#WorkingOutLoud Finding The Change Story

I’m presenting a workshop around the work i’ve been doing for ‘The Change Handbook’ today: it’s the first time i’ve been able to present this work in it’s entirety, with the new framework that i completed a couple of weeks ago (when i finished the first draft manuscript of the book), so i thought that my preparation would be easy. Not so. I’ve spent the three hour train journey restructuring, editing, shortening, the presentation.

The Change Story

I’ve been searching for the story. Not just any story: the story of how change happens, of how it’s constrained, of how we build the Socially Dynamic Organisation. Finding the narrative can be a complex process, but to get to simplicity, we often have to weather complexity.

The Dynamic Change Framework

Sometimes a story is stronger when it’s shorter, when it creates the space for reflection, without feeling the need to fill in all the spaces. Much the same as the way we should view change in fact: in a Dynamic Change approach, we would frame the change, but allow the community to co-create and co-own it.

Posted in Change | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Conditions for Community

I’m working on some principles for supporting the development of Communities of Practice, so sharing this illustration, which is about ‘foundations’, what are the conditions for Communities to emerge? It’s not intended to be definitive, just part of a conversation about how ‘community’ is more than simply ‘technology’, or ‘space’.

Conditions for Community

We need high Social Capital, something that Social Leaders have themselves, and develop in others: an ability to survive and thrive in social collaborative spaces. Not something to take for granted, and much more than simply technical skills.

There is value in having Democratised Space, space which is not owned purely by the organisation: in the Trust research, we see that ownership of the space impact engagement quite strongly, so relinquish some control if you want to win the prize of engagement.

We need clear Rules, ideally co-created, or at the very least, explicitly stated. Ambiguity leads to retrenched behaviours, safe behaviours, but not innovative or engaged ones.

Consequence is a powerful tool, i’ve been writing about ‘the Sphere of Consequence’ in change recently, and the ownership of it, and location of it, is important. Clear triggering, clear format, clear permanence, and clear ownership of consequence is valuable.

We need strong Social Leadership in social communities, which, agin, may be obvious, but the corollary is also true: we do not need an abundance of formal leadership. Leave formal power at the door.

Broad Fairness is an organisational wide need, but especially in communities: if the organisation has a culture that is not fair, then it cannot hear all the voices within these communities that it needs to hear.

We must have Equal Opportunity: opportunity to engage, to be heard, and to respond. This ties in with the ownership of stories. Communities are not broadcast spaces, they are co-creative ones.

Trust is central to coherent communities: focus on building out wide and strong webs of social ties.

And a condition for the emergence of community is ‘Need’, need from individuals, not just need from the organisation.

Tied into the emergence of agility is the need for Fluidity of Role: we cannot carry our formal role into a social space, and indeed, we see far greater fluidity of roles within these spaces anyway.

Fully social communities may not need a Purpose per se, but social ones within organisations probably should, even if the purpose of a Community of Practice is simply to support ‘best practice’, development, application, and reflection.

We will find Shared Values within our coherent communities, but we must put the effort in to do so: shared purpose can be imposed, but shared values must be found.

Finally, Segmented Utility: if we are all the same, our community will be weaker than if we have a broad and diverse range of skills, knowledge, viewpoints, and perspective. The more segmented a community, but aligned with core shared values, the stronger it will be.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

#WorkingOutLoud on ‘The Trust Sketchbook’ text

I have started work on ‘The Trust Sketchbook‘, a lightweight experiment to explore ‘what trust means to me‘ through a co-created journal. Last month, i crowdfunded the production costs, so now i am starting to explore the text. It will be based around the 12 Aspects of Trust that i shared previously. Today, i’m #WorkingOutLoud and sharing the first draft text that i will draw by hand on the pages of the book. It’s not complete, but i will do a draft, then actually draw it, to see how the space works, and how it flows.

12 Aspects of Trust

The Trust Sketchbook

Page 1: Introduction

You hold in your hands ‘The Trust Sketchbook’. It’s a guided journey through 12 aspects of trust.

Trust is complex: we all know what it means, but we all describe it in different ways. This book will let us explore ‘what trust means to me, in my community, in an organisation’.

This book is not complete.

That’s your job.

Draw it.

Deface it.

Write it.

Co-Create it.

The 12 Aspects of Trust

We will explore 12 aspects of trust.

