10 Tips For Designing Effective Social Learning

Social Learning is one approach to learning design, an approach where we combine the best of ‘formal‘ learning (the story that the organisation tells), with the best of the community (the co-created, sense making, ‘social‘ story that the community writes). Social Learning must be designed as such: it’s not simply a case of adding a forum alongside an eLearning course, or putting a workshop online.

The Social Age of Learning

Here are ten tips for designing effective Social Learning:

1. Social Learning is a specific design approach: it involves us forming a learning journey that weaves between formal and social elements. We must specifically design the spaces for co-creation to occur.

2. Social Learning is facilitated by technology, but it’s not caused by technology: think first about design, and secondly about which technologies you have or can acquire, to facilitate it.

Birth of a Community

3. Social Learning happens within communities: consider all aspects of how communities form, are guided, and capture their story. Worry less about trying to engineer ‘engagement’. Engagement will come if you have strong communities.

4. Rules should be sparingly written and ideally co-created. Worry less about what you will do if things go wrong, more about how you can earn the right for things to go right. Set out your ‘must have’ rules, but create space to listen to what the community wants too. Find a middle ground.

5. Social Learning typically takes place over time: create the time and be unafraid to clearly ask for commitment. Remember that the learning is ‘social‘ because it actively includes the conversations, so you need time for those conversations to occur.

Scaffolded Social Learning - the overarching narrative

A scaffolded Social Learning solution will include both bubbles and boxes, a combination of formal and social spaces

6. Scaffolding is important: in my own approach to Scaffolded Social Learning, i emphasise that we need strong ‘scaffolding’, the design pathway that shows the relationship between formal and social elements. Start by building the scaffolding for your project. Everything else hangs off that.

7. Assessment is not always about tests: the stories that people write, individually and in communities, can form a great model of assessment.

8. Less assets, more spaces: in Social Learning, we typically have fewer ‘hard‘ assets, such as podcasts and eLearning elements, and more ‘co-creative’ spaces – structured conversations to ‘make sense’ of and share understanding. That’s what we are aiming for: the understanding of the community.

9. Typically we would have no case studies: if you need a case study, ask the community to find one or write one. That’s very much the ‘Social Learning‘ approach: more grounded in our reality than hiding in theory.

10. You will need to consider ‘facilitating roles‘, the people (both within the formal system, and within the community), who help others to succeed. Actively think how you can recognise, develop and reward these people. They will be central to your success: the community managers, storytellers and mentors.

Ultimately, every organisation needs to learn the co-creative behaviours, design methodology, and facilitating roles that will operate best within their own unique culture and technical infrastructure. Above all, focus on design, not technology or assessment. Engagement will come through great design.

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The Culture of the Socially Dynamic Organisation

As I’ve been writing over the last couple of weeks on the Socially Dynamic Organisation, I’ve been revisiting the 70 or so articles that I’ve written so far exploring this space. The more I write, and the more I think, the clearer it becomes to me that’s the challenge we face is to engineer a new type of organisation that is fundamentally adapted. And that this adaptation will move beyond the vertical pillars and clear formal hierarchy that we see in organisations today. It’s to our credit if we recognise that little of the organisational structure we see around us is set in stone, except the ossified thoughts that lodge in our brains.

The Culture of the Socially Dynamic Organisation

The types of organisational structure that we have inherited are based on gradients of power where size, mass, and momentum counted for a lot, and the individual was a small cog in a large machine. In the world of socially moderated storytelling, amplification through social communities, democratised technology, creativity, and communication, this power balance has fundamentally shifted. Our job is to reengineer the organisation of the future to recognise, respect, and jointly leverage value in this new space. Jointly leverage, because the value that is made will be shared, must be shared, between the organisation and the community.

At its simplest level we can look at the culture of the organisation and see how, in the Socially Dynamic Organisation, all of the vertical pillars act in service of, alongside, and with the community itself. I do not illustrate community in the centre because it’s more important, but rather to show how importance has moved into a dynamic relationship between the formal arms of the organisation and the social communities that inhabit it.

