Silo (or Solo) – Collaboration – Social

I've lost count of how many years I've been dipping my toe into the collaboration waters. Certainly, it goes back at least to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) thirty years ago. By 1988 this was formalised into a time/space grid, so that you had remote/colocated on one axis and synchronous/asynchronous on the other. Not a bad way to characterise many of the collaboration and social tools that abound today.

I mention all this because Agile Elephant's David Terrar invited me to a Future of Collaboration Conference triggered, in part, by the opportunities created by the convergence of cloud, social and mobile technologies. (To my mind, this equates to a transformation in reach and convenience.) Each speaker had ten minutes or so to share their vision. This was followed by a Q&A session and networking. The audience was also made up of industry people, so I expected the bullshit factor to be low. And it was.

Given my background, I wondered what I would learn. Let me list the participants and their roles, and then I'll tell you what I ended up thinking. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details.

David Terrar chaired the event.

Speakers:

Jon Mell, Social Leader, IBM UK
Alan Patrick, Agile Elephant
David Moore, SAP
Simon Levene, Jive
Janet Parkinson, Agile Elephant
Chris Boorman, Huddle

Questioners (apart from David Terrar and me):

Phil Wainewright, Diginomica
Lucinda Carney, AdvanceChange

Baker Tilly, chartered accountants and business advisers, provided the accommodation and refreshments. (Lovely, thank you).

The first thing I noticed was the lack of evangelism, thank goodness. Quite often you turn up at these events and they're more like a religious revival meeting than a pragmatic look at business needs and applications. Okay – one chap said work should be fun, but he got a slight ribbing for that from some of the others. Work could become pleasant, fulfilling or rewarding maybe, but not fun. God forbid. (Mind you I quite often have fun when running training workshops, so I have some sympathy with his point of view.)

While 'email' and 'social' can be good in the right context, neither is much cop as a sole collaboration strategy. In fact two people branded email 'the enemy' of collaboration and another branded social on its own as 'a waste of time'.

Previous events have banged on about the need to change a company's culture or boasted of coming 'disruption'. Utterly unhelpful. This isn't how stuff gets done. Far better to introduce collaboration tools which fit business needs and, if possible, integrate it with what exists. Do this in a few key areas (with board level support, of course) and things start to catch on as others see (or are told about) the business benefits of these new ways of working.

Social – people communicating openly and freely (with business intent, of course) – isn't going to happen without trust and that doesn't come without knowing each other (usually through at least one face-to-face meeting, but relationships can form through voice, video and even, dare I say, email).

As collaboration, then social, activity spreads vertically and horizontally through an organisation, culture change will follow. When it extends beyond the company boundaries to partners and customers, it will alter the way the organisation listens, responds and collaborates. Silos will be breached and individuals will become more aligned and harmonised with business drivers.

Everyone – the company, the workforce, partners, customers and prospects will benefit. That's the promise. And it sounds good to me.

And now I'd better go, before I'm accused of being an evangelist.

Something for would-be writers and spokespeople

Videos

Tebbo's Tips

All the above are free.They help you get started with handling the media or with business writing.

I created them because organisations need to influence their prospects, customers and other stakeholders either indirectly through the media or directly through their own efforts, whether they're self-published (company website/blog) or through submission to a media company. (See Tom Foremski's EC=MC: Every Company is a Media Company if you want to read more.)

The top image links to two videos, each broken down (if you want) into eight mini-videos of approximately two to five minutes duration. The bottom two link to downloadable pocket-sized memory-joggers. (They're actually A4 and come with printing and folding instructions.) If you prefer, just go to tebbo.com which also includes some useful links.

I offer all of this free of charge. In one respect it's me 'giving back' and sharing my knowledge. In another, I hope they reflect favourably on me and my work and attract people who'd like me to work with them. They're all Creative Commons – share by all means, but please don't alter them.

The videos are hosted on YouTube and the memory joggers are hosted on Google Drive. I had some fun writing the delivery script for the Tebbo's Tips memory-joggers, but that's another story.

I hope you enjoy what you see. I showed a few of my more critical friends and they've been very kind.

