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As we begin to explore the collaborative potential of connection, co-creation is becoming increasingly important solution to problems. Organisations are increasingly looking to employees, partners and suppliers to be a part of efforts to co-create solutions to complex problems. Collaborative co-creation is a key part of the Solve phase of the Value Maturity Model. As we practice co-creation, we discover bigger opportunities to create value.
Most co-creation begins with some kind of crowd-sourcing of ideas to solve problems. Diversifying the sources and inputs into the creation of a solution can enable big steps forward. Often new stakeholders have solutions to hand, see potential to reuse capabilities or bring opportunities to do things in new ways. Crowd-sourcing can be a fast and effective way to gather inputs from a large group of people towards a solution.
Efforts at crowd-sourcing solutions need to plan for two main challenges:
- Lack of Connection: To contribute meaningful solutions, people need to feel connected to the problem and to each other.
- The Volume of ideas overwhelms Execution: ideas are great but the exercise to sift and integrate diverse ideas can be a drain on execution. This is why many efforts at crowd-sourcing turn into a show of ‘engagement’ with no traction on the ideas submitted.
Co-Creating the Work
The next level of co-creation is when people come together to take a solution and execute it. The challenges of a problem don’t stop when you have an idea. People need to solve all the little issues and manage the idea until it is successfully implemented.
Make sure the expectation in you co-creation community is that work will be done to solve the problem. Give the community the autonomy to follow their ideas. People will contribute better ideas if they think that they have to see them through. Co-creation is more meaningful to a community that has been asked to work the problem together. Challenge them to take their ideas and see them through to implementation.
Co-Creating the Problem
The final level of co-creation goes back to the start and looks at the system from a higher view. This level removes the constraint that the problem definition is externally imposed on the community. At this level of co-creation, the community has responsibility to find, create and implement its own solutions. To do this the community is going to need to start to ask questions about Purpose, the scope of the system and what goals they have for the system. Bring a diverse group of stakeholders in to shape the problems and you may discover new problems and that some of your current problems aren’t such a big issue. The third level asks the community to own co-creation from Purpose, through Diagnosis, and then to the Design and Execution of any solutions.
A recent conversation with Cai Kjaer and Laurence Lock Lee of Swoop Analytics about the Value Maturity Model highlighted a key point that is at the heart of many organisation’s struggles to get value from enterprise social collaboration. Too many organisations are stuck below the Share>Solve boundary. Once you connect enterprise social collaboration to work, the benefits for users and the organisation expand exponentially.
Sharing Out Loud
The first reaction in many organisations to an enterprise social network is to see it as a chance to share out loud. What people see first is the potential for status updates, sharing of articles, links and other stories of interest. This is natural human behaviour and it will be heavily influenced by the culture of social media use in your employee base.
As we have discussed in previous posts, sharing adds value in helping provide transparency, shared context, reducing duplication and enabling better alignment. If Sharing Out Loud is as far as the Working Out Loud goes then it can add value. Sharing is the core concept behind the knowledge worker productivity case for benefits of enterprise social collaboration. Share information and it is findable. Findable information can be reused.
Any organisation that does not move beyond Sharing will face a number of key challenges. Sharing is where there is a lot of noise. Filtering the sharing with groups and other approaches becomes important. Users get frustrated that there is so much information and so little value. Networks can alienate users because a few loud or extroverted voices dominate the traffic and shape perceptions of what an enterprise social network can contribute. Senior executives will quickly lose interest in a network that does not reflect their work and their strategic priorities. A network that is only sharing will need sustained energy from community management or passionate users to survive.
The Launch Point: The Sharing-Solving Boundary
When an enterprise social community crosses the boundary from Sharing to Solving, the dynamic changes. Bringing work into the community provides a momentum and new benefit cases for all users. The purpose of the community and the benefits it can provide begins to clarify and the distinction between an enterprise social and other forms of social media can clarify for people. The work itself begins to provide the energy, rhythm and momentum of the community.
