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Posts Tagged ‘Umair Haque

Social Media Fatigue

Earlier this week, Umair Haque wrote of his growing despondency with social media. It’s not an uncommon sentiment.  People are learning that social media is a tool that allows us to work and organize in novel ways.  It is not a panacea for all societal ills.  Indeed, like all tools, social media amplifies evil as easily as it amplifies good.

What is social media exactly?

Adrian Chan of Gravity7 sums up the issues better than I can and in suitably formal language.

Social media  “facilitates asynchronous communication between people whose mutual connectedness online can make them present to one another in a fashion that transcends the limitations of physical co-presence. And which, for its capture and storage of that communication in the form of a digital textual artifact, renders this communication in a way that, within the medium only, lends it some persistence and durability. All of which leaves behind content for later use, re-use, recontextualization, and what have you. That’s what it’s good at: mediated communication and interaction.”

In plain language, this means.
  • Social media allows us to talk more easily to more people than we can by phone, email or in person.
  • Our connection online allows us to work on projects together.
  • Social media keeps record of our communication with little effort on our part.
  • We can remix our communication for other purposes.
Social media is just a tool of communication that allows us to interact through digital media.  No more or less.

Why I am fascinated by social media

It’s what we do with social media that is interesting.  And for me, anyway, it is the possibility of ‘pull’ models that is interesting.

But just because we can do interesting things doesn’t mean to say that we do.  Nor does the presence of boring things stop us doing interesting things ~ well not so far.   It is not like work where you can be forced to do dull, useless things all day long.

That is why I am interested – the potential of organization structures that are vigorous and successful yet do not require people to do dull useless things all day long.

How, of course, are organizations that require us to do dull useless things profitable, we might ask.  Dull we know about.  Jobs were divided into small parts and done repeatedly to produce uniform products at speed.  We get MacDonalds.  Not all bad, but not fine food either.

Useless comes when the food value of a hamburger is no longer food.  How does that come about?  By what is known as “rents”.  The system allows people with vested interests to impose exploitative relationships.  Social media won’t make that stop.  We would all like to impose rents.  We plan to.  We aim to.

But social media make it possible to create new business models that don’t have to pay those rents.  That’s why so many institutions are coming under pressure.

Who will win or lose remains to be seen.  That’s the entertainment of the teen years of the 21st century.  What undermines ‘rents’?  How do ‘rent-seekers’ respond when their rents are undermined?  How does the battle play out?

The rent-seekers can still win.  This is an open-ended story.  We have to wait to the end to find out.

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Subprime crises ~ again?

Umair Haque‘s article in the Harvard Business blog of yesterday nudged me to think through Donella Meadows 12 levers to change a system.

Umair thinks a lot of activity in Web2.0, or social media, is little more than a “sub-prime crisis”.  And implicitly, he argues that we will continue to have sub-prime crises until we improve our moral and ethic act.

I think we will continue to have sub-prime crises because it is possible for sub-prime crises to happen. What is possible is possible. We don’t control everything!

But we also don’t have to lurch from crisis to crisis.

Managing systems is a little more than just managing

My argument though is that we have to think more clearly.

  • We can think about systems as systems.
  • We can watch that we don’t confuse our individual behavior with system behavior.
  • We can understand the linkages between our individual behavior and system behavior ~ and work clearly on the linkages without confusing these with our emotional reactions to changes in system behavior.

Sadly, few of us are educated in systems thinking. Even fewer are fluent.

In the management world, we have long separated the work of the line (the people who do work) – from managers (the people who make the system) – from staff (the people who manage the managers).

  • It is very necessary for managers to think clearly about systems without  muddle the overall effect with what any one of us does. The art of management is also leveraging without exaggerating or underestimating any of levers.
  • And the staff – the managers of the managers – have their role in training managers and holding up a mirror of their behavior so they have accurate and timely feedback.

Next step in clarifying my thinking about systems

My next step is to review my current think with what Donella Meadows wrote on managing systems.

The subprime crisis is a good impetus to check the quality of our systems thinking!

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10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

I am currently writing about 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world and I stopped to consider the specific issues faced by startups – defining their fans & customers.

For HR too

HR are another group who face special problems. HR are last to the party and we often feel that there is little we can do about the structure and climate we inherit.

Well there is.

HR in the Recession Stressed World of 2009

First, promote positive psychology.

Full press. Positive psychology is the biggest favor we can do for our organization.

And to develop an infectiously positive outlook, we personally will take more vacations, play more golf, laugh more, and have fun! It begins with us.