Friction - Dynamic Tension

I’ve written before about this dynamic tension, and my sense is that it’s key: the formal entities of the organisation must not seek to own or control the social, but equally the social aspects cannot fully subvert or control the formal. The most common challenge I get when talking about the social aspect of the organisation is that it introduces risk, but it’s not possible in compliant or secure environments. People say, “we simply could not do it here”. But that is wrong: People exist in the current space, within compliant and secure environments, they are just disempowered. That judgement is based on the misnomer that if left to their own devices people will do things that are wrong.

In fact, they may do things which are right. They may be able to figure out new ways of being right. Indeed, the power of the Socially Dynamic Organisation comes from its ability to leverage precisely this value.

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Developing Social Leadership: A Practical Guidebook

I have started work on the layout and design of a short new book called ‘Social Leadership: my first 100 days’. As the title suggests, it’s a practical guide that takes the ideas from the Social Leadership Handbook and build them out into 100 activities over 100 days. The first 10 days cover the foundations of the Social Age, followed by 10 days activities based on each of the nine components of the NET model of Social Leadership. So 10 days of activities around Curation, 10 days around Storytelling, then Sharing, Community, Reputation, Social Authority, Co-Creation, Social Capital, and Collaboration.

Social Leadership My First 100 Daysa

Each page will give a broad overview followed by specific questions or activities, on the facing page will be an illustration covering the topic at hand.

Curation in Social Leadership

In a new departure, I’m crowdfunding production of the Social Leadership 100 book. I’m doing this not particularly to raise significant funds, although I am trying to offset printing costs, but more than anything as a continuation of the way the book has been written #WorkingOutLoud and fully engaged with the community. There is a vibrant and dynamic crowdfunding community, and I have already been taken aback by the level of engagement. Still, this is a new departure, and I’m unclear at this stage whether I will repeat this approach when it comes time to publish the book on the Socially Dynamic Organisation and Dynamic change later this spring.

If you are interested in crowdfunding the book, you can find the Kickstarter page here. Otherwise, my intention is to have the book ready to launch at the beginning of April this year.

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Resistance to Change: Aspects of Cognition – a #WorkingOutLoud post

I’m sharing another significant chunk of new writing today as I take good strides forward completing the third draft manuscript for the new book on organisational change, and how we build the Socially Dynamic Organisation. I’m #WorkingOutLoud as i do so, sharing writing at draft stage, so forgive typos and glitches. This is behind-the-scenes work. The section that I’m sharing today covers four of the 16 Resisters of change: we look at the sphere of consequence, the importance of belonging, the perils of uncertainty, and the impacts of denial.

The Sphere of Consequence

In terms of where this sits in the overall book, this is the fifth out of seven sections: in section 1 I introduced the notion of the Social Age and what change means, in the second section we look at the three manifestations of change, in the third I introduced the Dynamic Change Curve, in the fourth I introduced stories of how organisations try to change, and in this section we look at foundations to set change in motion. The sixth section is substantially written and covers the Dynamic Change Framework itself, which is an eight step route to enable change, but more of that to follow.

Title: Cognition

Let’s look in more detail at the four aspects of cognition as resistors of change:


Our sense of consequence can inhibit or restrict our thinking and action, indeed, for the purposes of this discussion let’s consider the sphere of consequence, the way that it surrounds and envelops us. In any given action we are surrounded by a sphere of consequence: either one that we impose ourselves, or one that is opposed upon us by aspects of the environment.

For example, I was walking over to a friends house last week when I heard a drunk couple sat at the bus stop making quite loud and unpleasant comments about homosexuality. These comments weren’t directed at any individual, but rather allowed and inebriated conversation between the two of them. What did I do? I did nothing. I walked on by. I can justify this in many ways: whilst the conversation offended my liberal views, there was nobody else within earshot, so I let it go. Or we could go with an alternative explanation: had I intervened, there was a likelihood it would have ended in conflict, and with two drunken interlocutors, it could easily got out of hand, so having understood the consequence, I behaved accordingly, and did nothing.

In this case, I imposed the consequence upon myself, I created the sphere around me, and then operated within it.

Let’s take another example: I’m in a rush to get on the train, there is a big queue for the ticket machine. Do I push past to the front? Of course not. I understand the high social consequence of those actions. It would be rude, and rudeness is a social judgement on the actions that we take. So I impose a tight sphere of consequence around my own actions, and don’t do it.

