The Social Organization

Enterprise social networks will become the primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to carrying out work,” the consulting company Gartner claims in a press release, but “80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology.” Enterprise social is important but for the next few years most companies won’t get it right.

The authors of The Social Organization categorize stages of engagement with enterprise social. Most companies range somewhere between folly and flippant with fearful holding the middle ground. At best they don’t prevent employees from forming collaborative communities but they ensure the failure of those communities by not providing leadership and resources. Without the power to execute upon the innovative solutions derived from their collective intelligence, those communities become irrelevant and wither.

Enterprise social networks aren’t like cooked spaghetti. You can’t throw them against the wall and expect them to stick. Ironically, spontaneity requires planning, persistence, faith, hard work and more than a few dollars. The end result, however, can be communities that solve thorny business problems with innovative solutions. At least as valuable, I think, is the potential impact on employee engagement and retention.

Enterprise social networks have the potential to change the way we work and the way we relate to one another at work. Considering the staggering number of disengaged employees, the alienation, emotional pain and loss of productivity, some change is desperately needed.

The Social Organization isn’t about marketing with social media. It won’t help you sell widgets using Twitter. But it is a topographic map of the social landscape inside companies. It will help you ask the right questions. Without those questions you’ll never find your way across the terrain. You’ll be lost among the 80%.

The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of your Customers and Employees
Anthony J. Bradley, Mark P. McDonald

Gratitude #21 (Hacking Myself)

I’m grateful for Steve Ballmer. He’s not exactly a charismatic leader, he’s not even the leader I’d want to be, but there’s no questioning his commitment to Microsoft is so deeply ingrained it’s part of his personality, his cellular structure. I suspect when Ballmer leaves Microsoft he won’t fade away, he’ll detonate. A mushroom cloud over Hunt’s Point will mark his retirement.

Ballmer is a man willing to make a fool of himself for his passion and his unmistakable passion is Microsoft. There’s never a suspicion he’ll throw the company under the bus for his own benefit.

If he has a vulnerability, it may be his commitment to competition. At the company meeting employees who were here during the launch of Windows 95 were asked to define the company with three words. Ballmer especially liked the brevity of one reply “competitive, competitive, competitive” but his favorite was “ultimate fighting machine.”

I’ve often wondered why we continue with stack ranking, a form of employee incentivisation comparable to The Fight Club, despite having been discredited by science, abandoned by most Fortune 500 companies, and disliked universally by employees and alumni. We continue with it because it encourages competition.

A man with a hammer sees only nails. In the current business environment boundaries are fluid, competitors become collaborators and some both at the same time. The risk is seeing only through the lens of competition. But if I were given a choice between Steve Jobs running Microsoft or Steve Ballmer, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Ballmer (and not just because Jobs is dead).

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #20 (Hacking Myself)

I’m grateful for being able to attend the company meeting. It wasn’t a done deal. The change in the venue from Safeco Field to Key Arena limited seating to 16,000. Last year more than that attended in a year where morale left a low water mark. This year tickets were issued. I applied for a ticket the day after the announcement and was waitlisted.

I’ve worked for Microsoft over six years and been to five company meetings. Last year I didn’t attend. It took too long…I was too busy…the train whistles at Safeco Field were too distracting. The overpaid celebrities hosting the show weren’t very funny. My whining was endless. The simple fact was I had become jaded.

…the energy was tactile like high voltage power lines crackling in the summer heat. This year 16,000 people in one place began to realize the power of a collective vision, the potential impact of their work.

Mostly I think it was my response to a dispiriting sense that we didn’t get it. The world had changed; Microsoft hadn’t. The company meeting seemed a celebration in search of a cause.

This year everything changed. It’s the largest product launch in Microsoft’s history but more than that, all of those products are being integrated in the cloud, connected, leveraged. The whole is becoming more than the sum of its parts. This is a watershed year and I didn’t have a ticket.

I spoke out loudly on Yammer. “The company meeting is a focal point of the employee year in Puget Sound. It brings us all together. It captures some of the excitement of MGX for those who didn’t attend. It has an impact on our corporate culture.” I claimed. “There may be good reasons for the change but I think we missed an opportunity for discussion, for a larger conversation about what the company meeting means to us. That’s what social media is good for.”

Several co-workers offered me their tickets, then I came to the front of the waitlist. Suddenly I had a multitude of tickets.

This year at the company meeting the energy was tactile like high voltage power lines crackling in the summer heat. This year 16,000 people in one place began to realize the power of a collective vision, the potential impact of their work. We are building the tools. What’s missing still is the spark of meaning, a goal greater than ourselves, the fire to change the world.

It’s not enough to build the tools to change the world. We need a vision of the world to come. I think I see that vision forming.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #19

I’m grateful for Google. I know it sounds contrarian for a Microsoft employee, maybe even disloyal, but I doubt I would have my job if it weren’t for Google.

I remember Alta Vista, Excite, Hotbot, and Infoseek. I remember the frustration inherent in trying to find anything of value, the number of returns required to page through before finding anything relevant. Google changed the world.

Google isn’t merely a competitor, they’re a co-creator. The competition between our two companies is most obvious and it’s been great to have a ringside seat since Microsoft’s entry into the game but what’s often overlooked is the collective impact of that competition on our lives, not just our professional careers, the impact on the whole world.

Without Google the world would have been a lesser place. And yes, someone else would have fulfilled the function if not Google but if it hadn’t been Google, they probably wouldn’t have adopted the phrase “Don’t be evil.” As a parenthetical statement, I’ve always had trouble with that line. Not the intent so much as the syntax. Beingness is something for philosophers to debate. I could better understand borrowing the Hippocratic oath, “Do no harm” or even a variation on the three monkeys “Do no evil” but not being evil is difficult to measure.