[The 12 aspects of trust illustration, represented as a tree]

Can you think of other aspects? Cross these out, or add to them. Draw your tree.
The Landscape of Trust Research

In ‘The Landscape of Trust Research’, i am asking 1,000 people to explore Trust. You are undertaking the same journey, but through subjective prose and art. You are drawing your truth, sharing your words.

How would you describe trust? Share your words. Share your picture.

This book has no answers, but i hope it helps you to form, and to share, your own answer.

Does TECHNOLOGY impact Trust?

People trust formal technology (owned by organisations) less than they trust social technology (which they own themselves). As we become ever more ‘digital’, we should consider how trust is held in technology.

What technology do you trust?

Does the permanence of ‘digital’ affect how you trust it?

Does the visibility of what you share impact on trust?

Can you trust the identity of people online?

Do you TRUST the robots?

The Trust Sketchbook


How does Trust relate to CREATIVITY?

Organisations want creativity and agility, but how does trust impact this? Creativity is not a process: it’s a constant experiment, conducted in front of an audience.

Do you TRUST your own creative ability?

What makes you trust someone enough to share your creativity?

What is the risk of sharing?

How will you know if you trust someone enough to co-create with them?

Graffiti this page.

How does Trust treat FAILURE?

We say ‘it’s ok to fail’, but is it really? Do you trust your organisation to hold you safe if you fail whilst you are learning? Do you trust others? Can they trust you?

Who will catch you if you fall?

Draw an experiment: what does experimentation mean?

How does your community judge you?

If i fail, will you trust me less?

What causes trust to fail?

Does ETHNICITY impact Trust?

Let’s consider whether ethnicity impacts trust: do we trust more within our ethnic identity? Do different notions of trust exist?

Does TRUST vary around the world?

Think about SHARING: do we share equally, irrespective of ethnicity?

Does your trust network cross beyond your ethnic identity?

How do notions of trust collide?

Is there a TAXONOMY of Trust?

I think we can consider a taxonomy of trust: no trust (completely absent), functional trust (where you believe in the basics), invested trust (where we step the extra mile), blind trust (where trust is over invested).

Many organisations operate at ‘functional’. I think we need to create invested trust spaces. But never blind.

What types of trust exist?

Draw a scale of trust.

What words do you associate with ‘no trust’

What type of TRUST exists in your organisation?

Quantify it.

Name it.

Score it.


What is the CURRENCY of Trust?

We often use metaphors based around currency: earning trust, investing trust, you cannot ‘buy’ trust. Or can you… let’s consider the currency of trust, or whether it’s a fool’s gold.

Can trust be bought or sold?

Can you quantify trust?

How is trust held?

Draw a lot of trust.

Who do you invest your trust in?

Posted in Trust | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Square Peg: Round Hole

I feel a little like i’m staring over a precipice: a sense of vertiginous excitement, coupled with more than a little trepidation. It’s probably coupled in some way to where i am with writing at the moment: i’ve dedicated more time this year into more reflective, longer form writing and, alongside that shift, i have felt my own thinking moving further forwards. It was as i worked deeply in ‘The Change Handbook’ at the end of last year that i first felt a pull towards overall organisational design principles, ideas that i’ve been fortunate enough to rapidly iterate on real projects this year.

Square peg - round hole

Now, more than ever, i have this sense of how interconnected whole different strands of my own interest are: how the ecosystem of the Social Age has led to evolved learning, the new nature of knowledge, the need for Social Leadership, a need for organisations to build a capability in change, the need to be fairer, a need to innovate, a need to evolve. You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, although you can waste a lot of time trying.

I’m sure there is wide awareness of this, but there is a clear polarity of response: in our systems of organisational design, government, transport, education, even law, we lag far behind, deeply embedded in resistant behaviours and wilfully blind mindsets. We have developed ‘professional’ structures that lie often in opposition to the democratised, crowd powers narratives that are gaining strength today. In many case, such as democracy itself, we have hide bound institutions denying the change, and widely held beliefs (usually from a privileged minority), that the crowd is simply not clever or engaged enough to make a difference. But that is to miss the point: the crowd may not be deeply engaged in the current understanding of democracy, but the current understanding of democracy may be increasingly distanced from today’s reality.

We don’t need systems of evolved government that allow us to engage more deeply in a jargon led, professionalised, exclusive form of government: we need evolved societal approaches to tap into the wisdom, cognitive surplus, and creative potential of the crowd itself. It’s not innovation within a known system: it’s innovation that subverts and surrounds the existing system.