We can help users to turn a Sharing Out Loud community into a Working Out Loud community through strategic community management. We can provide the right context and strategy for the use of collaboration. We can structure the opportunities for Connection, Solving, and Sharing around the key interactions and challenges of the work of the organisation. We can focus on the culture of collaboration and generosity in helping others. All of this helps users to sustain their activity in the Solving domain.
One other benefit of focusing on moving above this boundary is that you are building key foundations for innovation. Employees who develop confidence in an enterprise social collaboration solution as a place to solve their problems will begin to explore how to fulfill their new ideas there. People move easily from How? to What if? Employees who learn to create agile teams to solve problems can apply those same teaming skills to new ideas. The growing wirearchy of work can be reused to provide an engine to innovation work in your organisations.
Creating an environment where employees (& others) can work out loud on real business problems and challenging customer opportunities is the work of strategic community management. The value created beyond the Sharing-Solving Boundary is exponentially greater than that before. If you want the attention of the business stakeholders to support your community, you will need to Work Out Loud.
If you are interested in exploring further how to the Collaboration Value Canvas, enables organisations to conduct a two-hour workshop with business stakeholders to ensure that the business has an integrated plan for its community management and adoption work. Contact Simon Terry to discuss how this could be applied in your organisation.
For suggestions on how Swoop Analytics can help you measure this transition see Cai Kjaer’s post on Linkedin.
We live between norms and force. When norms lose their power, force becomes the alternative option. For effective organisations and civil society, we need an ongoing conversation about expectations of behaviour.
David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement address begins with a story
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,
“What the hell is water?”
Social norms are often like water to the young fish. In the Oxford dictionary, norms are defined as:
A standard or pattern, especially of social behaviour, that is typical or expected
We don’t even notice they exist. They are simply baked into our expectations of social interactions. We follow the most common norms without reflecting on their existence. Often the first time we focus on them is in our outrage at a breach of a norm.
Norms shape group and individual behaviours. Norms that are undiscussed, and in some cases undiscussable, can have real consequences for individuals and societies ability to manage and change. These norms are also a critical component of group connection. Loss of shared norms will impact cohesion, sharing and collaboration in a group.
While many norms are taken as given, they are not fixed. Our expectations are constantly adapting based on our experience of the behaviour of others. Sustained violation of norms can and will cause change. This is one reason that so many protesters violate social norms. They want to disrupt a range of expectations to gain notice and to influence people to reflect on the need for change. Where change has been driven by social change movements, the changes are largely positive for society with new norms being more inclusive, equitable and better able to support civil society.
The Power of Norms
We live between norms and force. When norms lose their power, force becomes the alternative option to regulate social behaviour. The functioning of our organisations and our civil society depends on effective norms.
Over summer I read Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, a book that examines the lessons from traditional societies. The book explores how many tribal societies experienced life that involved continuing violence. The violence was an outcome of the challenges of sustain norms between tribal groups, leadership within tribes depending on authority and because disputes were often resolved by force. Many of the mechanisms we expect to prevent violence, such as peaceful acceptance of strangers, were not norms in these societies, because they represented real dangers to individuals and the group.
Change movements often seek to smash existing norms. Equally important is the need to foster and develop the new behavioural expectations that will follow. In the absence of shared expectations, any group will increasingly have to use force to maintain behaviour in a group or fail in its shared endeavours.
Let’s consider an example of the justice system. What makes our laws effective is not the courts or a constitution. The first element is a community expectation that we will follow the law, respect the courts and honour those decisions. When individuals fail these norms, the executive branch of government has a range of force to bring to bear on social behaviour and enforce the law. We simply expect that the courts and the executive will collaborate to maintain the law. The history of the breakdown in civil societies around the world shows us that this is one of the first norms to fail.
Norms in Organisations
In organisations, the equivalent force is the power of exclusion. Few organisations have the power to use force against their employees except to show them from the premises. Misbehave persistently and you will be sacked and denied an ability to remain in the community. Exclusion presents a cost to the individual and a loss of capability to the organisation. Exclusion of large groups can be incredibly disruptive as strikes and lockouts show.
