Social Business

Luis Suarez spent many years at IBM in knowledge management and social business. Earlier this year, he branched out on his own. He's a popular speaker at conferences and advisor to many about the practicalities of social business.

One of his recent blog posts about social business challenges in the workplace spurred me to respond – something I should do more of (like blogging) but rarely get round to.

Social business at senior management level is not always appreciated or understood. In fact some (many?) actively resist it. I tried to take the management perspective with comments like:

It would be interesting to know how many of the 'resisters' of a top-down mindset are in fear of losing their power?

Perhaps they've acquired it through inheritance, accident, shareholding — anything except merit.

Or maybe they consider that their unique perspective wouldn't be understood by the 'lower orders', even if they were to share it.

When email first came in, analysis revealed that many middle managers were just 'message passers'. People just started leaving them out of conversations and they were exposed and, presumably, moved out of the way.

It's a bit different at the higher echelons of the company. I guess the answer is to find those senior management willing to engage socially and show the non-participants the value (e.g. better understanding of what's going on — in both directions) and see if participation spreads. If it doesn't then 'engagement' should perhaps be raised as an agenda item at board meetings.

Luis' responded quite fully (and harmoniously) and my response to this included:

Agree with you. Including your point on the restrictiveness (ie non-social) aspects of email.

I think that 'effective working' should always be the goal. I worry a bit when the goal is expressed as 'social' anything. Social is the mechanism, not the destination. It's something a lot of 'evangelists' (not you, of course) seem to miss.

He responded again so, if you have any interest in the subject of social business practicalities, I really urge you to add Luis' blog to your list of thought leaders in this area. He's widely known as Elsua, if you want to search for him. (Saves you ending up with loads of footballer hits.)

25 years of clients: alive, eaten and dead

I’ve been training mainly IT companies for over 25 years, mostly in partnership with Martin Banks. I thought it might be interesting to find out where all these companies are now,

After a lot of digging, I found out that about 20 percent are more or less untraceable – either out of business or fragmented and buried deep in multiple owners. About half are still ‘themselves’ and the remainder are now part of other organisations.

Here are a couple of charts which might interest you:

ClientDestinies

 

The chart below shows which companies have been absorbing other clients.

ClientEaters

. If you want to find out more, ownership details and website links are on my website.

A quickie on Python

Python logoCall me mad, but I've been learning the Python programming language.I needed a quick way to modernise masses of old HTML documents.

In the end, I decided it was quicker to use TextPad's powerful facilities to do that job, rather than learn a new language to do it. However, by then I had seen that Python would be a great way to write a pilot of a new program.

Thinking that I should get the newest and shiniest version, I installed 3.4 and, with the help of the online Python Tutorial and Michael Dawson's Python Programming book, started to crank out some useful little programs.

All very well, but then I realised that I could shortcut a lot of tedious work by using some cloud-based information but discovered from programmers and the cloud host's technical info' that they still prefer Python version 2. Grrrr.

Moral: do a bit more digging before taking the plunge. Version 3 may be the future, but version 2 is definitely the present as far as integration is concerned.

I'm now mugging up on the differences between 3 and 2. Oh well.

From the personal computer to the web: a searchable archive

Phew! That was hard work. I've tarted up the HTML of 263 of my columns and features written in the pre-web days (1979 to 1995). They should all be readable in any browser on any device.

The archive is searchable, so if you're into nostalgia or research, you can  check out my take on just about anything personal computer (including Mac) related from those years. It's a mix of opinion, reviews and feature articles written for a mix of consumer and business publications.

I must have been doing something right because my writing was put up for eight awards, I was a finalist for all eight and won the Times/Hewlett Packard Technology Columnist of the Year three years running. (I was then banned from re-entry.)

Apologies for any remaining typos. The articles were scanned and some words got mangled. I've fixed them where I've spotted them.

Have fun (or not).

http://www.tebbo.com/archive/

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."