The Heaven and Hell of Communities & Networks


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Keynote slides from KMSingapore 2012 reflecting on how we might more strategically use communities and networks. Recording will be up at later

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  • Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to be together, to play, create, work, fight, build destroy. We have functionally expanded our horizons out of our geography and the constraints of our organization to what might be described as “limitless possibility.”
  • What about the flip side of this sea of possibility. Have we created heaven? Or hell?
  • Let me start us off grounded in a real story about my real, dysfunctional practice. How did I prepare to deal with how to deal with my communities and networks? Naturally, I went to my communities and networks. So here’s the rub – and I thought about creating a video showing this process, but naturally I was so busy sifting, skimming and curating that I ran out of time for production. Heh.
  • How many of you are active users of your communities and networks? How many? Stand up if you participate in 1-2. Stay standing if you participate in more than 5. More than 10. More than 20. You don’t know exactly, but it is a barnload. See what I mean? Some of us are seduced by that possibility. And as individuals that is our choice. But from an organizational perspective, how are we going to usefully tap into communities and networks without spending all day and eating the entire refrigerator? Now, we get to the heart of the matter. And the matter matters. Today’s business and societal challenges are complex and require us to step beyond what has worked in the past. We need the ability to tap into divesity and then make sense of it with sufficient depth that it becomes strategic.
  • How many of you are active users of your communities and networks? How many? Stand up if you participate in 1-2. Stay standing if you participate in more than 5. More than 10. More than 20. You don’t know exactly, but it is a barnload. See what I mean? Some of us are seduced by that possibility. And as individuals that is our choice. But from an organizational perspective, how are we going to usefully tap into communities and networks without spending all day and eating the entire refrigerator? Now, we get to the heart of the matter. And the matter matters. Today’s business and societal challenges are complex and require us to step beyond what has worked in the past. We need the ability to tap into divesity and then make sense of it with sufficient depth that it becomes strategic.
  • We become stretched like a ruber band, our attention at the breaking point. We go from the richness of our connections to overwhelm. We may even be losing those magic moments of “kismet” when randomness brings us gems.
  • Simply, 'mitigation', refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. These actions tend to look at how we can reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, such as CO2, but also reducing the use of other resources, such as water, waste, and transport costs. As well as improving competitiveness and meeting legal requirements, it makes good business sense to reduce use of resources as it could help free up cash for the development and growth of your business. On the other hand, 'adaptation' refers to activities that identify and address the impacts, and also opportunities, resulting from the changing climate. So, from a business perspective, it's about building resilience by putting in place plans that will minimise interruption as much as possible in the event, for example, of a flood or heavy snowfall. This is critical to business survival; especially when considering that seven out of 10 small firms would go out of business if they experienced a major emergency in their first year; 80 per cent of small businesses affected by major incidents close within 18 months (figures from AXA Insurance).
  • I have been spending a lot of time thinking – and frankly – worrying about this. And that is my struggle – and the struggle I see others engaged in – to strategically use this profusion of opportunity usefully. And not to either drown in it, or skim it so lightly that we lose meaning, depth and perhaps even the real value of internet mediated communities and networks. Well, Edgar said the focus is to be prepared for the future. That future is here. Now. And I’m not sure we’re all prepared. So I invite you to consider three ideas – they really aren’t radical – but that sounds good for a title, eh – on how we can develop strategies for usefully apply communities and networks in our work. These apply, by the way, outside of work as well. But lets start in the organizational context.
  • #2. Agile Adaptability. Depth Or how to dance around all the options and keep an eye on the goal.
  • The purpose. The “what for.” So we know what the “then what” really is.