Organisations depend on norms to keep the peace and to foster cohension and collaboration. A few of those norms are on posters. Many are inherited from the society in which the organisation operates. As our organisations involve more temporary workers and as they become more open to the networks around them, managing these group norms becomes more important.
Most of those norms are never discussed. Some are seen as undiscussable. Rather than force people to exit when they have an issue with norms, we have offer people the alternative of voice. Exit is too easy in our networked era. Voice should be the easiest option. Encourage people to discuss their issues openly, especially those seen as hardest to raise. Celebrate resistance as a form of engagement. When norms are often invisible, it can also be a great learning experience to leverage the insights of those who can see.
The functioning of our society depend on explicit and implicit norms of behaviour and interaction. Let’s invest in the conversations and actions in community necessary to sustain norms and keep the use of force at bay.
Working Out Loud can generate a lot of confusion for people who are new to the term. Being clear on whether your goals are best advanced by a Chat, a Conversation, or a Collaboration will help the effectiveness of your working out loud.
The Many Interactions of Working Out Loud
Working Out Loud involves sharing work purposefully with communities that can help your work or can learn from it. The concept is deliberately a broad one. The concept covers a lot of different kinds of interactions.
There is no one right way to work out loud. John Stepper has written a fabulous book on one approach to working out loud to achieve personal and career goals. Jane Bozarth has an equally great book full of examples of people showing their work in many and varied ways and for many reasons. The WOLWeek website has a range of interviews with Working Out Loud practitioners and many practices are described. There are more approaches.
Working Out Loud is inherently adaptive. There is no one perfect way because nobody else has exactly your situation, your needs, and your network. Learning how to navigate networks through generosity, transparency, and collaboration is a big part of the challenge and the source of the benefits of working out loud.
Chats, Conversations, and Collaborations as Working Out Loud
One way to reduce the confusion around working out loud and to improve the effectiveness of your practice is to be clear on what it is that you are looking for when you work out loud. Are you looking for a Chat (shared information), a Conversation (shared understanding), or a Collaboration (shared work)? Each of these kinds of interactions involves a different level of engagement and add a different amount of value to your work. Each of these will require you to have a different relationship with and deliver different value to the other people involved in the interactions.
Understanding which interaction will best support your goals will help you choose the community and the approach. Many people get disappointed when they work out loud on twitter and they don’t get an immediate response that advances their work. Others get frustrated that people working out loud use twitter and appear to be engaging in self-promotion. In both cases, we are seeing a misalignment between the individual and the expectations of their networks.
More Effective Interactions
Reflecting on the desired interactions and the best communities to support them can help you improve your working out loud. After alll omproving the effectiveness of your Working Out Loud is an ongoing adaptive exercise:
Look for Shared Goals: If someone doesn’t share your goals then even a Chat is a distraction. Both Conversations and Collaborations require strong goal alignment. Look for individuals and communities who share your goals.
Invest in Relationships First: People are more likely to give if they see you as equally generous. People are more likely to care if they think you care. People are more likely to notice if you have noticed them. Use Chats, Conversations, and Collaborations to build relationships in your networks. Remember that in transparent networks people see not just your interactions with them but with others as well. You will have a reputation that is the sum of your interactions.
Choose Networks that Suit the Interaction You Want: Communities each have a dominant mode of interaction. Is it chatty? Do people help each other or engage in long debates? Pick communities that are suited to the interaction that will best suit your work. If you are looking for a richer interaction, such as a collaboration to solve a difficult work challenge, then choose networks where the relationships will support that interaction or where people share common approaches to interaction. No community is 100% one mode but aligning to the dominant approach first will help you be most effective and allow you to branch out later.
Be Clear on the Purpose of Your Working Out Loud: Ask for the help you need. Be clear on the kind of responses that will advance your work. Help others to best help you and also reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding or embarrassment.
