Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Initiative" Maybe Equals "Influence Without Authority"

I was on my way in to work this morning and thinking about what I'd posted yesterday about initiative when, all of a sudden, and interesting connection came to me.

In his book titled Social Intelligence, Karl Albrecht talks about power, influence, and leading when you're not in charge in Chapter 9.

Specifically, he presents a simple general formula for earning influence in unstructured situations:

  1. contributing special / unique skills linked to the group outcomes
  2. help the group improve process and procedures (facilitate.. "take the pen and the flip chart")
  3. having the right information and / or help the group use it effectively
  4. build consensus through summarizing group discussions, propose or confirm next steps, and help the group navigate to a conclusion or decision
  5. helping a group maintain a positive and constructive climate and maintain it's empathy, so healthy debate does not descend into personal rancour

It strikes me that leading with these behaviours that Karl has outlined would serve everyone well in a social / networked workplace.

It also strikes me that these behaviours, in different contexts, would be called facilitation skills. And I've always been a big proponent of these skills being a core competency in knowledge organizations.

And, as a facilitator, and facilitation instructor, I know from experience that these skills can be developed to some degree in everyone.

Perhaps facilitation is the key for helping all generations adapt and be effective in the future.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Personal Change for the Networked World

I was at a recent meeting with the Conference Board of Canada's Knowledge Strategy Exchange Network (I'm privileged to be a member, and on the Advisory Council) and, as I'm sure you'd expect, the conversation turned to blogs, wikis, and other social / Enterprise 2.0 stuff. Part of that conversation was to talk about characteristics of the demographic called "e-born" / "net generation." Coincidentally I'm currently reading Don Tapscott's book Wikinomics, which is a deep exploration of this and other related topics.

Prevalent themes in all social computing topics and sub topics include networks and communities, co-creation, collaboration, hierarchy based on contribution not position, common objectives, transparency, open / honest communication, engagement, speed, access, active participants / actors, and taking personal risks.

Do you remember hearing the term "self-directed learning" going back 10 years or so, coincidentally around the same time interest in computer based / e-learning was on the rise?

I think the new work world heading our way is the next generation self-direction - active initiative.

Its pretty clear to me that to really derive personal value from these new technologies and new ways of working, we all have to take initiative and be active contributors in a contextual/situation specific meaningful way. "The more you put in, the more you get out" certainly applies.

So a couple of thoughts popped into my mind during our Knowledge Strategy Executive Network conversation about social computing. Traditional command/control environments often stifle initiative and innovation. I can even recall a few circumstances where I've thought to myself "if he's going to do all my thinking for me, why should I bother?" or " why should I bother contributing if it has no value?" And obviously, people who have spent years / decades working under tightly controlled environments can easily loose the desire, and even capability, to take initiative. They just trudge to work, put their heads down, do "their job", hope the heck no one "shines a light on them", and trudge home.

Under these circumstances how equipped are older generations of workers, who have been raised in a command and controlled environment, to deal with a horizontal, social, networked, community based work environment? I suspect in quite a few cases they are not.

So, I think this is a big challenge facing organizations, leaders and managers - facilitating the personal change required to equip and enable older generations of workers to work effectively with younger ones, having the patience to do so, and in the interim, not disenfranchising them by forcing them too quickly to work differently. The same thing could also apply to re-engaging retired workers in some capacity.

I think the other part of the challenge in creating an effective cross-generational work environment is truly understanding how work is performed from both boom and net-generation perspective, and supporting it effectively from a business and technoloy perspective. I heard the word "ecosystem" mentioned by Jerome Nadel of Human Factors International, and thought that a good metaphor. Let's create an ecosystem that enables effective contributions and interactions through multiple means, selectable by the contributor.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Role of "Invitation" in Collaboration

"Collaboration." Now, there's a word that can mean different things to different people!

"Hey Joe.. can I get your take on this?"
"Sandra, can you give this the "once over" before I give it to the Board?"
"Petra, how would you change /improve this if you were in my shoes?"
"Hulin, I'd like your input before Friday"

Are these likely examples of collaboration? "Of course not." you're probably saying, because we've all been exposed to some definition of collaboration that involves shared ownership and objectives. And yet, these and other situations and conversations where there is not shared ownership and shared objective are often pointed to as collaborative behaviour - "yep.. we're collaborating... done.. let's "check the box.""

Robert Hargrove, in his book titled Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration, describes a collaborative model as:

  • designates new possibilities; shared understood goals; seeks creative, entrepreneurial results
  • builds collaborative networks and new patterns of relationships and interactions; shows authenticity and vulnerability
  • attitude of learning; is a specialist and a generalist; equates success with questions
  • balances advocacy of views with inquiry into own and others' thinking; listens to deeply understand others
  • empowers others on the job by acknowledging talents and gifts; provides an enabling environment

Overall, a pretty good example of collaborative characteristics, which coincidentally share much in common with facilitative leadership, and effective qualities for managers in this "knowledge era".

There is one thing implicit in Hargrove's exploration of collaboration, and most others as well, that bears discussion - the concept of invitation.

To designate new possibilities, build collaborative networks, have an attitude of learning, balance advocacy of views with inquiry, provide an enabling environment and engage in all of the other collaborative behaviours, other participants must be:

  • invited to the "party"
  • invited to the conversation
  • invited to discuss objectives, outcomes, action plans
  • invited to receive information that may be of value to your objectives
  • invited to picture a mutually beneficial future
  • invited to discuss mutually beneficial actions, and participate in difficult in trade off discussions as an EQUAL partner
  • invited to hear the other's agenda, and transparently disclose yours


It's hard to collaborate unless you are.