I'm enormously grateful to Alison O'Leary for agreeing to work out some questions and grill me for the videos. And, of course, to all those customers, friends and colleagues that have helped me throughout a most enjoyable career. Which, incidentally, I hope is far from over.

Blog navel gazing over

My last blog post prompted Euan Semple to post two more of his own. These grabbed far more attention than mine and led to some interesting debate, much of it on Facebook where he's recently taken to repeating his blog posts.
 
Before Euan got involved, I was getting an even mix of opinions. Some who thought I was right to not post much, if at all, and others who thought I was mad to even think of stopping. Then, when Euan got involved – the first time to share my angst, the second time to rail against someone who said "blogging is just showing off". (One riposte to that was the sensible, "Blogging is so varied you can't make blanket statements.")
 
Let's cluster some representative comments. Draw your own conclusions.
 
First of all, why blog at all?

  • Your blog is your gravitational centre
  • Write for your community
  • My community is so small we may as well meet down the pub
  • My community is global, we can't meet down the pub
  • I'm going to move back to my blog to serve my interests rather than some IPO'ed profit engine's
  • If I post knowledgeable/interesting stuff it leads to opportunities
  • Writing forces me to think and get feedback
  • Co-creation results in greater/deeper insights
  • Co-existent thoughts rob dominant thoughts of power

And here are some tips for would-be bloggers

  • Don't do it if your heart's not in it
  • Be selective and deliver gold
  • Be an example of good writing
  • You stand or fall by your content
  • Get people to think, not tell them what to think

Some commercial organisations see blogging and commenting as an obligation. (See the 'heart' comment above.) Someone suggested it's a publishing strategy, just like the pamphleteers of old but with the world as their potential audience.
 
When I was an established columnist, Dave Winer wrote his first blog post. I remember thinking "Who does he think he is?" One of Euan's comments took me right back to that moment. But it's only now, 19 years later, that it's dawned on me what irritated me so much. It was his use of the first person. He was writing as himself, as if he were important. In several years as an editor, writer and columnist, I always tried to avoid the first person. My attitude was "I'm not here to promote myself" (except through the byline, which few people notice).
 
I have a massive list of more great comments eked from the Euan posts, but I'd like to conclude this post with a rather elegant contribution from Vicky Smith (reproduced with her permission). Thank you Vicky. Here goes:
 

"Blogging offers egotistical natures a platform to broadcast and attention seek. For others, it's a release of private thoughts in a more therapeutic manner (one could maybe say both make the blogger feel better). For others again it's for money… This discussion has prompted me to think of blogging like art or painting, a form of self expression, which just happens to be shareable online. I'm sure many artists would like their work seen more, be it for making money or for ego, others less so because it's more a private hobby for personal reasons. It all just depends. We're all different, and it's a platform for expressing those differences, if one so wishes in whatever way one wants."

 

Why I (don’t) blog

Anyone who follows me will notice I don't blog much any more. The overriding feelings I have are a) I don't want to add to the noise and b) I don't want to use it as a sales platform.

This means I will only post if I have something original to share that I think will interest/help my readers.

Does that make sense to you? Or am I barking mad?

Know any passionate pragmatists?

The Right Thing To Do? is a blog where experienced people share their insights – the 500 or so words that they hope will inspire others in their quest to make the world a better place.

Posts are run fortnightly and they provide a useful link for the writer's portfolio. In time, we'd like it to be seen as a reliable place for inspiration and conversation. It is non-commercial.

We make it as easy as possible for contributors, often ghost-writing pieces for those who are too busy to do anything but spend 15 minutes on the phone. Everyone, whether ghosted or edited, gets to approve the final piece.

Each post is about life and work and is non-promotional, although contributors usually mention their affiliations (with hyperlink) in their 40-word bio (plus headshot).

The About us page is probably the best place to check us out.

Do you know anyone who's passionate yet pragmatic? (Including yourself, of course.)

Please let us know.