Start Small and Experiment: The adaptive nature of Working Out Loud means that it will take some experimentation for you to develop your own approach, develop relationships and to find the networks and interactions that best foster your work. Start small and experiment to learn how best to leverage working out loud in your work.
Working out loud has become a very popular change initiative in engineering organisations around the world. The practice of working out loud plays key roles to nudge the traditional perfectionistic expertise-oriented engineering culture in productive directions towards the agile, customer-centred, collaborative future of work.
Engineering is a rigorous discipline of expertise. It has to be. Mistakes and errors in a design can have dramatic, devastating and long term consequences for the business & its customers. For this reason, engineering expertise is highly valued. That expertise can focus down into very narrow domains of the design of engineering solutions. Solutions are heavily worked, pushed to perfection and at times gold-plated for safety. The demands and focus of this work can mean that attention shifts to the area of engineering expertise itself and less to the environments, systems and other contexts around the work.
As a result, engineering organisations can at times struggle with customer focus. Engineers understand the design far better than the customers. They know the materials, systems and technologies involved better than anyone else.
Engineers can also find collaboration difficult. If there is one expert on a particular solution in the organisation, why would there be any discussion around a design to that solution. Focus primarily on demanding engineering considerations, that expert may be less concerned about the input from sales, marketing or manufacturing into the consequences of design choices.
Working out loud is the practice of sharing work purposefully with relevant communities while the work is still in progress. Sharing ideas, drafts and other progress helps other to be more aware of your work, provide input to that work and to learn from the work that is going on around the organisation. Nudging a culture to be more open, more outcome oriented and more collaborative through the practice of working out loud can deliver significant benefits for individuals and the organisation.
Encouraging engineering teams to work out loud can contribute to nudging the culture in a number of constructive ways:
- Do we really understand the problem? The business challenge may need engineers to deliver a solution but that doesn’t mean the problem is an engineering problem. Asking teams of engineers to work out loud as the define the problem to be solved can help them to gather inputs to better understand the outcomes needed, the constraints and other systemic issues through the input of the wider organisation or other stakeholders.
- What ideas might we take into the design process? Many creative solutions are cross-disciplinary or even involve a complete reframing of the problem. Opening up the ideation can allow non-technical experts or experts from other areas to put forward ideas that might inspire a new direction of work. Innovative and effective solutions can be the result of new inspirations.
- What other considerations matter? Narrating the process of the design and sharing the considerations that went into it opens up a discussion on other considerations that may be missed or might be relevant. Suggestions on things that the engineers might consider can come from anywhere in the organisations. Some times it is those who know least who ask the best “emperor’s new clothes” questions.
- Whose support do we need to put this design into practice? To the immense frustration of many engineers, their designs need the support of other stakeholders to be put into practice. Engaging those stakeholders throughout the process of the work through a constructive process of sharing work as it develops will help with the awareness and buy-in of stakeholders in the organisation.
- How do we learn from implementation for our next work? Henry Petrovski’s To Forgive Design is a book that studies the lessons from major engineering failures. One of the key insights is that failure often happens when a new technology is pushed beyond limits that have not yet become obvious. The technology overcomes a previous limitation but its own limitations are not known yet. These kind of failures can be prevented if the engineers can stay close to the issues arising from the implementation of their work. For example, signs of stress or other unusual outcomes on an existing bridge may be a signal that a new longer bridge with that same design may have an undetected failure point.
- How do we develop our own mastery? Teams that are rightly proud of their expertise should be seeking to develop a culture of ongoing improvement and gradual development of mastery. This learning culture requires people to seek feedback and coaching from others, to study the work of others and to be challenged by others to learn and work in new ways.
If your organisation can benefit from a more agile, customer-centred and collaborative work, then consider leveraging the practice of working out loud to help nudge those changes.