  • The Cynefin framework is familiar to many of you here in Singapore. A related approach is something many of you here know about, the Cynefin framework that Cynthia Kurtz and Dave Snowden developed and which Dave and his Cognitive Edge team has taken further. This framework can be a very useful tool to help us understand not only what to stop doing, but where strategically tapping communities and networks can really pay off. Let’s look at some examples
  • In my network wanderings, er, um preparations, I came across a terrific blog post from Steve Waddel, on the practice of “Three Time Horizons.” On first glance, it deeply resonated to some work I’m doing facilitating some work on sustainable agriculture and sustainable sourcing of raw materials in food production. We were really struggling with framing issues for some initial stakeholder consultations, we realized that there were two frames: the adaptation/mitigation frame and the vulnerability/resilliance framework. With the former, we are often focused on fixing what is broken right now at the risk of missing what might be if we really look further outside the box. With the latter, we may face resistance to the short term sacrifices that might be necessary to work in a significantly reframed future. When I saw Steve’s article, and then went to the article HE referenced, something clicked. But lets observe here HOW that happened. I was scanning Twitter I saw the link to Steve’s blog post I read it and forwarded it to the network working on the ag project A brilliant thinker on the team validated my hunch that this was useful THEN I connected it to this talk. Networks in action. IN ACTION. 1 st  Horizon  is the time period of incremental change.  As the current prevailing system continues into the future, it loses “fit” over time as its external environment changes. 3 rd  Horizon  is the time it will take to realize transformational change.  Ideas or arguments about the future of the system are, at best, marginal in the present, but over time have the potential to displace the world of the first Horizon.  There will be several, or many, 3rd Horizon arguments articulated. 2 nd  Horizon  is an intermediate space in which the first and third Horizons collide (and is the time period needed for reforms to support emergence of the 3 rd  Horizon). This is a space of transition that is typically unstable. It is characterised by clashes of values in which competing alternative paths to the future are proposed by actors.
  • Group size Crap detection
  • So what bucket of #1 stuff have to do with usefully using communities and networks? We recognize the power of individuals, small groups/teams, communities and networks, but we can’t just throw them at any problem without discernment. If we are working in complex, emergent, large, messy systems, we can’t rely on rules based processes for everything We need to know when to step out of that box. The frameworks offered here are simply examples of thinking tools we can use to develop this discernment, paired with keeping a strategic perspective as we exercise the discernment. Patrick’s story yesterday gives us living proof of these ideas in action. Heck, we could have skipped my talk today!
  • To go deeper, we have to stop doing some of the things we are used to doing to create focused time for tasks which tap communities and networks Jason Fried, one of the founders of 37 Signals took this idea quite seriously. The gave the entire company a month of of most of their routine tasks to focus on new ideas and promising notions.
  • Greg McKeown has written recently about the disciplined pursuit of less
  • Right along side of Olivia’s story I recalled working with a process I call “reverse brainstorming,” and what my colleague Keith McCandless refers to as TRIZ, but which is actually only a sliver of the classic engineering process from Russia. The kernal of this method is that it helps us show what we are struggling to let go of. Before I tell you about it, I thought we’d do a very abbreviated version of it together. Are you game?
  • Things like TRIZ help us talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. To do some sense making about the senseless stuff in our day to day work. Folks, this is about leadership.
  • I was on a call in January with a colleague who works for a global environmental organization. She was working with a network of collaborators in the South Pacific with the intent of shifting the previous ways of working in silos to a collaborative framework that had at its center learning. Learning from work, Learning with and from each other. As we were talking, she was describing the resistance she was experiencing. Intellectually everyone bought into the new ways of working, but things JUST WEREN’T Happening. I spontaneously shared a story of some work I did years ago in Armenia where a group realized that they had to let go of some old ways and they actually felt grief of letting go. Instead of building on past assets and success they were holding on to past process. Once the grief was acknowledged, something shifted. The call went silent. She said. “That’s it.” We chanced to talk again last week and what was the first thing she mentioned? The importance of honoring the grief in a change process.
  • So what, might you say, does stopping and letting go have to do with usefully using communities and networks? The quick review is we have to become more conscious of our processes and then apply c & ns where there is a fit, and leave them aside when there is not a fit. And in that process, we may have to grieve, forgive and yes, forget some things that might have been near and dear to our organizations. This, my friends, has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with those messy things we call human beings. Two practical methods are KANBAN and TRIZ. On to #2 – are you still with me?
