Simple is the New Black

Each day I encounter an article or vendor selling simplicity. Just today I crossed paths with titles like “elearning simplified” and “Simple Marketing Strategies”, and “simplifying your life” to name a few.  It appears the market is crying for less complexity or people are selling the notion that all has become so very difficult today.

Hey, I’m no stranger to this verbiage. The last company I worked for had the very inviting name of Systems Made Simple and even this blog is TheSimpleShift.com. Who am I then to criticize buzziness, eh?  Well, to be honest my aim here is to present and discuss the ideas of moving mindsets first; one can’t simplify until they first believe in an easier way, right? Getting there however is much more difficult but you can’t go that way until you first buy-in. I’ve written about this before that Simple ≠ Easy.

Take for example the vary simple principle in the Cluetrain Manifesto; Markets are Conversations.  Wow. Penned in the 1990’s, foreseeing the social web, and we still aren’t there. Breaking free of the old ways is obviously difficult enough but then new ideas, tools, technology and processes continue to pile on making such simplicity difficult to achieve and maybe too, few bought-in in the first place.

Complexity can be loosely defined as something having many parts. So there it is, we get to complexity when we just keep bolting things on our lives and they all become entangled; pull on one and all move a little – you’ve been warned. Same for organizations; human systems, computer systems, hierarchical systems, communication systems all intertwined. By themselves they are not the least bit complex but they tend to get all mashed together and any effort to address one of them, impacts the others.

Reducing complexity is not easy then, heck it’s complex! So, let the buyer beware. Go ahead and purchase that elearning simplified solution but don’t expect that it means your job will get easier.

A Little Magic Can Take You a Long Way

Do we live in a magical age or do we merely live among many magicians?

 

working out loud requires guidance

“micro-learning” is a new approach for a new age

the year you were born determines your values and needs

community is any group of people using social tools

we learn differently in the last 10 years than we did in the previous 10,000

the experience API (xAPI) tracks what you’ve learned

social learning requires a platform

 

Now, you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because, of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.- The Prestige (Film, 2005)

Yes You Will

I was recently listening to Gary Vaynerchuk on his Gary Vee Audio Experience Podcast. He talked about Alexa and how people will use it to buy stuff unseen and untouched. He used an example of raincoats. Wake up, ask Alexa to share today’s weather, learn that the forecast calls for a week of rain and then tell Alexa to buy you a raincoat.

Not for you?

One would argue that people want to see and touch a coat before they buy it. Well, yes, today they do but you’re forgetting some other technologies such as VR, AI, and Big Data getting in the mix.

Today we give so much of ourselves away with every Tweet, Facebook post, purchase and Google search and we do all this readily and thoughtlessly. All that data, along with everyone else’s, builds a pretty complete picture of “us” and our wants and needs. Alexa, with AI, will know your size and taste, and you will love it! Soon Virtual Reality will tie in and conveniently turn your bathroom into a private holodeck where VIOLA! That raincoat will appear on you, to spec! You’ll ask Alexa to show it in long or short or blue or red. Finally, in a whisper, you will share this image with your “friends” as easily you do your new manicure or haircut today. You’ll get the feedback you crave and make the purchase. Now all that purchasing data is stored and combined for the future for even faster, more accurate service you will want, love and expect. Machines will create that coat, machines will package it and machines will deliver it.

No you won’t?

Yes, you will… because this is the new normal.

 

The Role of Social Networks in the Rise of Christianity

Christianity after the death of Jesus was just a small movement under scrutiny and attack in the Roman Empire. Yet in less than 500 years it was their official religion. Devine intervention? Perhaps.

According to author Rodney Stark, in his 1997 book The Rise of Christianity, the faith spread not by formal means or force but in great measure through conversations that led to conversions.

Social forms around an object and for Christianity, the object was “hope” and the social agents spreading the message were women. But these were not desperate and destitute women, rather they were the wealthy women, those married into Roman aristocracy.

Women of means had the time and connections to commune and influence their fellow women and eventually their men participating in government affairs. Like most women of their time they were greatly impacted by paternal decisions related to child-birth, infanticide, and abortion. Furthermore, Christianity provided hope in times of trouble like when natural disasters struck – pagan gods had no answer. Christianity was a new message ALL Romans could connect with.

Women then were the key nodes in the network, they influenced the influencers and slowly the faith spread to ultimately integrate with all elements of Roman society.

What can we take away from this?

First, change doesn’t always come from the top and as the case maybe, sustainable change is bottom up driven. Additionally, community forms it is not created or built and it’s best supported from within. And finally, (most importantly) change – the kind of change that can influence the world for thousands of years begins in the same way that can transform an organization today… one conversation at a time.

To all my Christian friends, Happy Easter.

 

A Good Problem

Recently I did a webinar for Saba, a leading LMS vendor. They have a collaborative platform and invited me to speak with them on the principles and practices of organizational networks and collaboration. What I love most about giving a presentation comes usually at the end, it’s the time reserved for Q&A (although I like to field questions throughout, not always my choice however). Most questions asked about social efforts typically focus on how to get started, what the role of management should be or how to help leadership to be involved, etc. One question came however that I rarely hear:

“How do we shift a very healthy social network that is not focused on work to one that is?”

Interesting. People, using a corporate supported ESN, are sharing, collaborating and building their community but not around work or work related problems. For many this would appear as a good problem to have as there is no fear, the tech must be intuitive, there is trust, and there are personal relationships that transcend the organization. You’d assume with this established, the hard part is complete and collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing will begin to flourish.

Or will it?

My initial response was for managers to invite employees to help solve sticky problems, like what I did here. Creating opportunities for employees to co-own issues of the company shows them other ways to use the tool beyond community and get into addressing work problem-solving together.

Of course we can only assume there was some type of communication about the intent of the technology when it was being employed, that being communication related to workforce collaboration and sharing. And if so, then why aren’t they?

It could be that they don’t want to collaborate out of fear that sharing and collaborating about work could draw criticism especially if information is wrong, contradicts organizational approaches or has been regularly ignored when coming from certain levels of the organization. Another thought could be that the nature of the work has not required collaboration to get done and done successfully. Similarly, and true in many settings, people have close proximity and collaborative tools then appear on the surface as an unnecessary layer of work. Finally, many now regularly use social media in their personal lives. It’s ubiquitous but few use it for work because the social web “out there” is different than the one “in here”. Employees either haven’t picked up on the notion of a different use and purposes as they have habitually started using an enterprise tool as they would Facebook.

As I’ve noticed and noted before (and this example supports it), 1. social carves its own path, social behavior cannot be channeled without risk of it drying up. Organizations would be wise to focus on modeling, encouraging and supporting over dictating use and 2. Your organization already has an enterprise social network. Social networks exist in your organization, with or without technology. You’re people connect and are connected. Social tech can make it easier but more so it reveals better how healthy that network really is – now what do you do with this information?

The organization behind the attendee’s question has many approaches to consider going forward and also has a rare opportunity to look under the hood and learn much about itself – a good problem to have in it’s own right.