I’m (mostly) saying goodbye to Facebook

It’s difficult to leave Facebook because, like you, I have so many relationships here. Many with old friends that only social media could have helped bring us back together. We share our lives, our pictures and our humor. Honestly, Facebook connections bring me mostly smiles.

You may think my progressive political stance is the reason but it is not really. The fact is we often forget that social media platforms like Facebooks are for profit businesses and Facebook is the largest by far. They are not a free services although we freely share our information so Facebook can provide this to advertisers to capture your eyes. The algorithms within shape the story we are told and the ones we believe. In 2016 the Russian government used Facebook. They didn’t hack it. They understood how companies push their messages to make sales and leveraged this to pump the platform with Fake News, created fake groups and helped organize people by preying on racist beliefs and fears. The goal of Fake News is not to convince you that it is real news, the goal is to get you to doubt any news is real. It worked. We are arguably more polarized today in the US than we were at the start of the Civil War.

If you are pro-Trump or against him this is NOT the issue. And if Trump colluded with these Russians that is not my point. My point is We The People we’re manipulated by a foreign government. Another nation has successfully contributed to pitting Americans against each other to create a divided house (which according to Abe Lincoln, cannot stand). Facebook allows companies and foreign governments alike to play to our emotions of anger and fear knowing full well 60+% of Americans use only Facebook to get their “news”. This is a sad truth because we as a people struggle to undertake the real work of critically thinking about the information we consume.

As I said, Facebook is a for profit company and their efforts to rectify the situation in my opinion amount to lip service. In the real world if we know someone is more bad than good, someone is playing us, benefits from us and manipulates us we get away from that person. You may say TV does this, radio does this, billboards do this… media has historically been about persuasion and you are right. But when we realize this we turn away. Social media, like Facebook, is different for many because walking away is walking away from friends and loved ones. It’s walking away from a convenient, personal portal to distant relationships and support. I get it, and Facebook gets it too and uses this reality to its benefit.

So I’m done… with the feed. I am not closing Facebook completely as I belong to a handful of professional groups that have value. Here, away from the onslaught of manipulation efforts, I will remain (for now) as these are exclusively focused on my profession. My public feed will go quiet on March 1. I will not be posting, sharing or commenting. I won’t see you there and you won’t see me. Could I return? Maybe. It depends on what changes. But for now, my conscience says to go.

If you remain, I don’t blame you. Social tech is amazing. The connections and the content are invaluable for many. Stay. I won’t criticize (well, I can’t actually) but I just ask that you take my words here to heart and are more discriminating in what you read and that you share with equal pause to evaluate – what is driving your action? And I believe too that the greatest gift we can give our children in the digital era is to remind them and model for them and encourage them to question everything.

As I mentioned, I engage in many places. Two I’m very active on are Twitter where you can find me @britz, I appear on LinkedIn and will be putting more effort into Mastodon (Mastodon.xyz and Mastodon.social) as well.

I hope to see you around.

Maintaining Collaboration in an Economic Downturn

In a Harvard Business Review article (one with actual data) a pretty interesting but unsurprising study was done revealing that in poor economic times employees will collaborate less. It may just be the old lizard brain and self preservation kicking in, a case of Fight AND Flight. Basically, fearing job loss – people fight to look important and thus flee from more collaborative activities that dilute their personal influence. Makes evolutionary sense.

The article did well to point out correctly that the individual choice to abandon each other is exactly what will hasten the downward trend in the organization and quite possibly lead to the layoffs they fear. However, the recommendation by the author that managersshould actively manage the psychology and behavior of their workforce to avoid an erosion of cohesion and productive work behaviors in the organization.” is a typical, reactive and doomed approach that lacks any details.

As Henry Mintzberg wrote a while back (2009) in Rebuilding Companies as Communities:

Decades of short-term management, in the United States especially, have inflated the importance of CEOs and reduced others in the corporation to fungible commodities—human resources to be “downsized” at the drop of a share price.

