Do you want to discover how social technologies transform individuals and organisations? Are you looking for hands-on tips on how to implement this technology? Are you ready to steal ideas from the very people who succeeded? Then this book is exactly what you need.
In this book, you will find:
• 15 authors from across the globe share their experiences, successes and failures.
• From the more philosophical matters, and tool-related questions, right across to concrete cases and “how to” tips: this book is a one-stop shop.
• It’s a handbook: pick a chapter at random and enjoy.
This book showcases a deep understanding of the essential connection between technology and cultural change, and how this is the ‘fuel’ of the most innovative organisations out there.
Traditional hierarchy works perfectly in a stable world defi ned by predictability, repetitive tasks and standardisation. In times of constant change, speed and instability hierarchy turns out to be an inadequate, perverted and perverting system. Managers behave like heroes who know it all and treat their staff as children.
Digital is the opposite of all this; digital is the Renaissance of work. Focus and power are given to the individual – employees and customers. Digital transformation kicks out the feudal system that dehumanises work. Technology in general and social technologies in particular allow employees to raise their voice and connect with people across hierarchical and geographical boundaries.
This is quite revolutionary because individuals start to think for themselves and work becomes more purposeful.
This book is at the very intersection between technology and human beings. Thanks to technology, we are all interconnected, we grow as professionals, and we can transform our organisations. Read how technology drives business success and, ultimately, transforms the society we live in. - Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO of Ericsson BeLux and Digital Champion Belgium
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isabel De Clercq is passionate about the vibrant interaction between people, brands, social technologies and organisational change. She enjoys delivering a positive message about technologies in general, and about social initiatives in particular.
Isabel supports organisational transformation through social initiatives (keynote speeches, awareness sessions and workshops). She is a crusader against Digital Detox and an evangeliser of Working Out Loud. Isabel works as Sparkle Architect and Trend Catcher at Wolters Kluwer Belgium.
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“A knowledge workerwho doesn’t sharehis knowledgeactually damagesthe organisation.”
Isabel De Clercq
Isabel De Clercq
It was October 2016 and I had a meeting in London with Jan Van Oudendycke, one of the co-authors of this book. We would talk about digital transformation and the power of social technology. The décor for our conversation was the Mandarin Oriental.
Entering the Mandarin Oriental is like travelling back in time. The majestic stairway in the entrance hall, the ceremonious hotel staff uniforms and the mahogany furniture: it all breathes glory. The glory of a time where the British Empire still ruled an important part of the world, an old world without computers or mobile devices.
Sitting next to high-heeled and veiled Arab women enjoying their afternoon tea, Jan and I talked for hours about knowledge sharing in Enterprise Social Networks, the end of the monopoly of the physical workplace, and the opportunities created by technology for individuals, teams and organisations.
Was it the cosmopolitan setting? Or the energy built up during the dialogue between Jan and myself? Or maybe even the disparity between the old décor and the subject of our conversation? I don’t know. But by the time I had left the Mandarin Oriental there was this little voice inside of me that brought me out: “gather all those inspiring people you have met via social media; ask them to capture their knowledge and expertise into several chapters for a book; and spread this beautiful ideology that social has become!”
And so I did. Using Skype, Facebook and Twitter I contacted my peers in Australia, the US, the UK, Germany and Belgium. By November that year our team was set, and during the Christmas holidays we all started to write.
Throughout this book, you will perceive a reverberating message of beauty; an ever-flowing whisper in your ear about the positive, transformative power of social technology: it facilitates connections between people and ideas, and these connections make individuals and organisations grow.
The authors of this book believe technology has enabled the emancipation of the knowledge worker. They also believe technology helps organisations become great places where people create value through interaction and interdependency.
Social is such a beautiful ideology.
“Surely you’re not going to publish a book about digital? A PAPERback about digital?” I’ve been asked this several times. They’re right. There isn’t a single rational argument that can endorse my choice. You see, where are the hyperlinks and the social dynamism in a printed book?
I’ll be honest with you: when I was a child I loved the smell of libraries. Every Saturday, I would come back home from a library with a pile of books. Even now, every Saturday, I pay a visit to the book shops in Antwerp. I walk around, admire the covers, and I leaf through the books feeling the different textures of the paper. Attractive font types make me happy. My house is bloated with books. And when we’re on holiday, and I’m lying on the beach, I’ve always got a book and a pencil with me, to circle the beautiful sentences. My daughter, who is more keen on the positive sciences, laughs her head off at me.