Second, read the 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

Originally written by Umair Haque to defend networks under attack, the rules provide a framework for an organizational structure that will work in today’s fast moving world.

Our structures will be a little different to the ones we have now.

The job of corporate HR in a networked world

Why do we need an organization anyway?

In the ‘corporate’ office, our task is to develop the collective properties of an organization that the people out in the field need to compete effectively.

We, for example, work on discounts that make it easier to get good rents in the shopping malls. But we don’t sign exclusive deals that block the initiative of the people in the front line.

We conceptualize the meaning of the collective.  But ot in terms of return on our funder’s capital.  Interest on capital is incidental to our business. So are we, actually.

We conceptualize why the field units are better off working under one umbrella and we work out which aspects of the organization must be coordinated and which do not have to be.

That’s what we went to university to learn and that’s how we contribute significant, inimicable value that exceeds the cost of our salaries.

Just how lightweight can the organization be?

And then we execute those aspects of coordination in as light weight form as we can.

If capital is needed, so be it. But we don’t become prats and hand-over the business lock-stock-and-barrel.  We let the funders have their % return.  That is all.

Take the initiative to lead us into the networked world

And we step-up! This is the age of sweat equity. We are in the age of organizing ourselves around our talent and around our relationships with customers.

This is our task as HR managers of the 21st century

1.  Conceptualize the organizational structures that add value to the business.

2.  Organize the corporate office to add that value.

3.  Help talent make the transition from solo operator to team player and from talented employee to customer-oriented professional.

That’s what we do now. We are the entrepreneurs of the 21st century!

And if you are not in corporate HR?

Start learning.

You can activate positive psychology in the workplace without anyone’s permission.

Indeed, if they are inclined to say no, that is all the more reason why you must activate positive psychology, for the sake of your own mental health.

If you don’t understand that argument, contact me, and I will explain.

And activate social media for the functions you do control.

All works parties, sports teams and fund raising can be managed with social media.

Begin, so your skills are up-to-speed when you need them.

To recap: HR in the Networked World

1.  Positive psychology

2.  Social media

Why?

1.  We want to find the organizational structure that brings value to business.

2.  We want to organize the corporate office to execute the structure to add that value.

3.  We want to help each and every person in the organization go from being solo-performer with talent to a customer-oriented professional who is supported by a team and supports a team in turn.

I have my mission. I hope I have helped you find yours.

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On Saturday, Umair Haque published the ‘Sun Tzu’ rules for the networked world.  It is an important list.  I am sure people who need to defend themselves against networked attacks will study the rules closely.

I wondered, if the rules could also tell us something about social media strategy in non-crisis situations.

So I’ve re-written the rules for normal engagement.

What do you think?

The rules are in very straightforward language – I hope. I say this to alert you that in each rule is a critical point that must not be lost. In the first, for example, the issue is speed. If you can reach every one faster by sending out runners, then do that. Don’t use social media for the sake of seeming modern!

Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

1  Who and where are our fans? How quickly can we reach our most remote “fan”? Could we reach them faster through Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel?

2  What is the smallest chunk of information that makes sense? Can we break up our information into sensible small chunks preferably less 140 characters of a text message?

3  How can we send one message about what is happening and why it is important to the fans?

4  How can we break up our communication into cells so that if anyone part goes down, other parts are unaffected?

(Test: is there any one break that would crash the whole communication system?)

5  Can our fans quickly access resources and tools for them to respond to any meaningful scenario without referring back to us?

6  How do we monitor trending topics and join in relevant conversations?

7  What do we think are the appropriate ways for us to behave online and do we explain to our fans why we choose to behave as we do?

8  How do we help off-line groups and what resources do give them to help them organize themselves?

9  How do our fans remix our resources creatively and which formats help them do this?

10  What confuses our fans and where does confusing information emanate from? How can we counter the confusion at the source?

My first test of the Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

My first attempt to use the rules tells me that startups feel stressed on the first point. Startups understand too well the gap between their actual customers and the customers they desire.

The solution I will try is to help them draw their graph. I am going to write out a scenario for them (write out not just imagine) describing an existing customer or prospect.

  • How does the startup contact the startup and how does the customer or prospect talk to other people?
  • How does the customer or prospect reply to the startup?
  • Should someone hear a good word through word-of-mouth, how would a new prospect ask existing customers about the startup?
  • And what would they approach the startup about?

I will keep it concrete to avoid panic.  Write, write, write will be my plan because activity relieves anxiety.

Any comment about the rewrite?

Have you been able to use the list?  I’d be be interested in your experience.

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