Almost twelve months ago, I discovered the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program when I found out that I had been nominated for the award. That nomination was a first step for Microsoft to widen the program to encompass people who worked to foster adoption of its products. The MVP Program has been longstanding as a way to connect Microsoft with the traditional IT pros who make up its base of customers, developers and partners. After a year of experience of the MVP program, I wish I had known about it a lot earlier. The benefits to me and to the organisations with which I work from the program have been fantastic. Most importantly of all, the MVP program has strengthened my connections to a community of incredibly smart, committed and professional practitioners who have shown me new and better ways to do what I do.
So let’s look at what a year of being a Microsoft MVP means. The MVP program is a recognition of contribution to the Microsoft community. Microsoft itself says:
“The Microsoft MVP Award gives us the unique opportunity to celebrate, honor and say thank you to top-notch technology experts who make outstanding contributions to their communities. These technology experts have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies and love to share their knowledge.”
The award which is for one-year term is a recognition of the quality and amount of work done and the value created by each individual for Microsoft, for its customers and for the individual’s own organisation. It lasts for a year because it is a reward for the work and that level of effort must be sustained and grow.
If we want to examine what it means to be a MVP we are going to have to dive into understanding and exploring the impact of that work. To save you the challenge of listening to me talk about myself, I asked a fellow MVP, Amy Dolzine of EY if I could feature her work and efforts this year. Amy works in knowledge management for EY where she is a Global Awareness Advisor and Enterprise Social Engagement, Research and Awareness Lead where she is responsible for designing, managing and continuously improving global initiatives that increase the firm’s adoption of collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer and SharePoint. By enabling real time collaboration and sharing of expertise her work at EY enables client service teams to deliver better client outcomes and create increased revenue opportunities for the firm. Amy’s work at EY and her past experience with other organisations leading Yammer implementations also makes her a global expert in social collaboration and someone that people around the world look to for expertise and insights on how best to develop the maturity of collaboration in their organisations.
I first met Amy through her active participation as a leader in the Yammer Customer Network, which is now the Microsoft Tech Community. Amy demonstrates her leadership and passion in this environment, by actively sharing insights, asking questions, identifying bugs to be resolved and providing feedback to other community members and the product teams. I’ve been lucky to be a member of a number of communities this year where I have been able to leverage Amy’s practical insights. Having such a professional expert available to help you unravel challenges or support your ongoing work is invaluable. If she is able to provide this support to others, I can only imagine the value that she is delivering to EY client service teams as they go about the important knowledge work of collaboration that is critical to the client service of EY teams.
The ongoing sharing of her expertise extends beyond the tens of thousands of members of these communities as well. Amy is also active in blogging and sharing her insights in social media. Her blogposts on Linkedin throughout the year have always been insightful reflections of the opportunities of collaboration and experience she has learned working in the EY environment and beyond.
An MVP is expected to be out and about sharing their expertise at events in their communities and events that that Microsoft runs. These speaking engagements are always learning opportunities. They refine insights, help make new connections and provide opportunities to listen to and engage other practitioners in the field. Personal and organisation brands grow due to the quality of these presentations and I have watched Amy continue to promote the leadership of EY in the social collaboration space at many events during the year:
- YouToo Social Media Conference Kent State University, April 2016: External social media conference in its 9th year. Amy was the first speaker ever on the topic of internal social. As a result of sharing her work, Amy was able to create recognition for EY as a leader in the space. Importantly Amy helped a number of people at existing or future EY clients realize the value of working collaboratively and how it could help them make their companies more productive and engaged.
- JBoye: Philadelphia, PA May 2016: EY is a member of the JBoye organisation’s networks. They have 2 conferences a year, one in Philadelphia, one in Arhus Denmark. Because of her status as MVP and reputation, JBoye asked Amy to speak at an event about enterprise social. Events aren’t just about speaking. At this conference Amy developed industry connections by meeting John Stepper, author of Working out Loud and Susan Hanley, the author of many books on Knowledge Management and SharePoint. Amy has gone on to introduce these thought leaders to others in her network. Developing connections in the industry and bringing together people is a key part of the MVP opportunity.