What about within an organisation? Let me share another story: friend works in an organisation which was trying to be more innovative. They asked people to share their ideas for innovation, and yet when she did so, she was seriously reprimanded by her manager are not talking the idea through with her first. Effectively she was reprimanded for doing the very thing which the senior leaders had asked her to do, something that she judged to be deeply unfair. In this case, she had no sense of consequence when she took the action, but subsequently consequence was imposed upon her by manager: the net result, she is left less willing to help the organisation in the future.

Next time, she will be operating within a tighter sphere of consequence that has been imposed upon her.

Then consider things like social media policies: the formal rules of an organisation also impose a formal sphere of consequence upon us. In many ways these are the most clear and obvious, although rules are often disproportionately applied. Sometimes rules are employed hard when it suits the organisation, and more softly when they’re less worried, so the tightness of the sphere consequence can be uncertain.

Where there is uncertainty, if we are wise, we often take a conservative approach, which exposes us to little risk.

In a resistant organisation, consequence can be heavily applied, which leaves us little space to operate within. That heavy application may be deliberate by the organisation, as it is within an organisation that exerts excessive control through formal hierarchy. But it may also be implied, giving us a second degree of constraint, whereby we impose a sphere of consequence upon our self because we believe that the organisation will treat as harshly. So the organisation loses twice: it loses the engagement of the individual, and it loses the benefit it would have reaped from that engagement.

Much of the discussion about consequence relates to visibility and consistency: we can reap benefits by explicitly labelling the consequence that applies in different spaces, perhaps by labelling those spaces as learning spaces, reflective spaces, or performance spaces, with a clear understanding of which type of consequence applies and which space. But for this to work, we must be consistent with how that consequence is applied: inconsistent application of consequence leads to a constrained organisation.

I worked with one organisation which had a clear policy that you could not identify that you worked for that organisation on social media in any way. And yet, in parallel to that, I counted 17 different parts of the organisation which operated Facebook groups which they encouraged people to join. So the way that consequence was applied was inconsistent: the policy said you could not engage, but the activity said that you should engage. It’s no surprise that their key question was, “how do we generate engagement?”. Sometimes we engineer our own lethargy and weakness.

What you need to do:

• Consider how the sphere of consequence exists within your organisation in different contexts and in different spaces. Is it clear to you? Remember, if it’s not clear, we will likely take a conservative and defensive stance.
• Is consequence applied evenly and fairly? Work with leaders to help them understand the impact of consequence and importance of fair and consistent application.
• Explicitly signpost what consequence applies in particular spaces, and honour that commitment.


Within an organisation we are not simply bound together by formal rules and contracts, indeed in my own Landscape of Trust research, I saw that 75% of people say their primary bonds are bonds of trust with people, only 25% felt that their primary bonds were contractual.

Change involves not simply the movement of infrastructure and evolution of hierarchy, it often involves shifts in the social fabric of the organisation itself which can challenge these bonds of trust and even identity. We should not underestimate the power of the social bonds of belonging, and the risk and resistance that can be triggered if we try to force them into new shapes: whilst social bonds are movable and pliable, they are governed by the individual not by the organisation, and all too easily at our peril do we trigger that type of resistance.

There are different facets we need to consider around the resistance of belonging. One point is that no matter how quickly we are able to institute the formal aspects of change, we need to take account of and do everything possible to facilitate the considered movement of social bonds. We are familiar with something of this problem when people get promoted within a team: they have to evolve some relationships away from being peer-to-peer, through to being leader to teammate, and if we’re honest, although roles change, the persistence of personal relationships means that these new roles are never fully adopted. Indeed the newcomers into a team can be significantly disadvantaged when they lack previous peer-to-peer relationships that have persisted into new formal structures. Effectively some people are governed and led to formal relationships of power, whilst others have the consideration of pre-existing socially equal relationships, which moderate or negate the application of formal power. It’s not that it’s impossible to overcome these things, but by no means can we take it for granted, and I suspect that in the increasingly confused and jumbled intersection of our formal and social lives, it will become ever harder to separate formal from social, work from play.