So, forgive me for choosing a book.
I truly hope you don’t keep this book immaculately white. Make dog-ears on the most interesting pages! Highlight sentences that have inspired you! Steal the tips and share them with others on social media! Skype with the authors to tell them how you agree or disagree with us, or just share your enthusiasm! Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on the Facebook page of this book!
This book is just the start of other connections, other conversations, other dialogues. As I said, social is such a beautiful ideology.
And maybe one day we will meet. At the place where it all began: the Mandarin Oriental in London.
Antwerp, 8 March 2017
It was back in 2002 when I first saw the power of simple, social tools to change the way we coordinate and organise work and work-related communication within organisations. Compared to the complicated, web-based knowledge sharing platforms that my firm was building at the time, blogs were elegant, cheap and powerful, whilst wikis seemed to be the ultimate in iterative simplicity for sharing knowledge. Instead of seeking to build a perfectly designed superstructure — as we were doing at the time — and then persuade people to contribute, these tools embodied the Cluetrain Manifesto’s philosophy of ‘small things loosely joined’ as the best way to grow networks.
I remember the early conversations between blogging pioneers as wonderful examples of honesty, generosity, building on the contributions of others, and seeking to advance collective knowledge. Later, this community developed social link sharing and tagging; folksonomies as a counterpoint to centrally developed taxonomies; and various flavours of social networks. This community also pioneered the rise of chat tools as activity streams — an idea that is only now developing serious traction in organisations thanks to the rise of Slack and Microsoft Teams.
We saw the writing on the wall and set up a new firm, Headshift, to pursue this approach. I worked for the next decade on mainstreaming these new social and digital technologies within large organisations in the hope of humanising and improving the way work is coordinated. It was a long hard battle against more traditional, top-down approaches to IT and work management culture.
Perhaps naively, at the time I believed McLuhan’s adage that “we shape our tools and then our tools shape us” would inevitably lead to the decline of hierarchy and bureaucratic management as the dominant organisational model. To a certain extent, this mind shift happened, and a generation of people have grown up with the idea that internet technologies can empower them to work together collaboratively without being told what to do like children or nineteenth century factory workers. But whilst no successful start-up would begin from the old organisational template, the task of reforming existing organisations is much harder.
In fact, as the authors of this book make clear, the question is not just about technology, but also culture, structure, behaviour, leadership and learning new ways of working. This poses a real challenge for those of us now involved in designing and defining operating models for twenty-first century organisations, because it is hard to build connected companies from within functionally divided organisations. To help accelerate the change we want to see — the journey towards more human, connected and effective organisations — we must educate ourselves on all aspects of this challenge. That is one reason why I welcome contributions such as those you are about to read. They touch upon some of the key issues, but without requiring a depth of specialist knowledge.
As Isabel points out in the chapter that follows, this book does not demand to be read linearly from cover to cover, but can be dipped into for inspiration or signposts towards areas or topics that you might want to explore later in greater depth. And, of course, the inclusion of practical case studies is to be welcomed in a field where the ratio between those who talk about the topic and those who have real experience living the topic is rather top-heavy, to say the least.
My own journey has taught me that just because something makes sense, or even seems inevitable, it doesn’t mean it will happen. As seasoned market watchers sometimes remind us, markets can stay irrational for longer than individual investors can stay solvent. So whilst the caricature of a closed-minded manager that opens this book is both funny and true, we should assume that many (most?) managers can afford to carry on as before for as long as their employees, customers, investors and markets allow them to, rather than re-tool, re-think and re-organise for the good of the companies they run.
Therefore, one of the most important things we can do is identify and support enlightened managers, and invest our time in making a positive case for how a new approach can help them, and allow them to create a much more meaningful legacy than just running the old machine for a few years. To this end, the chapters that follow on leadership, new behaviours like working out loud, and new approaches like reverse mentoring, are particularly useful starting points.