If you’ve read many of my recent posts, you may have sensed an increased interest in democracy, a fire that i am feeling as i read more widely around it. I am intending to explore a series of five linked posts, perhaps in August, looking at the evolution of democracy, and exploring different aspects of disruption, but in many ways, i know that this will give me no answers.

It’s going to just be another part of the web: as knowledge changes, so does learning, and as learning changes, so does power, as power changes, so do the structures that surround and encode it, and as those structures change, so does the nature of society. That’s the earthquake that’s happening right now. The emergence of the New Victorians: the technoligarchs, the new Emperors, the data giants. Colonising the wild west with broad strokes of code on a map. We see the existing power structures trying to cage or tame them, but it will be to little avail: the battles that they win are mere PR triumphs, populist campaigns, not underlying tectonic controls. The sense of movement is clear.

I am no techno-utopian dreamer: indeed, i sense that the technology will damn us indeed if we fail to provide space to evolve the surrounding sociology. We must change. And change we will. The only question is whether that change is imposed, or whether we engage in the conversation. It’s that decisions that will doubtless define the winners. As Amazon consumes Whole Foods in the US, the conventional food retailers must be trembling. Once Apple declares intent to drive, it will be the creaking fracture of the automobile industry, at least in anything like it’s current format, a format which notoriously struggles to leverage profit out of a long supply chain in any case.

It’s not that there won’t be winners; it’s just that there may be new winners, and some very large, very bewildered, and very historic losers.

I’m sure that salvation lies in adaptation: evolution. There is no predetermined path to follow, but rather one of constant adaptation, a path that is there for the bold to follow. Develop a capacity for iteration, for creativity, for innovation. Develop a reputation to attract talent, develop fair ways of engaging with people (not human capital, or human resource), allow consequence to shine into any dark corners of the organisation, even from the bottom up, and be willing to change, by developing power structures, spaces, capability, to change.

One HR Director asked me last year what Glass Doors was. When i told him, he had two questions: ‘what are they saying about us’, and ‘how do we stop them saying that?’. The answer to the first question was that nobody was saying anything good. And the answer to the second questions was ‘rebuild your organisation, from the ground up, to be better, to be fairer. Evolve it.’

We cannot solve ecosystem challenges through simple, tactical, one touch solutions. You cannot solve a cultural challenge with leadership alone, and you cannot solve innovation through process. You can’t tackle the evolution of knowledge with evolved learning alone, and you can’t use a change process to navigate a new type of change. You can’t use formal power to influence in social spaces. We need a new balance, but we can’t have the balance until we accept and embrace the change. We have to find our way, together.

I’ve shared work around a dynamic tension: how the future of organisations will lie in recognising the formal and social systems, and in recognising and embracing the dynamic tension between the two. We must not seek to collapse that state: we don’t want either side to dominate. Instead, the energy that powers the Socially Dynamic Organisation will be this very dynamic tension.

As i peer over the edge of the precipice, i feel a sense of the complexity of the challenge, but also a degree of hope, because the new ecosystem favours bold explorers, it favours those willing to learn, to iterate, to adapt.

You do not need great structure, huge expenditure, high resources, to evolve. You just need pressure, and the right mindset. And that is where to start: share a picture, open ourselves up to be ready to explore.

Posted in Change | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

#WorkingOutLoud Sharing ‘The Change Handbook’

This is a writing week: i am close to completing a full manuscript for a new book, ‘The Change Handbook – building the Socially Dynamic Organisation’. By a stroke of luck, i have managed to find a calm energy this week, and, largely sat in the sun in my parents garden, have made solid progress. This year i am trying to take one full week a month for long form writing, and when i do so, i am not creating new writing for the blog, but rather #WorkingOutLoud and sharing extracts, so that is what i am doing today. This is a chapter from the mid point of the Dynamic Change Framework, and it is about ‘embedding’ the change community (called the SEED community) back into the organisation. In a three year change journey, this would be somewhere around half way. I share this un-proofed, unfinished, but as part of #WorkingOutLoud.

Change Curve - integrating the change community

Embedding Change

As we seek to embed the change we have achieved so far, we reach the half way point in the Dynamic Change Framework: we have looked at the 16 resisters of change, and sought to segment them, to break them down. We have looked at the relationship between ‘me’, ‘we’, and ‘us’, and considered how we can engage, broadly, in change, and found our SEED communities, the spaces for ‘sense making’ conversations to take place.