- Microsoft Ignite Atlanta, GA September 2016: I facilitated this panel of 5 leading MVPs. The panel was a “from the front lines” kind of presentation about how to roll out enterprise social and received an enthusiastic reception with many questions and excellent feedback. What the audience valued was Amy’s ability, along with the other panellists, to bring practical examples and real world experience to the often daunting and abstract challenges of collaboration. Showcasing the value that a leading organisation like EY can do in this way and highlighting the ability of a professional like Amy to share this expertise reflects well on the firm.
- DogFoodCon Columbus, OH October 2016: At DogFood Con Amy presented two presentations on the business value of enterprise social and the value of building knowledge communities. Again these presentations showcased EY as a leader in social collaboration and shared practical techniques to advance other organisations work in these areas. Feedback on these presentations showed the continued development of Amy’s influence and her reputation as a leader in the space.
- Microsoft MVP Summit Seattle, WA November 2016: MVP Summit is the highlight of the MVP year with a week long summit with in-depth presentations about Office 365, Yammer and SharePoint. For MVPs this is a chance to get deep into the product roadmaps for key products, to learn about initiatives to come and to connect with each other. Amy also got the opportunity during this week to interact as a subject matter expert with the Yammer Product team as they ran a product hackathon. Taking her frontline expertise and sharing it directly with the product teams to shape their future roadmap is a key opportunity for an MVP and puts them in a great position to assist their organisation to optimise Microsoft’s product implementations.
Being an MVP gives you unique exposure to the work of other MVPs and also the Microsoft product teams. Throughout the year on a weekly and monthly basis there have been updates from the product teams and others in Microsoft on the roadmaps and other opportunities being considered and tackled. MVPs get privileged access to these conversations under NDA in exchange for their contribution to Microsoft’s thinking. It is a rich and valuable mutual learning experience with early warning and an ability to influence future product development highly valuable to Amy in her work.
The global community of MVPs learn from each other. Everyone in that network is looking to push the implementation of the technology to greater levels of effectiveness for their organisations. Amy gets rich connections and early insight into that work is an incredible learning opportunity and a platform for future collaboration opportunities as well.
I asked a few fellow MVPs what they had learned from working with Amy during the year. Their answers reflected my own perceptions and the respect with which MVPs are held in the Microsoft customer base:
“Amy is by far the most practical, value-focused strategist that I’ve seen in social collaboration. She has a gift for inspiring people with the vision and then moving them to roll up their sleeves and get to work realizing the benefits.” – Melanie Hohertz, Cargill
“Through Amy’s insightful and honest public contributions, I learned that EY is a leader in the emerging science of social collaboration. Not only have I gained a better understanding of Enterprise Social Networking and how it can help organizations through Amy’s efforts, I’ve also gained a great deal of respect towards EY as a company on the leading edge of modern business progress.” – Tom Kretzmer, Lubrizol
“Just a few moments of conversation with Amy showed me the heights my own organization could achieve through Enterprise Social Networking; continuing the conversation through this past year showed me that she is a leader to keep an eye on.” Becky Benishek, Crisis Prevention Institute
When you spend a year working alongside someone through communities and events, you develop a strong sense of their values, their approach to others and the way that they approach their work. We all know that these values and approaches are the bedrock of excellence in performance and ability to contribute to others. What comes across to me from my year working closely alongside Amy is her passion for making work and technology solutions better for the people in EY, her deep commitment and energy to making a difference and her generosity in creating, building relationships and helping others. This work is not without its frustrations. What I love about Amy is that she keeps these values front and centre as she tackles the challenges and the successes. Most organisations barely recognise that their people are making contributions to others in this way well beyond the narrow descriptions of their jobs and KPIs. I am pleased to know that EY is different and Amy is recognised for her passion, her contributions and her generosity.
I am incredibly lucky to have got the chance to know Amy better through the MVP program. Because of the work of Microsoft to celebrate her work and her ongoing efforts to share and help others, you get the chance to know her better too. If you’d like to become an MVP, the challenge is to think how you can make this kind of a contribution to others through your work.