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Web 2.0′s “Broadcast” problem: The case for Meaningful Engagement

For the commercial web’s first decade, people communicated the old fashioned way: broadcasting their messages to anyone who would listen. It was a simple, easy extension of traditional advertising, public relations, politics and academic publishing. E-mail, also cutting edge at the time, modeled the same broadcast mentality. It was yet another easy way to lob messages to large audiences.

Prevalence of the “broadcast model” has limited people’s view of how the internet can be used to deliver messages. Many still don’t realize that the new internet (Web 2.0) offers a radically different proposition: collaborating with others via an open, multi-party exchange.

Engagement is communication at a different level

If communicating via email was passive and routine, the connections possible with engagement are active and dynamic. True engagement is more work. It requires time, energy and active listening. But the resulting flow of information brings rich rewards. Insights begin to accumulate and multiply. Ideas get validated and enhanced in several directions at once. And as the value of the idea exchange increases, personal relationships begin to form around them.

Meaningful, high-value connections like these are at the core of the Twitter chat phenomenon that’s spawned successful, ongoing communities like #smchat and #blogchat and social innovation teams like #ecosys.

And yet engagement rates among the masses remain critically low. Try to talk about social media with the average person, and you can see the resistance in their eyes, as if to say, “I know better, I’ve heard that one before, you can’t fool me.”

That makes building social teams and virtual communities much harder than it needs to be.

Why so much resistance?

I find the Web 1.0 mindset serves as a filter to the possibilities, reinforced by a culture that has grown cynical and distrusting. Unfortunately, those old habits and opinions die hard.

Thought leadership in this space goes back 50 years. Concepts like Thomas Kuhn’s “paradigm” (1962), Charles Handy’s “organizational culture” (1976), and Peter Senge’s “mental models” (1990) all build on the theme of the filters we use when we perceive the world around us. It seems we’ve advanced our understanding, but have moved too little to act on what we’ve learned.

The idea of “getting outside the box” was clearly spawned from this line of thinking. Far too many remain safely inside those boxes.

Here’s a key takeaway, unvarnished:

Mental filters (influenced by culture, formal education and our past life experiences) shape how we perceive the world around us, blinding us to new perspectives and blocking us from making deep connections with others.

Can we take this problem on, unlocking engagement in the virtual space? I say yes. Getting past our mental filters may be the first hurdle, but there are more. I’ve posted thoughts on the specifics of meaningful engagement over at Talent Culture.

There’s a world full of complex problems out there. Embracing broad, meaningful collaborative engagement on a much larger scale is critical if we hope to solve them.

Solving for ‘Social Media’? Why Context Matters

It’s common these days to see conversations or workshops with the premise: “here’s how you achieve success in social media.”

To be fair, in our weekly SMCHAT discussions, we’ve been exploring some similar questions .. though we’d claim it’s been with rigor, applying energy to frame specifics, and to vet our takeaways. But let’s face it. Lots of people are trying to get their hands around the new technology. The answers are needed.

No harm, no foul.

What we’ve learned, however, is that ‘solving for SM’ can’t be reduced to a simple formula.

Sure, it’s fundamental to engage, and to be authentic. Those are universal basics. But there’s also a variety of usage scenarios that cross a range of organizational contexts. The dynamics of using social technologies can vary quite a bit .. all the way down to selecting the best tools and metaphors .. depending on these scenarios. To illustrate the point, here’s a quick snapshot of the results from our brainstorming over the last several weeks.

For more viewable detail, check out the SM Usage Scenarios in pdf format.

Like everything we do at SMCHAT, we’re going to attack the problem head on, to try and wrestle it down. But this one may be our nemesis. With a quick glance, it’s clear: there are many contexts to consider, a range of content types, and (as shown in the PDF) a diverse set of audiences. The many to many to many mapping can get a bit crazy. Welcome to social media. Or in some quarters, its now ‘new media’ .. more proof of the variability of requirements across venues.

The semantics of “2.0” can be a daunting exercise, no?

We’re going to use charts like these to get our bearings, as we plan the scope and scale for SMCHAT in 2010, already in progress. But if there’s one thing we CAN take away from this analysis already, it’s this.

