flowing motion

I write to understand the future of social media, positive psychology and the future of work

Posted on: March 13, 2010

My blog as my whiteboard

Welcome.  This is my personal whiteboard where I jot down thoughts and notes as I read things around the net and make sense of what is happening in the world of work and social media as we race through the 21st century.

Positive psychology

A psychologist by training, I follow the rise of the positive movement.  Many people think positive psychology is just a surge ‘touchy-feeling’ gush that matters little in the world of hard-knocks.  Certainly, I have some reservations about the political stance, and even ethics, of some positive psychologists who appear to willing to serve the ‘haves’ and to leave the ‘have-nots’ to the protocols of self-help.

I also have some reservations about the self-proclaimed scientific or evidence-based approach which depends up on linear models and ‘positivism’ and a methodology that outsources reality and morality to forces outside our control.   Proclaiming this position while stating the ‘have-nots’ are responsible for their well-being appears to me a double-bind.  I am still to meet a positive psychologist who will engage in this debate.

Positive psychology and social media

The positive movement is far more than these reservations though and we ‘should not throw the baby out with the bath water.’  The positive movement is also the bedrock of the new networked age ushered in by the internet and more urgently by the readwrite, two-way, 2.0, or social media, the media where we communicate laterally.

In this field too, a big question is whether we are going to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Here the ‘baby’ is the command-and-control structures in the world of work.

The future of work

The world of work is not a world of positivist science, much as many of my colleagues in science try to claim. It is a world that we have made. To use Dan Pink’s words, the world of work is akin to a TV set. Our workplace procedures are a bundle of ideas that allow us to create particular solutions for a specific age.  As our circumstances change, so do our solutions.

Nonetheless, habits die hard and for that reason many methods of work will not change until there are no ‘takers’ in the community.  Working methods will survive for many reasons and in different forms, just as The Worshipful Company of Pewterers, for example, survives as a charitable organization run by descendants of pewterers and supports medical research and inner city schools and those few people still earning their living through pewter.

Changes in work that we can count on

So bearing mind that work is a matter of culture that has quite different dyanamics from high school experiments in physics, we can look at changes that are taking place in the world of work for heuristics, that is, ideas about how to run our own affairs.

For anyone well versed in management history, they know that a management system must create value.  In simple terms, the value produced by management must exceed the cost – and by a large margin.  When we are destroying value, we must go, because when we cost more than marginal value that we add to a firm, the direct producers are better off without us.

BPR, business process re-engineering, and Toyota methods of management, despite its current troubles, have already shown us how to use computers to simplify processes within an organization and between organizations and to significantly enhance our ability to deliver better products and services more reliably and less expensively.  At best, management work changes. In many instances, management work disappears.  The structure of organizations changes.  No longer does communication go up-and-down the organization.  It goes across and out.  This is not a trivial change.  It is not a matter of putting in computers.  It is a matter of taking out the cost of management.

Social media has stepped up our potential to deliver quickly to an entirely new level.  Transaction costs in many industries have plummeted and entire industries, like journalism, are about to be made redundant. Social media has changed our relationships with each other within industries and organizations.

It is no mean change that news is transmitted around the world via cell phone cameras and Twitter.  Nor is it any mean change that students can pull up HSBC on Facebook for unilaterally changing their contracts.

Yes, we will resist some changes – because we like the way we do things.  But we will probably pay dearly for that resistance.

Guessing at the other changes in  work

What is more interesting to me and the bloggers I follow is how do these new organizations work?  What opportunities do they offer?  How can we see ahead so that our actions today are relevant to our choices of tomorrow?

  • So I follow social media closely and I encourage people to acquire social media skills and experience.
  • I write up examples of social media in the world of work and business.
  • And I drill down to the principles and rules-of-thumb that we use to bundle up the solutions, the TVsets, that are working organizations and fun and viable businesses.

The positive movement and the future of work

The positive movement is part of this great wave of change. We have five basic principles that are phrased one way or another but go generally like this.

#1 This is our story

We are trying to jettison the pseudo-scientific language and management-speak and  we trying to learn to speak in terms of the hopes and dreams of the people around us. Narratives, hero’s journeys, poetry and snappy engaging talks are the mode of our time.  We encourage people to talk in their own voice.  In the social media world, we counsel against using false persona’s on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  He or she swho speaks must have the authority and experience to hold the conversation.

#2  Each of us is important

We recognize that each of us is our own hero and we have our own journeys.  Yet our own journey is also a journey of relationships. Much of leadership is hearing and understanding the journeys of people around us and finding the common cause where we journey together or part of the way.

#3  Life is an open-ended adventure

We understand that life is an open-ended journey.  We don’t know where we are going or what the new day will bring.  What we do know is who we have with us and what we do well. We know our hopes and dreams.  Rather than commit to a destination into which we shoehorn ourselves and our companions, we proceed more cautiously, reviewing as we go and shaping our destination as learn. It’s like the old advice to travellers. Taking half-the-clothes and double-the-money.  We keep ourselves flexible so that we can respond to opportunities that arise along the way.

#4  We move in the direction of the questions we ask

We manage ourselves through the questions we ask.  We know we cannot do everything and decision-making takes time, attention and resources.  So we are careful about our questions and we focus on what is worth doing and we ruthlessly rule out questions that are based on fixed ideas.  We don’t waste time worrying about what has not happened.  We attend to what we want to do and the resources we have at hand, including what we do well. Point #1 converges with this idea.  Failure and disappointment makes us moody and despondent.  We watch our language and the words we use so we don’t mood-hoover our motivation and abandon our journey downhearted and dejected, we have to do some work to watch our language.  As David Whyte says, sometimes life depends upon a walk around the lake.

#5  At any minute, we like to be in control

We celebrate the active nature of human beings. We love to do.  Give us half-a-chance, we learn new skills, try things out and help others. We like situations like computer games where can jump in and try, where we can learn and go to new levels and where we can play with others. The game designer, Jane McGonigal, described our needs as urgent optimism, tight social fabric, blissful productivity, & epic meaning.

Fortunately we know a lot about the psychology of situations that allow us such an engaged and vital existence. All the information for doing and being must be stored in our heads and and organized there in coordination with the hand that writes, the eyes that see, the feet that walk.  The thinking and control must lie with us. Then we feel like a superhero. Sometimes we are. We certainly feel alive and in flow.

The general change to working style

We don’t know where the world of work is going, in detail.  But we do know the focal point of control has moved to the consumer and therefore to the front line.  We do now that patterns of communications have changed.  If you send me a message, I expect you to answer my reply and answer my questions – quickly.  We are going to judge each other on our ability to respond quickly.

Like many people I worried about quality.  There are some jobs that require more than a 30 second response.  I no longer wonder whether the changes will happen, though.  It is only a question of how.

To find me on the internet

JoJordan.org

Linkedin

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@jobucks

jo at working2 dot 0 at gmail dot com

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