Indeed, it may become ever harder for organisations to change as the nature of the relationships held within the organisation become increasingly socially grounded: if you are friends with someone on Facebook is almost certainly harder to reprimand them formally.

You may notice a theme emerging around some of these topics: they are often two-edged swords. Some aspects of a particular feature of communities can enable us to change more effectively, whilst in a different context, they can make us more heavily resistant. So a sense of belonging, and strong bonds of trust, within a change community, may help us to build a highly Socially Dynamic Organisation, while similar strong bonds of trust, deeply held personal relationships, and existing power structures, May reinforce the resistance of an organisation, as it becomes ever harder for an individual to re-forge those relationships.

There are other ways in which a sense of belonging can act as a resistor of change. Confirmation bias is a tendency to interpret new information in a way that reinforces or confirms existing knowledge. In other words, even with the application of new information, we can become ever more certain of those things that we already know to be true. How is this manifested? Well, one simple way is that as new messages come out we simply believe that we are already doing those things. So in a story of change, we hear the organisation describing the future state it wants, and we simply believe that we are already there. We talk about the behaviours needed, and it will simply confirm in our minds we are already acting excellently. We may actively resist evidence to the contrary, because that evidence is at odds with our bias.

When we come on to look the Dynamic Change Framework later in this book, we will see that utilises belonging to reinforce and amplify change, and it does so by allowing the community, and the individuals within it, to have true ownership and an authentic voice within the shaping and delivery of the change.

Belonging is a powerful force: it can hold us deeply in one space, or help to amplify us rapidly into a new one, but it is most certainly not something that we can take for granted.

What you need to do:

• Consider types of belonging, and the nature of belonging, in the design the change journey. Factor in the time and activities, the support and resource, to help individuals and communities find a new space.
• Understand confirmation bias and mechanisms to help individuals define and own there own change journey (we will talk more about this when we look at individual Agency later on).
• Recognise that belonging sits in the gift of the individual: if we want people to belong to our change community, we will need to create the space for them to do so. You cannot demand it.


Clarity is a good thing, but uncertainty can be equally useful, or at least can be if appropriately signed. It’s often a temptation to close down ambiguity, to remove uncertainty, to plan out the route for the whole journey before we share any part of it. And yet this route plan that we share can often be fictitious: it’s in the nature of change to introduce risk and uncertainty, and pretending that we have all the answers start can be both disingenuous and risky in its own right.

If we view uncertainty as a bad thing, if we hide uncertainty away as if it is preferable to certainty, we run the risk of simply stating aspiration and losing our connection with reality. This may impact on the authenticity and credibility of what we say and do.

When uncertainty exists for individuals, we tend to move towards safe spaces, and that is the biggest concern when it comes to change: the minute that change is in the air, people retreat and nest in safe spaces, ready to observe the uncertainty, but keeping their feet dry.

This forms a vicious loop: uncertainty can lead to nesting behaviours, and yet glossing over uncertainty with aspirational stories can lead to inauthenticity and ineffective behaviour. To counter the resistant effects uncertainty, we may need to signpost it clearly: these are the things that we are clear about, and these are the things that we still need to discover.

We can take this into account as we develop the board structure of a change journey: if uncertainty can cause people to bolt to safe spaces, then we can adjust the pace accordingly, and ideally involve the community in surfacing the challenge itself. If we present a challenge as a fait accompli, we will generate a reaction, whilst if we work together to surface challenges, we can tackle them together too.

This approach sits nicely in a co-created change journey: the things that we know can formed the broad scaffolding, in the spaces that we create can be used to make sense of the details and fill in the uncertainty. Indeed, the ability to exploit and react to uncertainty as a key reason to build the Socially Dynamic Organisation, because it is not only better able to operate in uncertain times, it can positively thrive within them, because uncertainty create spaces and opportunities for individuals to demonstrate expertise and to shine.

What you need to do:

• Be clear and realistic of those things we are certain about and where there are spaces for uncertainty.
• Consider how uncertainty can cause people to move to safer ground, so engineer the pace and tempo of the journey accordingly.
• Signpost uncertainty clearly, and be unafraid to do so. Uncertainty is not weakness: it’s strength.