Social technology is now so widely and easily available that it has become unremarkable. New organisational structures and practices are being used by some of the most successful, high-growth firms, and are no longer regarded as risky or un-businesslike. There is a widespread consensus, even among managers in very traditional firms, that the old system of bureaucratic management is unsuited to the demands of modern markets, connected products and empowered customers and employees. And yet, the act of will required for the current generation of senior managers to act on this information and take responsibility for ensuring a prosperous future for the firms that pay them so handsomely is still notable by its absence. Inertia is a powerful force and only sustained momentum can overcome it.
Not one book or idea or methodology will achieve this, but I think we all have a responsibility to engage in critical, respectful dialogue with business leaders and managers about how and why change must happen. The ideas laid out in this book are great conversation starters and I hope they will help some of you bring this dialogue to life and create a better understanding of how social technologies have the power to drive business success.
London, 18 March 2017
Isabel De Clercq
It is entirely up to you how you read this book: from A to Z, plucking chapters out at random, on the couch, at your desk, in bed… but you might like to know how I put the book together before you decide how to squeeze the juice out of it.
This book is divided into four sections, which basically respond to the whys, whats and hows of social technologies for business:
Ideas – discover how technology changed our world and how social and digital are intertwined.
Tools – read about which technologies are available to make social a success in your organisation. We compare the different tools and explain when to use which.
Methods – learn from concrete examples of how to implement the idea of social in your organisation. What works and what doesn’t?
Cases – take a closer look at a few strong cases, at both local and international companies. The stories here are formulated in such a way you can steal ideas and apply them to your own organisation. Please do!
There is a little something for everyone, and enough material for both thinkers and doers.
But you don’t have to read it following this order. Leaf through the book, skim the text and let yourself be drawn into its words, titles and appealing sentences. Then pick a chapter. Each one stands on its own two feet, like a solitaire diamond, and thus can be read separately.
I want you, reader, to see them as gifts, since they will each give you something new (insights), make you want to change things (inspiration), and offer you tips on how to do it (guidance). And, when I say “steal ideas and apply them to your own organisation”, I really mean what I say, so please use and abuse them… and let the magic happen.
Email to: All staff
From: John Brown, CEO, Old Hat Inc.
RE: PLOT UNCOVERED TO INTRODUCE SOCIAL MEDIA AT Old Hat Inc.
It’s been brought to my attention that a bunch of rabble-rousers in this organisation have been bunkered down, developing a subversive plan to introduce social media.
Stop what you are doing immediately and read this email from me, your leader, on why it will NEVER happen while I’m in charge of Old Hat Inc.
Never needed social before in business – don’t need it now.
I’ve been in the workforce for more than 30 years and I didn’t become a CEO by being warm, fuzzy and social. I succeeded after years of back-breaking work in an analogue world. Have you any idea how exhausting it is breaking other people’s backs as you climb the corporate ladder? The point is: I’m a success story of my generation and I don’t need to chatter mindlessly to people on Twitter to stay on top. Besides, I’m much too old to be bothered about learning how all these new digital and social tools work.
We reward what YOU deliver – not social collaboration.
Here at Old Hat Inc., our rigid HR Systems and Processes treat you, our happy workers, as resources for getting work done. Remember, you are paid and rewarded for what YOU deliver. None of this “working out loud” or “collaborating” in enterprise social claptrap. There is no need to share what you are doing with other staff – they don’t care about your views. They’re too busy toiling away on their own projects. That’s what I love about the competitive performance culture at Old Hat Inc.
You won’t learn anything from social media and it’s unproductive.
There’s nothing on external social media that will help you perform in your job. You won’t learn anything from those people getting around on Twitter or LinkedIn purporting to be “thought leaders” in leadership, or marketing, or enterprise social, or whatever. Stay well away from those snake oil salespeople – they’ll just try and brainwash you into a different way of thinking and working and that’s dangerous. Everything you need to know about doing your job can be found inside the four walls of Old Hat Inc. Besides, allowing the use of social media in our organisation means you would be distracted from your job. If you’re wasting time watching cat videos on YouTube or sharing inane leadership tweets such as ‘teamwork makes the dream work’, then who on earth is doing the real work?
The hierarchy is the only social structure that matters.
I love the organisation structure of Old Hat Inc. and the layers of management that keep me far, far away from you. Our hierarchy brings tremendous clarity, showing everyone who is boss and, by default, whose opinion matters most (mine). Social networking would just confuse this symbiotic relationship. I don’t want you to get creative and exercise judgement based on what you might see and hear in the social world. Besides, if you started to use enterprise social to raise issues or problems, it will create more work for me because I’d have to listen to you and respond.