What one does in the current system is relatively pointless. Trust is damaged at a macro level today, well beyond just the organization. Most employees are either jaded through past experiences or if younger, have seen it in friends and family member experiences. They have learned not to trust and to keep a wary eye on the Csuite. According to Mintzberg a sea change is needed if companies are going to weather future economic storms and maintain high levels of cooperation and collaboration throughout. Organizations must start today to create a different and more permanent mindset that prevails in good times and bad.

..The organization has to shed much of its individualist behavior and many of its short-term measures in favor of practices that promote trust, engagement, and spontaneous collaboration aimed at sustainability.

How is this done? For starters a new collective history needs to develop, one where in times of recession layoffs are avoided at the cost of short-term gains and executives forego exuberant salary increases. A reputation of all for one takes time and likely more than one dip in the business cycle to develop. Similarly (but different in approach) to the HBR article author, Mintzberg points not to the top or directly at the bottom but to the middle and those in management as the cornerstone for community building. It’s here he says that remnants of community often still exist. These folks typically rose through the ranks and have plenty of connection and passion for the business. They are also not so close to the work that they miss the big picture and not so far away that they can’t see how work gets done. Middle managers are a key artery in reviving community in organizations but not in a way as the first article suggested (reactionary) but more continually.

So leadership at this level must take a different form of partnership in the company if a new form of organization is to emerge; one that recognizes the importance of community over individuality to weather change.

Conversations Over Clicks

When I attended my first meeting as a member of the social media marketing committee for Vera House I learned of our team’s call to action. We were to guide the larger, influential steering committee in their effort to get the word out and create “awareness” about the White Ribbon campaign (and the march to end domestic and sexual violence).

Awareness…

Awareness in social tech is typically counted in clicks, likes and shares. But domestic and sexual violence are cultural blemishes not corporate brands and a product marketing approach of meaningless measures won’t do.

Let’s be honest, everyone gets moved a little when someone likes or shares their content online but this is only for a moment and then the emotion is gone at the speed of the Internet. Ask yourself, what have you “liked” or shared of someone else’s content that you actually remember? Or more importantly led you to think or behave differently? I’d argue that when you put fingers to the keyboard and type a response to engage in additional online dialog it is memorable. It’s memorable and closer to behavior change because it’s done often with careful thought and a more sustained emotional connection to the individual(s) and the content.

So rather than count vanity metrics, we aim to share to start conversations. Drawing on a mantra of mine that “knowledge doesn’t exist within us but between us, in our conversations“, we look to meaningful dialog as being much closer to behavior change than the simple, fleeting click of an icon. We know full well too that we will have far fewer conversations than likes but this is about quality and not quantity.

Over the next few months we’ll be working to help the broader White Ribbon Campaign Steering Committee find and share relevant content, add meaningful context and prompt as well as engage in dialog. We will monitor the types of conversations happening and if, through them, we see new understandings and reactions emerge we’ll feel a bit closer to deeper awareness and maybe closer to bettering society.

L&D Advice from Gary Vee

He’s raw, he’s real, he’s hyper, he’s crude. According to his website, Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia. I’ve been reading and listening to him for a little while now and it dawned on me that what he’s advising businesses to do could really help learning and development.

At it’s core his advice is simply be fast and be real. He is also all about quantity but with authenticity and value. He get’s social media but more importantly he gets “social”. He recognizes that the human story is compelling and the less polished the better, equating it to why TV programs like The Kardashians and Real Housewives knock it out of the park in ratings as sitcoms come and go. Finally, he is about the person over the product. Where Simon Sinek advised to start with “why”, Gary Vee starts with “You.”

For example Gary would have applauded this. I was recently looking for a newer used vehicle and engaged with a dealership a few hours from here. After a couple of emails about a vehicle I was interested in I got this from them the next morning.

Volvo C30 Tour by Wendy 

(sorry, I don’t have a video player for my theme. Can you recommend one?)