One way to measure our own value is the strength of our competition and Google has been a worthy adversary.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #18 (Hacking Myself)

I’m grateful for Microsoft’s purchase of Yammer. Social software, especially social business software, has an unparalleled potential to drive change across our organizational networks and corporate culture. Like St. Elmo’s fire it has the capacity to leap across the void, connecting disparate elements, bypassing cumbersome hierarchies and the authorities guarding the gates. It is the first wave of a sea change in the way we do business, the way we organize ourselves. I suspect it will ultimately lead to a loosely coupled network of people working for a common goal that will be hardly recognizable as a corporation by our current definition.

Soon we’ll begin to employ social business software like Yammer to meet business needs, solve business problems instead of an extended chat. When that happens senior management will begin to take notice.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #17 (Hacking Myself)

I’m grateful for being in this place, this time. We share incredible opportunities. We are a small group, a privileged group at the leading edge of human knowledge. I believe wealth isn’t what you own but what you have access to and we are wealthy beyond most people’s measure, beyond even their imagination.

I don’t mean that as arrogantly as it sounds. Our privilege comes at a cost. Voltaire wrote “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” I have a strong sense that privilege isn’t inherent or earned but a gift of chance. Privilege, like suffering, should be shared.

I can’t dictate anyone else’s responsibility. I can, however, take responsibility for my own behavior and find a way to hack my own life to benefit more than just myself.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #16

I’m grateful for Windows 8 but not for the reasons you might expect. I use Windows 8, of course, but it’s the impact of the new operating system on Microsoft employees’ attitude that I most appreciate.

In yacht racing to windward there’s a concept called clean air. A boat shapes the local wind with its sails, bending it more in alignment with the boat’s direction. Any boat following in its wake will sail in a turbulent stream with the wind angled more on the bow, forcing it to sail further off the wind than its competitor. It’s called foul air. The goal of the trailing boat is to break free into clean air; the goal of the leading boat is to cover its competition. Tacking duels result.

For some time we’ve sailed in Apple’s foul air. First with the launch of Windows Phone and now with Windows 8, we’ve broken free into clean air. We’re following our own course, betting the race on the result.

Win or lose, at least we’re sailing our own race and that makes all the difference.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #15 (Hacking Myself)

I’m grateful for Trevor Norman. He’s one of those people whose wildly diverse interests make them difficult to define. He’s a surfer, sailor, motorcyclist, heavy metal band member, conspiracy theorist, metal worker, goat herder, hunter, sharp shooter, volunteer and one of the kindest people I know. Perhaps I feel special affinity because neither of us fit neatly into the corporate mold. Actually, none of my team does, maybe one reason we all get along.

We constantly hear prattle about people being a company’s most valuable asset (which puts us on the same level as toner cartridges and toilet paper) but the reality of a company is how people feel about each other. The cumulative impact of all those personal relationships is what ultimately creates corporate culture. Celebrating our diversity provides us the freedom to be ourselves.

I was once part of a team where we each created a PowerPoint presentation of our individual lives. (Mine began with a video of a thermonuclear device tested on a Russian island.) There’s value in revealing parts of ourselves that live outside of the corporate boundaries.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #14 (Hacking Myself)

Guest post by Trevor Norman.

I am grateful/thankful for the commuting options that Microsoft provides us. Not only do many of us have the flexibility in our roles and the technology to enable remote working (like working from home) but we also have this awesome private fleet of Connector buses and shuttles that take us just about wherever we need to go. I’m also very grateful that Microsoft provides paid ORCA cards to utilize public transportation options.

I personally was overstressing and wearing myself out by driving into the office nearly every day. I personally felt bad about my own behavior in that I was sitting in my vehicle by myself in rush hour wasting fuel and getting myself worked up and stressed with road rage. I was also basically spending 2-3 hours of my day relatively unproductive, again just fighting with traffic. I knew I was wasting fuel, wasting time and just adding more to the problem.  I’ve since made the change to get on the public bus in Everett and ride into work. This has personally made a huge difference to me. I no longer feel bad about adding to the traffic mess and wasting fuel. I am now walking an extra 1.5 miles every day that I wasn’t getting before. I also have around 2 hours of reading time each day. And thanks to the MSFT paid ORCA card I’m saving a bunch of gas money each month.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

Gratitude #13 (Hacking Myself)

I’m especially grateful for the legacy of the Gates family. Bill Gates’ parents instilled in him a sense of obligation to the community, engagement with volunteer work, and the value of good citizenship. Those values were incorporated into Microsoft’s corporate DNA.

BillG might not have been an easy man to work with; his profanity in response to what he considered a bad idea is legendary. His arrogance likely resulted in the anti-monopoly lawsuit but you can see his growth and his maturity over the years. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of his anger but I’m grateful to be on the receiving end of his generosity.

Bill has gone from Microsoft to the Gates Foundation, arguably one of the most impactful organizations on the health of humanity. He’s no longer best known as one of the richest men on the planet but as one of the most generous. His legacy isn’t his alone, it belongs to us as well. It belongs to the company he created. It’s one of those things that distinguish Microsoft from other companies and makes me proud.

[Gratitude—or resentment—filter our perceptions. We see what we expect to see; we’re blind to everything else. Gratitude—or resentment—is self-reinforcing, creating the conditions that generate more of the same. Gratitude is an affirmation, a technique for influencing our own attitudes, for hacking ourselves. Resentment is the same but with darker effect. So I’m launching an experiment in self-hacking. I’m going to regularly express my gratitude in numbered posts. (It has to be public or it’s too deniable.) If I get to #47 I’ll call it success whatever the outcome.]

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