Thank you.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Here's a list of the posts we've run so far:

Why things will get better from the work of Matt Ridley, December 22, 2011

Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, Felix Dennis, on Good Fortune January 12, 2012

Never mind GDP, what about Gross National Happiness? from the work of Chip Conley, January 19, 2012

Reconnecting kids with the school curriculum by Ray Maguire, January 26, 2012

Has the Khan Academy found the right way to educate? by me with Jim Farver, February 1, 2012

Why green makes business sense by Ben Goldsmith, February 9, 2012

Is sustainable growth a myth? by Clive Longbottom, February 23, 2012

Rag and bone men of the information world by Euan Semple, March 7, 2012

The power of community by Mark Chillingworth, March 21, 2012

Where's the 'social' in 'accountancy'? by Martin Banks, April 4, 2012

Mind the gap by Hussein Dickie, April 18, 2012

Inhumane HR behaviour by Tracey Poulton, May 2, 2012

Listen! (To the right people) inspired by the Cognitive Edge folk, May 16, 2012

Get on the trust trajectory by Rob Wirszycz, May 30, 2012

Baby, bathwater, beware … by Anne Marie McEwan aided and abetted by me, June 13, 2012

 

 

The right thing to do?

Recent events have drawn me away from Teblog and I think they’re likely to keep me away. But I am involved in something much better.

First a bit of background: editing and writing much of the original paper version of Blue & Green Tomorrow gave me massive opportunities to write about the environment up to May last year; on the communication front, media skills training hit an unexpected peak in January; and, since June, I’ve spent at least half of my time with a company which hits every Tebbo hot button: communication, environment and IT.

The people I work with are great and we’ve created a neat website, demo and knowledgebase plus various social media presences. The company itself, 6Connex EMEA, is all about online events, content and collaboration, thus accelerating work and cutting the costs (financial, social and environmental) associated with travel.

But it gets better. Tracey (the boss) and I wanted to do something extra but non-commercial. Inspired by the work of the Lunar Society at the dawn of the industrial age, we wanted to get right-minded people to share their practical insights with each other and with anyone who cares about making the world a better place. (The motivation is similar to Blue & Green Tomorrow’s. The difference is that it goes way beyond environmental issues.)

We’ve had direct contributions from people like publishing mogul, poet and forest builder, Felix Dennis and green investment wizard Ben Goldsmith. We’ve covered some interesting TED videos – one on Gross National Happiness and another on why things will get better. We’ve also had people who are at the heart of change in educational systems and one who argues that growth and sustainability are incompatible.

 

Some pioneering contributors and featured presenters in The Right Thing To Do?

TRTTD folk

Top row: Euan Semple; Clive Longbottom; Ben Goldsmith; Ray Maguire.
Bottom row: Matt Ridley; Chip Conley; Felix Dennis; Salman Khan.

 

Just this week, social networking guru, Euan Semple, contributed a great post entitled “Bloggers are the rag and bone men of the information world.”

Everyone is giving their time and ideas for nothing. No-one puffs their business directly, although they can all share their credentials in their mini-bios. TRTTD exists for knowledge sharing and discussion which will provide a bedrock of thoughtful considerations for our collective future. Depending on individual circumstances, posts are either contributed, the product of an interview or are written up around an online video.

Curating TRTTD seems to me to be a much better cause than continuing with Teblog. I’ll keep it open for now, but expect most of my energies to be spent elsewhere. And, if you like the sound of “The Right Thing To Do?” why not come on over. It would be great to see you there. Here are the Website and Twitter links.

 

Would you spam your followers?

Should I spam my contacts? I don't think so.

Why do I ask? Because, I received an email this morning from someone I once knew slightly asking me to advocate something his brother had done. In essence the email told me exactly how he'd like me to spam my followers. 

Here's his approach:

After an intro he says, "I'm writing to ask you very personally for your help …".

I like the "very personally" since it's clearly not. It's a mass mailing.

He asked for 'likes' on three social networks, a Tweet, a Facebook mention and a blog post. He also asked for support on a couple of publicity sites and offered an opportunity for a minuscule and fleeting piece of self promotion.

Finally he describes the product in more detail and asks if I can help him find distributors.

Clang!!

That was the bin.

Am I wrong?