We have thought about agency, and the need to create it, and embed it, broadly. If we get all of this right, we have put in place the foundations for change, for co-created and co-owned change, to occur.

It may seem like this has been a lot of work, but foundations are everything. The Socially Dynamic Organisation has a foundation in it’s community, not simply in it’s formal power, so building out the engaged community, and creating agency, is the strongest foundation that we can give.

But now we start to change, we need to bring the organisation back together again: we need to embed our SEED communities back into the organisation.

Up until this point in the change journey, we have relished in the space and permission that we have been able to claim outside the everyday reality, but at some point, change must gain momentum, if it is ever to be transformative, and at some pointe must look to embed the change deep into the heart and mindset of the organisation itself.

This part of the model deals with how we carry out that embedding process: leaving a legacy of spaces to talk in, stories of change to share, with a network of strong amplifiers and awarding our first socially moderated recognition and reward. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

One of the first steps we carried out to erode the resistance was to find external spaces for our conversations: spaces free of existing limitation. We used these to embed our embryonic change agents and change leaders, our early adopters. We called these SEED communities. We used them to create a safe space to be curious, to question, to challenge. In the early stages, we have to use Bridging Conversations to loop back into the organisation.

But to truly become Dynamic, we have to bring the community into the organisation itself: we need to cross the bridge back into the real world!

The reason for creating the external space is to draft new permissions and free ourselves of the restrictions we feel in existing ones. With these new spaces in place, we can engage in new ways and explore the future together. With these spaces, we can segment and overcome the sixteen Resistors to change. But once that is in process, we can migrate the conversations back inside. Why? Because the intention was never for them to be external: they simply needed to hatch in a safe space. As they mature, as the community finds it’s shape and purpose, finds it’s power and cohesion, it can handle the lingering resistance, it can exist internally, not bound by questions of whether it even has a permission to exist.

By this stage, you may be a year into a change journey. Building the community, creating agency, these are not fast or easy things to do. It’s a mindset shift, and that shift takes place over time.

The migration of the community back into the organisation itself is not one of packing boxes and loading trucks: it’s a consensual attraction, more a case of creating space and allowing the community to find a natural home. It’s worth remembering that communities are conversations, not technologies, so just implementing a technology won’t ensure the community moves, but making clear that a space exists may. These transition points are challenging: we don’t want to (don’t have a permission to) arbitrarily move a community, but we can create the conditions for it to migrate.

One part of this will be through the use of the stories we tell: as we transition back to the organisation, travelling back across the bridge, we can share our stories of what we have achieved and what we are now in a position to tackle. As each devolved group has overcome it’s resistors, found it’s power and solved some problems, there are stories to be told. The telling of these stories can be anchored to the new, internal space. By nature, if these stories form the socially awarded badges of recognition, they may help draw the conversation back.

The community that we bring back to the organisation at this stage is not wide, but it’s deep: the people who have invested thought and time in addressing our early requests for engagement. These may be our amplifiers: the shining lights we can use to draw out the rest.

There will be casualties at this stage: this is a challenging thing. This is the stage at which we truly start to change. There are opportunities for individuals to engage in the change, to find a new source of power, a new role, an enabling and compelling one. But it may not suit everyone. Change means shaking the tree, and displacing nests. I’m uncertain as to whether true change can be achieved without some displacement: the thing we need to understand is how we manage the change fairly, creating opportunities to engage, but recognising and supporting people who cannot make the whole journey.

I struggle, even as I write this, but let’s consider the nature of loss: in formal change model, people are disempowered, change is done to them, and some leave. In a Dynamic change approach, we co-create the change, can find individual agency, and have the opportunity to become invested within it. If we provide the right nurturing and support through our SEED communities, it’s ok for some people to decide that the new state is not for them.

This is not about pushing people out, but it is about creating a new culture (a socially Dynamic one), a new space, achieving momentum, and transforming. It’s natural to assume that not everyone will enjoy, commit to, or value the new culture. But the new culture itself is a sign that we are changing.

Transforming culture is the hardest thing to do: physical change is easy, hierarchical change is relatively simple, but cultural transformation is extremely difficult, because true culture is co-created in the moment through the actions of every individual: you cannot cheat it, you are part of it.

In the process of embedding the SEED community back into the main organisation, we are doing one other key thing: communities have a half life. If we remain external for too long, we may simply start to become a feature of constraint: remember in the Dynamic Change Curve: when we get half way, we either fall to control effects, being well intentioned, but futile, or we achieve momentum, and transform.