The correct answer to “How should you handle ‘social media’ .. ?”

It depends.

Starting 2010 with a Bias for Action

It’s the New Year, and there’s no time like the present to embrace all the things we spent 2009 talking about. Trouble is, there was lots of talk in 2009. Talk full of buzz words. Some claim that we’ve begun talking in circles. Maybe so. But in the process, we’ve laid an important foundation.

Look at it like this:

Meaningful, sustainable change starts with an informed conversation. Together, it’s easier to frame the future, to find the best path forward.

In 2009, via blogs and chats, we began to frame that future.

In many ways, 2009 had to happen. It’s not entirely clear how, but we survived it. We realigned our cost structures, built our networks, and learned how to interact using social media.

Now, with scarcely time for a breath, the hard work begins anew. Let’s start 2010 with a clear mindset. Here are four key themes, resolutions to guide our collaboration efforts:

  1. Bias for action. The key step in breaking the talk cycle.
  2. Bias for engagement. Moving away from the Web 1.0 broadcast model of communicating, toward a more valuable 1:1 exchange that builds relationships.
  3. Bias for learning and discovery. I’ve posted on the need for a learning culture, not only increased higher priority for education, but renewed focus on critical thinking and semantic clarity. If we succeed, the prize is a knowledge renaissance.
  4. Bias for change. None of the above will matter if we continue to cling to the past. Our risk-averse cultures are often biased to resist change. To move forward, we need to embrace it.

What does action-oriented collaboration look like? Here are some case studies in virtual community that seek to use engagement and discovery to drive new solutions:

  1. Look for some immediate changes at #smchat. Building on insights from 2009, we’re brainstorming how we can drive even more value for members. Thought leadership and emergent insight have been the core of our value stream. How can we leverage that?
  2. We’re at an inflection point for exciting things w/ #ecosys, our pilot project on public engagement to drive social innovation.
  3. Take a look at what’s happening at govloop. Over 20,000 voices from across government are self-organizing. Ideas are everywhere.

Let me know if you know of others.

2010 will be a time of culture change and new paradigms. We don’t have much choice. So strap in and hold on. We’ve got some work to do.

In a virtual world, what do we mean by “Community”?

Back in the day, when tribes were really tribes, the most critical need within a community was survival. Separating from the group introduced risk. Staying close improved your chances. In some ways, little has changed. These conditions seem strangely familiar.

No wonder an emotional connection often exists among the people and places of our local communities.

Borrowing from the anthropology books, the community of practice (“CoP”) concept emerged. It was coined by Lave & Wenger in the early 1990’s to reflect the tendency for professional groups to form based on common interests, independent of local boundaries. With a gradual introduction of work group and email technology, geographic constraints diminished. Knowledge Management (KM) brought recognition that groups in remote places could collaborate.

Today, social media dramatically improves on that capability, serving to amplify, accelerate, and even multi-thread interactions. But there’s a need to strike a balance between capability and usability. For a virtual community to survive, some key ingredients are required:

  1. A common, stated purpose (affinity).
  2. An aligned culture that values participation, cognitive diversity and discovery.
  3. Strong, cohesive relationships, built via engagement, trust and mutual respect.
  4. Support from authoritative external leaders (if applicable), and (at least) rudimentary governance.
  5. Awareness of diverse contexts (recognizing differences across functional silos, or along social vs. commercial, or local vs. global dimensions). This implies an ability to manage your mental filters.
  6. Semantic clarity.
  7. Strong connection (or access), providing intuitive ways for members to interact.

Virtual communities cut across traditional geographic, social and political boundaries; membership in many groups is possible. This allows cultures to mix. With increased interdependence comes new complexity. So it’s a mistake to believe virtual communities work just like the local ones. In the physical world, we had nonverbal cues; getting our bearings involved our ‘line of sight’. Now, we must rely on our ‘line of thinking’. And that can change quickly.

If a traditional community gives us a social context and a sense of place, a virtual community gives us optional contexts, diverse ways to view a problem and its solutions.

It’s more capability, with a price .. it takes more rigor to drive it.

