The Obvious?

I’ve not been paying enough attention to the election of Jeremy Corbyn to comment about his suitability as either leader of the Labour Party or as a potential prime minister. But I do get a sense of excitement about his appointment that signals bigger changes.

We are moving away from “mass”. Mass movements and mass media are things of the past. Our current political class knew how to handle mass, they appear at a loss as to how to harness networks of thoughtful individuals. Our old isms are outdated. We are shaping and forming new stories with each tweet, selfie and update. Large networks of individuals are beginning to emerge as the way we now make sense of the world around us.

None of us really know the rules for this yet. We are making them up as we go along. WE are making them up as we go along. Each of us individually has a new found responsibility, a new found power. It’s why the chapter in my book called “we all have a volume control on mob rule” will matter more and more.

It’s exciting – and the more we shake off our fears of ambiguity and learn to proactively shape our stories, the more exciting it will get.

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Dyno-Rod

The Obvious?

This could be an alternative name for my business! I am increasingly asked to talk to people who are obstructing use of social tools in their business or otherwise getting in the way of change. One grey haired old codger talking to other grey haired old codgers to try to get them out of the way.

Seriously though having been a senior manager in a big organisation myself I can relate to their challenges. Managers are under pressure to deliver. Especially middle managers are in a tough place, getting grief from above and below, blamed for everything, and invariably in a situation of competing for resources and profile with their peers.

The sorts of behaviours that got them where they are today, and that appear to keep them safe and successful, are based on some deeply held assumptions. Challenging those assumptions is not for the faint hearted because doing so provokes an almost existential crisis and they, naturally, resist!

Like I say, people change one at a time and for their reasons and not yours. You have to find a way to relate the changes you want to bring about to the challenges the people you are talking to face. You need to really work hard at building trust and finding ways to relate to their fears and deal with them. Challenging but rewarding work.

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Plus Ça Change…

The Obvious?

Change is nothing new. It’s a constant and always has been. Every generation thinks that is it is experiencing greater change than those who have gone before, and certainly the fundamentals of human nature remain the same. But surely there are certain periods that are more momentous than most?

If, as I do, you believe that digital technology, in all its forms, is going to have an impact equivalent to the printing press, and you consider the long term ongoing impact that that had in terms of the enlightenment and our modern world view, then we are about to enter a similarly fundamental period of change. We are only getting started with what we will have to deal with.

This is why I feel a sense of urgency in working out what our overarching story is, our collective way of making sense of what is happening. Not a formula, not a quick and reassuring answer, but a different philosophy, a different world view.

Exciting and frightening at the same time.

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Intent

The Obvious?

Sometimes I wake in the night screaming having dreamt that what I am doing here is “content marketing”.

But it is not. My intent is different. I write to work out what I think. To respond to what I see happening in the world around me, to work out what it means, to consider what to do about it. I do this on a blog to share this thinking and offer it to others. I do this to trigger conversations, which in turn help me think more and often better. I also do it in the hope that I might help others to understand their worlds better, act differently, and make a difference.

It would be disingenuous to pretend that my blog doesn’t help me get work. By touching on issues that people are grappling with, and hopefully having some insights that help, it gives them reason to reach out and ask me to work with them. But it is not my primary intent.

Conventional wisdom would have it that you have to work out a reason for blogging before you start. You’re meant to focus on a particular outcome, target an audience, “drive traffic” to your blog etc.. Even inside businesses it is seen as a channel to improve “employee engagement”, a means to an end, a way to steer people to particular outcomes.

But people aren’t stupid. They sense the difference. They feel manipulated. Your intent becomes obvious. Your intent matters

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Uncertainty

The Obvious?

People who feel certain about things worry me. So much of life is unpredictable and out of our control that certainty can seem an act of folly.

It is often said that the difference between people who are brave and those who are not is that they are both afraid but brave people do what they have to do anyway.

People who are uncertain, who are unsure, tend to be derided. But people who aren’t sure can still take action. Not only that but they can be flexible enough to respond to whatever happens next.

There is a lot of certainty on offer on the internet. Maybe we need more uncertainty?

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Choosing our words carefully.

The Obvious?

The words that we choose to describe each other have huge impact. They become a shorthand all to quickly and bake in assumptions, often before we have really considered situations.

Whether it is the words the media choose to describe the various examples of human suffering that they invariably focus on, or even the words we use ourselves to describe each other at work or in our families, our words shape our reality.

With social tools we get to write those words in a way that is stored forever, and in public. Our words pass with lightening speed into the brains of those we are connected to and have an influence whether we like it or not.