Embed the SEED community, and watch it sprout and grow. If it works, we will forget what the seed even looked like, and just celebrate the growth of the tree.

What you need to know:

  1. We have created SEED communities, deliberately claiming external space and permission, but these cannot stay outside forever: we have to embed the change back into the organisation, we must bring our new capability to bear at scale.
  2. Moving a community is a process of engagement and attraction: if we have used our bridging conversations wisely, if we have engaged at breadth, it should be an easy tipping point.
  3. At this stage, some people may leave: this is the point at which an organisation truly starts to change, and those who cannot commit will likely be isolated or fail.
Posted in Change | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

#WorkingOutLoud On A Teaching Day

I’m flattered to have been asked to teach a day on the University of Pennsylvania doctoral programme: i thought i’d share an outline of the day, as it may provide a useful series of links and references around my current work on the Socially Dynamic Organisation. This week i’m offline, writing, trying to advance some long form writing, so i won’t be creating much dedicated material for the blog.

Sketching the Socially Dynamic Organisation


We live in the Social Age, a time of constant change: the organisational structures, leadership hierarchies, and types of knowledge, that got us this far, are not going to get us the rest of the way. In this session, we will explore the changes to our ecosystem, the new pressures bought to bear upon organisations, and the ways that they can adapt to face them. There are two aspects to any modern organisations: the formal, which is within our control, and the social, which is largely hidden and beyond our control. A Socially Dynamic Organisation will maintain a dynamic tension between the two, building a deep seated capacity to ‘make sense’ of change, to innovate in breadth, and to adapt.

We will consider, in this session, a number of key aspects:

  • The ecosystem of the Social Age: what has changed, and how it’s impacted upon us.
  • The rise of Social Leadership: what it is, the evolution of power that lies behind it, and how it intersects with formal authority.
  • The new nature of knowledge: how organisations can gain access to the tacit, tribal, co-created and socially moderated forms of knowledge that lie deep within tribal structures.
  • The landscape of trust: exploring how trust factors into the new Social Age, and how we can build strong trust networks.
  • The design principles of the Socially Dynamic Organisation: a new set of organising principles, to adapt our organisations to be fit for the Social Age.

Reading list

An introduction to the Social Age

Exploring new ‘types of power‘, and the struggle for control.

Introducing the ‘Dynamic Tension‘ at the heart of a Socially Dynamic Organisation.

Why we need to evolve HR.

An introduction to the Socially Dynamic Organisation.

An introduction to Scaffolded Social Learning.

On why we need Social Leadership.

10 reasons for Social Leadership.

The Landscape of Trust.

Reflecting on types of knowledge.

Core text: the Social Leadership Handbook.

Posted in Learning | Leave a comment

Sketching On The Design Principles For The Socially Dynamic Organisation

A month or two ago i shared ‘Design Principles for the Socially Dynamic Organisation‘, an early sketch of where we could go next in organisational design. I feel we must move beyond a model of organisation that relies on vertical mechanisms of control, towards a principle of organisation based upon fairness, facilitation, innovation and agility. An organisation united around purpose, but fluid in it’s mechanisms of organisation and control.

Sketching the Socially Dynamic Organisation

This type of organisation will maintain the Dynamic Tension between the formal and social arms: it will thrive with strong formal leadership, and strong Social Leadership. It will have access to it’s deeply held tribal knowledge, because it has earned the right to hear it. It will be agile, not as a process, but a mindset and deeply distributed capability.

Dynamic Tension

Today, with HR very much on my mind at a conference, i’m sharing some thoughts, a narrative, sketched around the original illustration. Sometimes i find it useful to do this to refine my own narrative around it, and sometimes simply to capture key descriptions and thoughts in one place.

A new model for HR

The design principles are not intended to be final: as i continue #WorkingOutLoud on writing ‘The Change Handbook – building the Socially Dynamic Organisation‘, i will continue to evolve the model, and in any case, there will not be one unified model of Org design, so much as a series of behaviours and capabilities, a new mindset, that will guide the growth of an organisation that deserves to success, because it’s wiling (and able) to change.

I feel this quite strongly: things like innovation, fairness, strong leadership, these are emergent from a system that has evolved to deserve it. These are the prizes that we must win through a pattern of holistic adaptation.

Posted in Change | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment