and I usually choose someone who doesn’t have a Twitter account, is vocal about wanting to know more but also slightly anxious about using the tool.
What happens in all the cases is something like this…
“Can you do a search on XYZ? They’re well known in my line of work.”
“OMG. There they are! What are they saying about ABC?”
“ABC is what I’m working on. So, hang on, they’re tweeting this information out to their followers? Why haven’t I got this yet?”
“Wait – look, I know her! I’ve met her! What? Are they planning a conference? I didn’t know that there was a conference on that….”
And so it goes on.
The penny drops and they’re right on their device trying to figure out how to create an account and get in on the action.
Why can’t HR do this?
“It’s about being kind to each other”
Last week I attended a lunch hosted by the Kinship Enterprise where Jeremy Scrivens presented on Appreciative Inquiry, “How to Take Advantage of Social Media to Innovate and Grow Your Business without Risks” .
How I got to this lunch is another story of serendipity (again). I happened to sit next to Walter Adamson (@adamson) at the Social Business Conference in Melbourne recently. After our introductions he asked, “have you heard of Appreciative Inquiry? The next words to come out of my mouth were, “Jeremy Scrivens! I don’t know what Appreciative Inquiry is exactly but I follow Jeremy’s tweets!” That’s when he told me about the lunch and that I should come along to learn more. How could I turn this offer down? Remember that screen door?
Jeremy presented an interesting perspective. If on the one hand we had bankers telling me, “it’s all about the sharing!” Jeremy was talking about a world of kindness, humanity and trust. I was beginning to think that I was working in an alternate reality.
I scratched my head trying to recall the last time any of these words were mentioned in leadership and management books. Jeremy talked about how organisations had their focus on the wrong thing – it was all about compliance, risk aversion and measurement and that we should focus on the positives and the possibilities rather than the problems.
You can read more about it here.
There were a couple of dark clouds that marred the last two weeks and served me a reminder that there are people who want to have their foot on the skateboard but their clothes have been snagged by a nearby branch (usually their boss) who is making them sink in the mud.
One example was provided to me in hushed tones that they were told not to use Yammer as it reflects negatively on their work performance. This person deliberately kept his external studies secret because they were not aligned to his career and by openly admitting that he wants a career change in the future, this would detriment his chances of opportunities for development and career progression in the short term.
Secondly, in another company, someone was observed using their own mobile phone at their desk and their engagement was questioned. So much so that their manager was advised to “have words” to them to ascertain whether their team member was still motivated towards their work and the company!
These are stories I hear often from a variety of organisations.
It just goes to show that we can only talk and do so much to try and change but the organisational culture plays a massive role on whether people and organisations truly want to change.
Ukulele: By Tijuana Brass, Honoluly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ukulele_wall.jpg