Social media is just a platform, the next set of tools. The hard work of change remains. Is our culture more aligned with a race to the future? Or is our desire for stability prompting us (even subconsciously) to cling to the past?

I’m an optimist, but many take the latter perspective. For the ultimate answer, I’m holding on to the complexity view: the optimal solution is likely someplace in the middle.

The Problem with “Social” in Social Media (the case for ‘New Media’ and the semantics of 2.0)

The other day, I had an epiphany.

In one window, I’d been watching a series of tweets on how State CIO’s put collaborative tools at the bottom of their 2010 technology priority list, even though their top 3 strategic goals included better management of labor costs, workforce optimization, sharing of work .. in a nutshell: productivity.

In another window, I’d watched die hard SMCHAT members bemoan the boss who wouldn’t let them communicate via blogs, for fear they were wasting time. Forget the great ideas and potential innovations that were emerging.

Finally, the last straw: several high ranking execs were talking strategy, and one of them referred to the corporate adoption of SM, aka Enterprise 2.0 (#E20), as “Facebook behind the firewall.”

That’s when I snapped, so to speak.

From here out, I’m calling it facebook syndrome. You may know someone who has it too. It assumes social media is just about planning parties and swapping pictures, and it definitely doesn’t help with management buy-in.  In fact, there are two working definitions of social. One connotes entertainment, and another, the one we’re talking about for Government 2.0 (#GOV20) and E2.0 and any serious commercial application is about building new work groups; facilitating new engagement for problem-solving; driving better partnerships; enabling culture change; and, quite literally, unlocking innovation.

Let’s change the game. Let’s rally around a new name .. like “new media” perhaps? .. for commercial applications. And to sell it, let’s demonstrate a basis for measuring actual productivity gains, showcasing the people working closely together on shared problems that only recently had never met.

Watch people get excited about coming to work again.

It’s not social media that we’re chasing. It’s the networked learning organization. To get beyond images of wedding crashers, the solution language needs to reflect the mission.

Mind Maps 101

Everybody makes lists. It’s how we organize things. In fact, lately, I’ve had so many balls in the air that I’ve been making lists of lists. I guess its multi-tasking at its best.

What if we could create a list of lists visually, and put them online?

That’s pretty much what a Mind Map does, and the technology is taking off. I am by no means an expert, but I see the ability to visually organize our insights and our subject matter as powerful. If carefully constructed, important relationships are intuitive.

Here’s an example. If you’re like me, it’s getting harder to keep track of which topics and people are associated with the expanding universe of Twitter chats. So I used mind mapping to create a sample PDF; a thumbnail is shown here:

MindMap

MindMap Sample - SM Innovation

My map shows two primary chat groups #SMCHAT and #INNOCHAT, which, collectively, focus on how we can tap social media to drive innovation. It all seems to center around collaboration, so that’s in the middle. My personal depth in this space is on the social media aspect, so I focused there. I thought through the various aspects of SM, and devised related branches. As moderator of #SMCHAT, I’ve watched topics “emerge” over the last 5 months, so those relationships became apparent fairly quickly. In the 2-page PDF (version 1.2b), I fleshed out the space a bit more, showing related chats and hashtags. I added references to group leads and TweepML stakeholder lists (there’s that word again!), then saved it as a PDF.

A mind map like this one can help you navigate subjects and, if cross-referenced with resources, perhaps even help you to identify subject matter experts (or “SME’s”).

To address some potential questions:

Why the blank lines coming out of #INNOCHAT? That chat is redrafting its charter; watch for updates. No details on some branches? Those are areas I know less about, or in the case of Enterprise 2.0, I’m showing them to create some context and to spark more discussion. Do you disagree with some of my lines? No problem. Let’s collaborate, and we’ll fix them.

See how easy?

On Wednesday, 10/28 at 1pET, #SMCHAT will be all about Mind Maps. We’ll use this time to discuss what you can do with these exciting new visualization tools. I’ve invited a couple of experts, including @chuckfrey, @litemind and our own @jkloren to share what they can.

If you’d like to experiment with an open source (free) tool, take a look at XMind.