Being social means losing control of the message.
I love nothing more than the complete control I have over what goes into a media release about all the fantastic things happening at Old Hat Inc. If we started letting you share your views through social – internally or externally – you might say the wrong thing and your comments could go viral in an instant. That’s a great reason to keep the corporate messaging in the hands of a few Old Hat Inc. people, instead of enabling a social free-for-all.
Our leaders are awesome leaders without being social.
Our leaders do a great job sending you lots of emails and carefully crafted newsletters and I’ll bet you spend a lot of your time reading every word of our corporate communications. Given our leaders are such excellent communicators, there’s no need for an enterprise social network at Old Hat Inc. In my opinion, leaders who use enterprise social to get things done are soft. If you’re the boss and asking questions of people further down the hierarchy, then you’ve got problems. Fancy your people at the grassroots thinking you don’t have all the answers. If you’re a highly paid executive then it’s your business to be the smartest person in the room.
Hoarding information is powerful – sharing is for the weak.
I know some people believe we’re in a ‘knowledge economy’ and we should share information but I’m a firm believer that, if you’re an information worker, you should keep what you know to yourself. Sharing knowledge didn’t do anyone any favours. Don’t be fooled by people on social who are ‘working out loud’. They will steal all your good ideas and put them up as their own. This is why social doesn’t make sense for Old Hat Inc. Knowledge is power and we like to hoard it and keep it to ourselves. It’s how people in organisations have managed to survive for eons.
Social media will be introduced at Old Hat Inc. when hell freezes over.
So there you have it. My very sound reasons for why I will never, ever give you access to social media at work. Our dog-eat-dog culture won’t benefit from social collaboration and knowledge sharing. It’s a waste of time, you’ll never learn anything from anyone while you’re being social and I can’t trust you to use it responsibly.
As for the trouble-makers who have been plotting and scheming to introduce social at Old Hat Inc., I know who you are and the Head of HR and I will be seeing you soon.
Old Hat Inc.
1. Digital subverts hierarchy
2. Arguments to convince your management
3. 10 remarks on your social project and 10 reactions to debunk them
4. From dictator to influencer – leadership in the new digital world of work
5. Unravelling the dumb organisation in the network era
6. The social CEO
Isabel De Clercq
How does technology transform the workplace? Why does it reshape the relationship between organisations and customers, employers and employees? And what is the link between social technologies and digital transformation?
Read the next chapter to explore the central concepts of this book: social and digital.
technology | subversive | Renaissance of work | nodes in networksblurring boundaries | knowledge flows | trust
There were nine of us. People from the vibrant start-up scene; all experts on digital. Among us, a professor from the Solvay Business School; digital champion Saskia Van Uffelen, the CEO of Ericsson Belux; and me. We were asked to give our point of view on the intriguing topic of digital to members of the European Parliament.
It would be a pity not to share this text as a written version of what I said that rainy afternoon in the autumn of 2016.
Digital is an intriguing topic. Today, I would like to focus on two elements:
Digital subverts hierarchy – one of the reasons why old organisations struggle with digital transformation.
Digital and social go hand in hand. Better still, social technology accelerates digitalisation.
The wave of digital reached Europe at the end of 2014 and gave Belgium a slap in the face in October 2016, with the announcement of over 3,000 job cuts at ING. Organisations finally understand digital transformation is not a luxury pastime. They realise it’s about their survival and that digital should be at the centre of executives’ attention. At the same time, we see that organisations, especially older ones, really struggle with this.
One of the reasons for their struggle is that digital subverts hierarchy. Digital is a rebellious act against command-and-control systems.
Traditional hierarchy works perfectly in a stable world defined by predictability, repetitive tasks and standardisation. In times of constant change, speed and instability hierarchy turns out to be an inadequate, perverted and perverting system. Managers behave like heroes who know it all and treat their staff as children.
Digital is the opposite of all this; digital is the Renaissance of work. Focus and power are given to the individual – employees and customers. Digital transformation kicks out the feudal system that dehumanises work. Technology in general and social technologies in particular allow employees to raise their voice and connect with people across hierarchical and geographical boundaries. This is quite revolutionary because individuals start to think for themselves and work becomes more purposeful.