We should exercise the care of poets in choosing those words.

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Repeated small acts of disobedience

The Obvious?

It’s all very well knowing that how we currently work is broken. We can see how things could be better. But how do we start?

Usually we are not in a position to instigate wholesale change. We don’t have the authority or budget. Those above us, and who measure our performance, are stuck in the old way of doing things and have stopped listening to our attempts to paint an enticing picture of a different future. What to do?

Maybe that should be “What to don’t?”? Maybe we have to start saying no more often? Maybe we have to begin to exercise a degree of artistic interpretation of what we are asked to do? Maybe we have to act dumb and slow down things that maintain the status quo and put more energy into things that will bring about change?

Maybe we need to get used to asking for forgiveness rather than permission? Maybe we need to be careful while we are doing so?!

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Lipstick, Pigs, and Dinosaurs

The Obvious?

In more and more organisations senior management realise that fundamental challenges to the status quo are emerging and they know they need to do something about it. The knee jerk reaction is to have an initiative, some sort of change programme: “drive employee engagement”; “develop our people’s leadership potential”; “encourage creativity”.

Those further down the chain are put in charge of these initiatives and get busy doing what you do to run an initiative. But the challenge is that all too often they themselves are the very group who have been previously charged with creating the organisational norms and culture that are the source of the problem that the organisation is now having to deal with!

All too often the result is half hearted at best, disingenuous at worst. In fact the phrase “lipstick on a pig” has become common parlance for the superficial attempts at change that are all too often the result. Pockets of change may be achieved but the prevailing organisational culture reasserts itself.

I am increasingly asked to help with this challenge. Keynotes on working in a digital world, involvement in leadership programmes at business schools, workshops for large institutions trying to adapt. Sometimes it feels like I am spending my career attempting to resuscitate dinosaurs and I wonder if it might be kinder to shoot them and move on. But the sorts of institutions I mostly work with aren’t going away tomorrow. There are no viable alternatives. They have to find a way to deal with this.

I am more and more convinced that all change happens at an individual level – and for their reasons not yours. Superficial initiatives insult our collective intelligence and fool no one. You have to find a way to instigate profound personal shifts in world view. It is an existential challenge for most and we are just scratching the surface.

Much work to be done!

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Real Jobs

The Obvious?

A short holiday in the south west got me thinking about work.

I watched a farmer using an amazing device attached to his tractor to wrap hay bales in black plastic and wondered what Tess Of The D’Urbervilles would make of it. In the scene where she is frantically trying to keep up with a state of the art steam threshing machine Hardy is railing against the inhumanity of the onward march of industrialisation and technology. Before those machines it took dozens of people to do the same work.

The beautiful lanes and villages I was enjoying would previously been filled with locals who had lived in and worked on the land for centuries before the arrival of technology. Those lanes are now filled with people in cars returning to the countryside from their office jobs in cities, trying to recover some of the connection with the land and the landscape that they have lost.

The ongoing march of technology that so worried Hardy continues at an ever increasing pace. The automation of those very same car driving, white collar, knowledge workerS’ jobs is currently looming on the horizon.

Should we be feeling the same concern as Hardy? Will this automation lead to fewer and fewer people being in what we currently think of as “real jobs”? Or will we find new ways to add value to each other, whole new industries that we haven’t yet begun to imagine?

It really does feel as if it could go either way at the moment.

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Discretion

The Obvious?

I write all the time about the benefits of sharing our thoughts and insights with each other. Thinking harder, writing better, and sharing more is my mantra. But there are many times when the stories we want to share involve other people and it is not always easy to decide if and how to share those stories.

Having spent the weekend with my parents there are lots of potential topics swirling around my head. They involve both the good and the bad of family relationships and what those have to teach us about ourselves and our ways of dealing with the world. In some respects these are the very topics that potentially offer the greatest learning, both for ourselves and for others.

But these topics touch on other people’s feelings and identities and to share them would have an impact on our relationships. It would also be a one sided perspective on situations with little opportunity for rebuttal.

The same is true of working with clients. There are many, many times that I am presented with situations which I am dying to blog about that would reveal really important stuff about the workplace. But I decide not to. It feels “unfair”, breaking an implicit trust, being indiscrete to my advantage and their disadvantage.

This is one of the hardest challenges of blogging and one about which there are no easy answers. We all have to work out where our own lines are drawn and when to be brave and when to be discrete.

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RSS Business

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RSS UK

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RSS World

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