And this just in: a great interview w/ Mind Map expert Chuck Frey, super insight for the mind map chat.

I’ve roughed out an agenda and will share it shortly. That is, if I can remember what list I wrote it on. Hope you can join us.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

On Cultures of Learning

Since August, I’ve been on a journey. My posts have ranged from social innovation and ecosystem reform to Enterprise 2.0, the pitfalls of traditional Knowledge Management (KM), and the first inklings of a knowledge renaissance.

Do you see common elements? What if we made an effort to foster cultures of learning throughout our social and commercial ecosystems?  If we assumed there were shared threads, what kind of tapestry could we weave?

..

A Knowledge Renaissance

..

At the core of such a model would be teams of people, working to understand and improve the many problems and challenges in front of them. Let’s call that process collaboration. Social media is making this a virtual experience, removing traditional geographic and political barriers. Now anyone can collaborate with virtually anyone, at little or no cost. All it takes is a commitment of time, and a sense of purpose. What would they be working towards? The stuff of paradigm shifts, really: emergent insight, knowledge, or simply a better “way of doing things”. So we’ll call the outcome by its rightful name: innovation.

Now let’s look at examples in two distinct areas:

Social context. In areas like public education and healthcare, a focus on stakeholder outcomes is gaining increasing priority. Many have grown frustrated by a current state that is broken and dysfunctional. Even now, social innovators are forming ranks to attack issues in our ecosystems.

Commercial context. Still other teams begin to work in cross-functional ways to drive new organizational models. Focus on individual contribution increases. Silos are seen as the problem. Under banners like “Enterprise 2.0” and “Social Business Design” corporate innovators are building new models for networked interaction and collaboration.

Today, social and corporate cultures rule the status quo, and are routinely identified as the most critical barrier to change. The alternative? We need to build cultures that embrace learning as a fundamental requirement, bringing open minds and critical thinking to the table.

Behind the scenes, learning and innovation are woven tightly together.

Here’s the bottom line: if it sounds ambitious, it is. But the foundational work is underway and social media has unlocked many new doors. Its work that needs our energy and our focus. Are you on board? I’d love to get your thoughts.

6 Steps to unlock Social Innovation (aka “the Process”)

Starting in August, I began to build the case for change in complex social ecosystems. My thinking? We need to give social innovators new ways to come together for problem solving, to break the evolutionary gridlock that exists in areas like education and healthcare. Prior posts in this thread introduced a framework for change, a big picture view showing how providers and stakeholders interact. In my framework write-up, I began to lay out the building blocks for structural change.

In this post I provide the details of a new collaboration process, steps to help social innovators connect, frame problems and develop solutions.

Check out the diagram below. We’re going to focus first on the “discovery” thread, as it allows us to more fully understand the many interdependent issues and solutions. The “implementation” thread is critical too, but we’ll come back to that later.

Innovation Process (#ECOSYS)

Innovation Process (#ECOSYS)

The discovery process involves 6 key steps:

  1. Scope. Create defined boundaries around issues and needed solutions. The scope must be understood by all ecosystem players, solution team members, and anyone who is tracking our progress.
  2. Diversify. Build a solution team of 10-15 members that have the ability to look at problems and alternative solutions from different perspectives (aka “cognitive diversity”);
  3. Connect. Create environment where team members can meet and interact in a productive, transparent and virtual way; for practical purposes, we’ll be using social media;
  4. Engage. Create, communicate and gain consensus on ground rules for interaction to ensure goals and roles are fully understood at the outset.
  5. Learn. This is the step where the work gets done: we discuss the problem, frame alternatives and propose solutions. This includes developing a solution language and models showing stakeholder behavior for current problems and future solutions.
  6. Checkpoint. Evaluate interim results to determine one of three follow-up actions: (a.) more work of same scope is needed; (b.) additional detailed research or inputs are required ; or (c.) it’s time for implementation.

Cynics may say “Wait, this is nothing new; we’ve tried these steps before.” Fair enough.

What’s different is the medium. Social media neutralizes political and geographic constraints, bringing talented stakeholders together as needed. Participants can volunteer (“self-select”) and determine their role (“self-organize”).