People are no longer reduced to their position in the hierarchy; they become strong nodes in networks. By building bridges inside and outside the organisation they engage in true dialogue with stakeholders, partners, competitors and customers. Digital is about blurring barriers between the inside and the outside.
Digital shapes new kind of organisations based on trust, where value is created in communities together with customers, who provide constant feedback. Digital propels the organisation towards customer- and employee-centricity.
So you see, this is the complete opposite of how organisations used to work. And it is one of the reasons why older organisations struggle with digital transformation.
But how can organisations make the transition? How can they get rid of the suffocating effect of inward-looking silos, and shift towards more community and network thinking? Social technology plays a crucial role here.
Social technologies like Jive, Yammer, Slack and Workplace by Facebook are catalysts for organisational transformation: they enable communities to grow; they give people a voice; they help install meritocracy; they speed up knowledge flows; and they facilitate trust.
Some people say technology cannot change the culture of an organisation. I strongly disagree. Let me explain why.
Culture is the result of the way we do things. In other words, the key to changing culture is not running expensive culture change programmes, it is simply doing our work in a new way1. This is exactly what social technologies facilitate.
Working in virtual workplaces such as Yammer or IBM Connections no longer allows for command and control. Virtual workplaces foster new ways of working. Secrecy, power tripping and cascading systems are replaced by trust, transparency, meritocracy and conversation. The end of the monopoly of the physical workplace inaugurates a new era, an era where old management styles slowly die.
“I see that by using Yammer hierarchical structures become less important.” That’s what engineer and former CEO of GDF Suez Energy International, Willem Van Twembeke, revealed to me during an interview in March 20152. His words still resonate in my head.
Hence my strong belief that technology in general, and social technologies in particular, can change the culture of an organisation.
Key ideas in this chapter
Digital is not just about technology. It’s about the Renaissance of work.
Social enables digital transformation: it breaks barriers and propels the organisation towards customer and employee centricity.
Technology in general, and social technologies in particular, can change the culture of an organisation.
Jan Van Oudendycke, Rita Zonius and Isabel De Clercq
“Social?”, said the executive from the other side of the table. He uttered the word as if he had just eaten something gone off. As if the word had left a bad taste in his mouth. “Are we really going to do the social thing?”, he smiled scornfully.
There I sat, stupefied. I was too late in realising I had used the wrong word.
“And what’s the use anyway?”, he went on. The coup de grâce.
He had obviously won. I didn’t have an answer up my sleeve, not a strong argument, not a counterblow. He had blown me away. Alas!
Being a believer will help if you want to implement social, but it won’t get you very far. In the blink of an eye you get deflated to “naive idiot”, when you sit around the table with cynical Mr. Thomassen. “First you see, then you believe!”, all the men chanted together.
Cynical Mr. Thomassen’s question reverberated in my head so much it was the inspiration for this chapter. The following chapter will empower you with a series of strong arguments you can slap the directors’ table down with.
speed | innovation | efficiency | agility | employee satisfactionintroverts | pulse check | impact
Do you want to promote social at the directors’ table? Be prepared! The arguments in this chapter will surely help you in the undertaking. They are the perfect antidote to the smirks and sneers of sceptic executives.
Our organisation charts illustrate the abundance of boundaries within and without. Boundaries between staff and customers, teams, business units and hierarchical levels. And we’ve all seen the perverse effects these obstacles have: they obstruct the flow of information; they slow down the process of decision-making; they kill intrapreneurship.
Social technologies help to break down these suffocating boundaries. And these are the benefits that flow out of them:
Knowledge is shared freely, which encourages solutions and best practices to be shared in turn. The wheel doesn’t get reinvented. We really haven’t got any more time for that.
Faster and easier access to experts allows employees to provide answers to customers’ questions better and faster.
The decision-making process is speeded up thanks to two reasons. First of all, faster access to more experts enables you to get the right people around the table. Secondly, you have easier access to the relevant documents that contain knowledge crucial for the decision to be made.
Employee engagement3 and employee satisfaction4 increase. No matter where you stand in the hierarchy, everyone now has a channel to reveal hidden talent, ideas and expertise. What counts is not your status but your contribution.
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