  • And finally, after torturing your brains and backsides for the last 35 minutes, I come to #3 which is, thankfully, simple, actionable and doable. We must begin to strategically prioritize critical conversations over simply amassing databases of tidbits. With absolutely no disrespect to big Data, this is a fundamental, core, micro process that role models the heart of ideas 1 and 2. And it works best when coupled with a few other things. We have only to look at the increasing number of people who are adopting conversation based processes in their organizations and with their customers and stakeholders. We also have to observe how many interactions are masquerading as conversation, but aren’t. The thinness of broad networked “conversations” are potentially useful weak signals, but let’s not confound these with conversations that are about making sense and meaning. Think of the Singapore train breakdown. Information without context. Conversations are not internal by default. Really listen. REALLY listen (Do an activity) Amplify individual action (remember Cynefin? There is a connection) Let go of knowing it all (grief again) Practice reciprocity
  • Related to this then is responsibility. Remember at the very start I said this isn’t about personal use of communities and networks? Well, in a way it is. The power of communities and networks sits at the nexus of these forms as a whole, and how we relate to them as individuals. So our network literacy and skills are directly related to our success at using communities and networks – for ourselves and for our work. And rarely is there a clean firewall between the two. More and more our personal networks are things that are of great value when we “bring them to work.” Particularly for people working in complex, knowledge –centric fields. Working in public health in Singapore has a lot to do with public health in the UK, and India, and the US. So in essense, the strategic use of communities and networks in our work is about amplifying individual action. SAY MORE ABOUT THIS IS THIS WHERE TO BRING IN BRIAN SOLIS’ Human Alorithm – Adaptive Business Model?
  • So empowering individuals means  no free rides, hacking responsibly, distributing control (or even loosening control)  things which are sometimes challenging for organizations. Grief. Yes, here it is again. To fruitfully harness a networked way of learning and working, we have to let go of some of our near and dear organizational behaviors. Blocking social networking sites instead of building a culture of responsible network behavior. Let it go. Blocking staff from bringing their own devices and insisting on only centralized platforms (with all the caveats about appropriate security and privacy). A focus on results AND an attention to process, but not a mandated form for everything.
  • So again, what does this have to do with communities and networks? “I thought this was about the heaven and hell of communities and networks.” I think it is. But you will have to be the judge of that. Here is my recap: Know when to stop Know when to slow down Know when to focus and go deeper Know when to step out and go broader
  • The Heaven and Hell of Communities & Networks

    1. Getting more heavenand less hell from ourcommunities and networks Nancy White Full Circle Associates @NancyWhite
    2. Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to“be together”
    3. Incrediblepossibilities … heaven?
    4. And more than a little bit of hell… Uh Oh!
    5. I createmy ownhell!
    6. I createmy ownhell!
    7. I createmy ownhell!
    9. Houston, we havea problem… Oh! Uh
    10. How many communities and networks do you belong to?Tweet: #kmsg I belong to X communities
    11. What is thestrategic value for your work?
    12. Our participation thins as we multiply ourbelongingness
    13. Poor Collaboration - Breakdowns, Ideals, and CultureRypple recently published an infographic on collaboration, called Is PoorCollaboration Killing Your Company….Biggest breakdowns (based on 1,400 people):- 97% - a lack of alignment on objectives- 92% - deadlines impact bottom-line results- 86% - lack of collaboration or ineffective communication MichaelHow employees want collaboration to work:- wider decision making involvement- issues are truthfully and effectively discussed Sampson onCreating a strong collaborative culture:- 1. encourage people to share ideas the cost of poor- 2. build brainstorming into each project- 3. log important communications- 4. limit group sizes- 5. resist the urge to direct collaboration
