If you’re like me, you may have
listened to dozen or hundreds of discussions about the latest
technologies or products and how they are going to radically change
the way we are doing business. I’ve personally seen endless charts
filled with minuscule type that boast features and capabilities that
are suppose to meet my every need.
I’ve also seen the analysts and
industry reports that state our executives and leaders are clearly
interested in how they are going to use this emerging social
consciousness to the benefit of their business.
What I think happens is that we get so
caught up in all the options and intricacies of the topics, we fail
to see the simplicity of the problem…and solution.
So I should say thanks to Robert Fulghum. He authored a book many years ago titled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. After 15 years in print,
he even revisited the book recently and made some revisions, but the
core concepts and beliefs withheld the test of time.
He lists a number of principles he
learned at an early age…principles that can be applied to almost
every aspect of life. I’m not going to go through all of them, but
here are a few that I think are most relevant to our topic:
After all, what is “ours”? I'm not talking about
demolishing ownership, but aren't we here to contribute? If I have an
idea, doesn't it make sense for me to share that with others. After
all, the intersection of ideas is where innovation happens. If I
hoard my ideas or if I squirrel away the information I find useful,
am I not being a bit stingy? When it comes to ideas and opinions, I
know you came with enough to share...so do it.
Clean up your own
I'll wager that most reading this have a mess that needs
cleaning up...the same mess...your email in-box. One of the most
valuable things I've experienced from adopting a social business
culture is that my email in-box is clean. How? I put answers to
questions on my social network, so I don't get a lot of emails with
old questions. I do the same with content I've created. So most
people know to look in my “files” before coming to me. Let's say
I find something interesting on the web...instead of copying the link
and emailing everyone, I simply use social bookmarking and target
communities or my entire company. I don't keep attachments, because
my network of people are also using our social network, so I get
links when something gets added or updated....and it's not painful to
delete these emails, because the information is where I can easily
find it. Not in my in-box or mail folders. And when I go get it, I
can comment on it right there, on the web...not by having to send
another email. No more sweeping things (emails) under the rug (into
email folders), just to get them out of my sight. Whether you want to admit it or not...it's your mess...so you can clean it up. And if you think it's too big of a job, I propose you do what my wife would tell our kids to do when faced with cleaning up their rooms..."Just pick up 10 things". When they were done and report back, she'd encourage them to once again "pick up 10 more things". Your email in-box didn't get that way overnight, neither did mine. But if you adopt social sharing, you'll find yourself slowing cleaning up your mess...a few things at a time.
Live a balanced
life—learn some, think some, and draw and paint and sing and dance
and play and work some every day
I am a firm believer that we lose
(actually are taught out of) the creative nature we are blessed with as children.
I would ask you check out the TED video of Sir Ken Robinson on the
subject. He presents the argument better than I could possibly do in
this limited space. What's interesting is that in the IBM 2010 study of over 1500 CEOs, they listed “creativity” as the most important
leadership quality. And I'm not suggesting that creativity is all
about play...in fact it's a misconception that making a business more
social will lead to people being less productive because their minds
will wander off and be distracted. We've found that “business
social” is a bit different from “consumer social”. In Facebook,
it might be common to have someone post that their local coffee shop
is out of muffins and occasionally a work related topic might
surface. But in a social business, the conversation tends to revolve
around business related topics with the occasional “muffin-type”
topic surfacing. But the ability to create, to think off topic, to
ponder, to enjoy...these are all supported by a social business. And
your business will be better because of it.
When you go out in
the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
scary out there. The market is tough, competition is fierce, and
things are changing fast. A great thing about a social business is
that it serves to bring people together. A common statement of “We
are smarter than me” is true. We're sometimes so close to the
situation, that from our vantage point, we don't see the truck that's
about to hit us. How many times in a business situation have you
thought “I'd like to get another opinion” or heard “We need a
fresh set of eyes to look at this”? Bouncing ideas off one another
is not only healthy for you, but often it helps the “bouncee”.
I've had people ask me to look over something and in the process, I
learn something new or it sparks a new idea regarding something I'm
working on. And social communities are key to building a network of
interested parties for support...and we know that the power of the
crowd can be a might force.
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup. The roots go down and the plant
goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we’re all like
Ideas often start small. Good ideas find support in other
ideas and together they grow into innovative concepts and projects.
It's been amazing to me to see how creative people can be when given
the opportunity. I just returned from a customer who was using the Lotus Connections file “recommendation” feature to vote on projects for the coming
year. People were encouraged to submit project ideas and then the
community voted (via recommendation) on the best ideas to go forward.
I hadn't imagined our “recommendation” feature being used for
that purpose, but like the seed that spouts, I don't know why and
can't predict how. But it takes bringing these ideas to light to get
them to grow. Cover them up...keep them in the dark and they will
wither and die.
And then remember
the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest
word of all—LOOK.
If all you ever do is to observe yourself and
the things you've gathered, no matter how amazing you are, you're not
going to expand your knowledge as much as if you LOOK around you.
Many of our systems have been built on self service and
consumption...a FIND mentality. A social business is really built on
being able to LOOK and observe. For instance, I can FIND a document,
but if it's in a social context, I can LOOK to see what others have
said about it. What else has this author written? Who has read this
and what else do they read? Focus isn't bad, but too much of it can
be limiting. Using social software helps you to check out the
Fulghum has a number of other
observations...some I can identify with social business, like:
Don’t take things
that aren’t yours
Say you’re sorry
when you hurt somebody
Don’t hit people
Put things back
where you found them
There are a couple that might be a
Take a nap every
Wash your hands
before you eat
Warm cookies and
cold milk are good for you (I love cookies and cold milk, so if you can connect cookies and milk to social business, I'd like to meet you and buy you a round of cookies and milk at Lotusphere 2011 in Orlando)
hamsters and little white mice and even the little seed in the
Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we.
I welcome your comments and suggestions on these and
any of the ideas posted here. And let me know if I can help you or your company become a social business. So comment freely (share), live socially...and be a social
business. It's good for you and your playmates.
Louis serves as a Worldwide Social Business Evangelist for IBM and can be reached at RichardL@us.ibm.com.