This personal video told me more about the person behind the emails. I got to look into the car and hear it’s doors shut. I learned that the back cover was a bit tricky and could see at the moment it was mentioned that the car was recently cleaned. And again, “personal.” This video was made specifically for me.

Did I buy the car? No. But that’s only because my wife and I shifted to a vehicle that was more practical for a family of four (don’t ask.). But I’ll tell you this, I remembered this video and this dealership over the other 6-7 I was poking around.

Here are some of Gary’s tips I think L&D should latch on to now.

Document don’t create. In marketing terms this means stop looking for the perfect product pitch and start sharing your process. As for L&D, they still spends a ton of time on their courses and infographics and classroom design worrying over font, image choice and color scheme while their audience goes off and figures stuff out. Maybe just put a camera or a microphone in the face of an expert and ask them compelling questions, then put it out there ASAP.

Start now. Listen, ADDIE lives. The talk of it’s death are greatly exaggerated. The analysis, design, develop are all still happening just repackaged but everyone is still doing them. Enough already. If you’re less on the compliance side of L&D, shift to the Probe-Sense-Respond model presented by Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework. This is his answer to being successful in complexity and don’t fool yourself, business is complex. Listen well, boil it down to the immediate needs and put a solution out there. If it works, scale it. If it doesn’t kill it.

Be Human. 99% of the time the highway is backed up is not because of the car accident but because everyone wants to look at the car accident. They want the emotional story to share, they are looking for the drama. If they weren’t you’d actually be going faster after a wreck! Flaws are real, mistakes happen and they are all a part of the human condition. Tell more stories, find more stories and share them, but more importantly help others to start sharing their stories without fear or the need for perfection. We have been learning through story for centuries. We are built to tell them and to dissect them. Don’t fight evolution.

Know your audience. Yea, yea I know you’re thinking this is about personas and focus groups and surveys and… No, it’s more a reminder to look at your product and really ask, “who is this for?” Are you really meeting the need of the struggling employee or are you fulfilling the wants of your manager or your own ego? The moment you utter the words “this is a cool feature…” you should punch yourself in the face. You’re selling now not solving. You’re either selling to yourself or some mid-level manager who signs your paychecks and feel good that she got her voice-over narration in your course.

Set your pride aside, stop being afraid, get real and real fast.

I’ll end with this quote from Gary. You can sub in the words L&D and learning where you see fit.

In a world where there’s an enormous amount of [social] content, if you don’t make someone stop what they are doing and create a response, you are going to lose. Whether that’s an action or an emotion, the true test of storytelling is how you feel or what you do after you consume it.

Progressing Backwards

I had an opportunity to attend a session at DevLearn titled “What Does Community Mean in 2017“. Julian Stodd and Trina Rimmer provided both theoretical and practical thoughts and experiences throughout. I was left thinking on this flight home about how today we truly believe anything is possible and that anything can and must happen quickly. But the notion that one can create a community or worse can do so with a click of a button is equally puzzling and disheartening. Many justify this by simply removing key principles of community and altering the definition. In the name of some twisted progress or economic purpose they ignore long held research about nature and human history. Community has gone from being about groups with a shared purpose, building trust through sincere and consistent behavior and necessary interdependence between all members to now being pitched as followers of a Facebook page who periodically “like” a video.

The word community for many equates to a feature on a social platform or the activities of traditional customer service now done online. You may say “it’s just a word” but I say it’s a slippery slope when people try and remake human activities in technology. Fortunately 10,000 years of human development can’t be changed with the advent of Web 2.0. Call me negative, but I celebrate the many failures of social platforms that I read about and the struggles of strategies formed around re-engineered concepts. These failures are usually a result of trying to simplify the complex through bells and whistles and reduce human social institutions to being just words. I have faith that slowly, like the march of evolution itself, our technology will actually come back to meet us right where we are and who we are.