We’re going to use our weekly #ecosys chat each MON at 8pET to vet and fine tune this process. Then we’re going to spawn two pilot problem solving groups, one for education, and another for healthcare. There is no limit to how this process can be applied. All that’s required is respect for a team approach and a passion for change. We can no longer afford to wait for someone else to come up with the answers.

Are you on ready to engage? I know a few social innovators who are. Leave a comment if you’re interested in the approach, or have perspectives to share. We value your input.

There’s lots of work ahead .. it’s time to get started.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

Enterprise 2.0: Can we get there from here?

Most would say Enterprise 2.0 is a future state: a time when people inside corporations are connected and engaged, a world where social media has taken hold. That’s how I like to frame it. Arguably, with cynics in the majority, progress will be gated by historical inertia in business, with deep organizational silos and a crowded graveyard of failed management “silver bullets”. Without a doubt, to overcome  an industrial management culture that is over 100 years old, we face a difficult journey.

We must ask: “Can we get there from here?”

On TUES at 8 pm ET, starting 9/29, we will premiere the #e20ws workshop. This session will be highly interactive: (a.) we’re going to work to attack the challenges in corporate social media adoption, and (b.) we’re going to produce useful ideas that you can bring back to your office. We’ll run this alternate weeks, so plan for 2nd and 4th Tuesdays (follow-on sessions: 10/13, 10/27, etc.).

Here’s our agenda, to get the conversation started.

  • T1. Goals, Objectives, Framing
  • T2. e20 Challenges of Silo Culture.
  • T3. e20 Standards, Alignment and Diversity of Thinking.
  • T4. e20 Engagement (n:n).
  • T5. e20 SM Technology (intro).
  • T6. Next Steps.

For more background reading, check out core principles of social media, provided by #smchat.

There won’t be time in one session to complete the above agenda; we simply want to lay the ground work for future discussions. I’ve hosted other “#chat” groups, (#smchat, #ecosys) and I think you’ll find the conversations are fast-paced, insightful, and a good source for networking with thought leaders.

I hope you’ll use the opportunity to engage, learn, and network. In fact, just by being there you’ll be participating in the social media experience.

I look forward to working with you on this.

Chris Jones (@SourcePOV)
Consulting Principal, SourcePOV, Cary, NC

The Path to Enterprise 2.0 (a Virtual Workshop)

Look around your company. Are teams working at cross purposes? Are you seeing good ideas get sidetracked? Do organizational silos and the politics that go with them result in project delays and failures?

You’re not alone.

It’s time to engage with others tackle these challenges and identify new ways to enhance productivity in your organization. You’re invited to participate in a bi-weekly Twitter-based conversation (#e20ws), beginning Tuesday, September 29 at 8 pm ET. We’ll discuss culture, engagement, alignment and technology. And that’s just for starters.

If you need some background on Twitter chats and hashtags, you’ll find that in more detail here.

All corporate professionals are welcome, but teams that generate insights, make connections, and share ideas across the organization will get the most value. These days, that’s almost everybody. But to create some focus: think Marketing, HR, Communications/PR, Customer Service and IT.

As with any public event, you’re responsible for exercising good judgment. Here are some pointed suggestions:

  • never share proprietary information about your company;
  • unless you’re an independent consultant, avoid references to your company in your Twitter ID and profile;
  • if your ID includes corporate branding, add a disclaimer along the lines of “views shared are my own, not necessarily those of my company;”
  • if your company has a social media policy, become familiar with it before engaging in online, public conversations.

In a sense, it’s no different than a regular public conference: you’re under no obligation to speak up. What’s different, however, is that direct, real-time interaction is just a few key strokes away. To access the live chat stream, simply launch the Tweetchat application at the appointed time:

http://tweetchat.com/room/e20ws

That’s it! Now, all you have to do is show up and bring your point of view. Plan to network and learn in real time with some of the most engaging, insightful folks in industry. 20th century silos and workgroup problems have been daunting for everyone. The 21st century is already in progress. We’re saving you a seat.

Chris (@SourcePOV)