    14. Leavingaside the automagical…
    15. Moving frommitigation to adaptation & resilience
    16. What should we bechanging in our practices in usingcommunities & networks?
    17. #1 Make Sense:discernment
    18. What for,then what…
    19. TeamsNetworks Sometimes(sometimes Communitiespaired w/ smallgroups and Jabecommunities) Bloom
    20. Just do it!
    21. Communities
    22. NetworksCommunities
    23. Networks
    24. Steve Waddell referencing Andrew Curry and Anthony Hodgson Teams Communities Networks Communities
    25. Community &network literacies…Howard Rheingold etc.
    26. Whydiscernment matters
    27. #2: Creativedestruction
    28. We have tostop doingsome stuff
    29. Harvard Business Review – Greg McKeownFirst, use more extreme criteria .By applying tougher criteria we can tap into our brains sophisticated search engine. If wesearch for "a good opportunity," then we will find scores of pages for us to think about and workthrough. Instead, we can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: "What am I Thedeeply passionate about?" and "What taps my talent?" and "What meets a significant need inthe world?" Naturally there wont be as many pages to view, but that is the point of the exercise.Second, ask "What is essential?" and eliminatethe rest . Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to eliminate the disciplinednonessentials. At once, we have the key to unlock the next level of our lives. Get started by:•Conducting a life audit. All human systems tilt towards messiness. In the same way that ourdesks get cluttered without us ever trying to make them cluttered, so our lives get cluttered aswell-intended ideas from the past pile up. Most of these efforts didnt come with an expirationdate. pursuit of•Eliminating an old activity before you add a new one. This simple rule ensures that you dontadd an activity that is less valuable than something you are already doing.Third, beware of the endowment effect. Also known asthe divestiture aversion, the endowment effect refers to our tendency to value an item moreonce we own it… As a simple illustration in your own life, think of how a book on your shelf thatyou havent used in years seems to increase in value the moment you think about giving itaway. less
    30. Less? How?
    31. A Kanban cue:limit yourC-I-P(communities in progress)
    32. Use very small groups where they are useful focused tasks Use communities where they are useful  were learning needs depth and focused practiceUse networks where they are useful where diversity, diverse time cycles, scanning, curating and scaling are essential
    33. TRIZ…a littlegenerative destruction
    34. Elephants
    35. Make space for disruption…
    36. Letting go can be hard…
    37. Why stopping matters…
    38. #3Conversation(s) that matter
    39. Harnessing Latent Microexpertise -- The project must allow even the narrowestof expertise. A 3rd-year algebra teacher might not have the broad expertise of an experiencedmath education researcher, but that 3rd year teacher might have small elements of expertisethat exceed that of the recognized experts.Designed Serendipity -- The project needs to be easy to follow and encourageparticipation from a variety of experts. You want problems to be seen by many in the hopesthat just a few will think they have a solution they wish to contribute.Conversation Critical Mass -- One persons ideas need to be seen by others sothey create more ideas, and the conversation around all the contributions keeps theproject going.Amplifying Collective Intelligence -- The project should showcase the fact that Nielsen’s:collectively we are smarter than any one individual.Those are all great characteristics of any project. But what makes this any different than anytraditional, offline project? Nielsen offers several suggestions. Unlike a large group project Reinventingwith clear divisions of labor, technology allows us to divide labor dynamically. Wikipediacertainly would not have grown the way it did if labor had been divided statically between aset of contributors. Also, networked science uses market forces to direct the most attention tothe problems of greatest interest. Lastly, contributing to an online project rarely feels like discoverycommittee work, and participants can more easily ignore poor contributions or disruptivemembers.
    40. The art oflistening. The time for depth.
    41. Personalagency andresponsibility
    42. Empower and amplifyindividual effort
    43. Recap
    44. 1: MAKE SENSE/DISCERNMENT• Situate your communities for depth/sample andcurate your networks for diversity• Cynefin framework for discernment• Consider all three time horizons for resilience 2: CREATIVE DESTRUCTION • Find what to stop • Develop a literacy, discernment and practices for knowing when to go broad/when to go deep • Limit your C-I-P and try TRIZ 3: CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER • Depth: be present. Listen • Personal agency and responsibility • Amplify individual action
    45. Thanks and more… Thanks to Dave Pollard, Harold Jarche, Jennifer Dalby & my extended network! Tons more stuff here:
    46. Next? Talk, write, Skype, Tweet @NancyWhite Some rights reserved by Eleaf