Say it isn’t so. Denial can be a powerful force. Ignore what’s going on around us, and it may well go away. In the context of change, that may be true. If enough people fail to engage, the change effort will fail. Or of circumstance changes, the change programme may be abandoned: experience of an organisation teaches us that this is often the case, so good survival technique is to ignore or deny the change and simply wait for it to go away.

Indeed, with so much change in the air, denial can be a valuable strategy. We can wait for other people to lead the charge, and then, if it looks like this one is going to stick, we can catch up later.

Or if we disagree with the messaging, by ignoring it, we can hope or rely on the fact that maybe nobody will challenge us, and we will get away with it. It’s not such a bad strategy, but at scale leads to great inertia, and is commonly felt within organisations, especially ones that fail to engage the community in the change effort.

There are other ways that denial can be triggered: it may be that the types of change we are looking at simply take people out of their comfort zone, or will lead to a loss of power, status, or permanence, that they are ill-equipped to deal with. It may be that people lack the knowledge or experience to understand what is required of them. It may be that they are actively opposed to it, because whilst it is good for the organisation, they can see no good outcome for them.

In some ways, there is little that we can do about denial, although one route is to ensure that there are safe spaces for conversations, so that we can help and support people in making sense of the change, and even practically support them through the change.

What you need to do:

• Recognise that denial at scale can scupper a change effort: consider ways to recognise when this is happening. How will you know if you have momentum?
• Ensure that there is clear support for people to make sense of the change, including clear support through change.
• Add clear signposts through the change journey: it will be okay for people to remain disengaged and uncommitted whilst they are making sense of things, but to pass beyond the signposts there must be clear signs of engagement. We need some lines that must be crossed along the way.

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The 16 Resisters of Change: Technology [Pt 1]

I’m making strong progress with the book today: I’ve completed the section around the Socially Dynamic Organisation, and have moved onto look at the foundations of change. Today I’ve been writing primarily around the 16 resistors of change, which are grouped into aspects of technology, communication, cognition, and behaviour.

The 16 Resisters of change

When I’m doing dedicated writing on the book, I like to #WorkOutLoud and share sections as they are completed. Today I’m sharing four sections, all around the ‘technology’ aspect of resistance: it covers organisations that control to heavily, ways that investment can be a barrier to change, how capability can be an issue, and the importance of permission. My usual caveat: this is live writing, so not yet proofed, and not yet complete, but shared as work in progress. Whilst I have previously shared the overview chapter on the 16 Resistors of Change, all the work shared here today is new.

Title: Technology

Let’s consider the four Resisters of change that relate to technology.

Attitude towards Control

Traditional organisations accumulate infrastructure: buildings, furniture, vehicles, tools, and technology. The trappings of power and success. These formally held assets are not simply physical, but come with associated rules and conditions: we are mandated to treat them in certain ways, there is often an underlying assumption that we are privileged to have access to them, and the ways that we treat and utilise them are governed and controlled.

A big shift in the Social Age is that technology has become democratised: in the old world infrastructure was complex and expensive, it made our lives easier to be in an office where we had access to printers, file storage, the Internet, and computers, but today, that infrastructure is everywhere, is duplicated, is free, and is democratised. In our own homes, or in our own bags, we have access to connectivity and creativity that was hitherto unheard of.

And yet while the ecosystem of technology has changed, organisational attitudes towards it, and specifically towards the control of it, have not changed as fast. Where organisations have permitted people to use their own technologies, it is often still positioned as a favour, or has come about as a cost saving measure for the organisation, rather than in any true belief that individuals are possibly getting better at organising their ecosystem of productive technology than the organisation was ever able to.

This is reflected in some of the research I’ve been doing recently around the Landscape of Trust,[ ref to the blog] where the initial results suggest that individuals trust formal technology less than technology which they own themselves. This trust appears to relate to ownership and control: technology that we own ourselves, we have greater control over, and that leads to higher trust.

The shift in a Socially Dynamic Organisation is likely to be one from control to facilitation: instead of seeking to own the spaces and technologies through which people are creative or collaborate, these organisations will seek to enable. Certainly they will provide formal technologies, spaces which are safe and controlled, spaces for sensitive conversations, spaces with privileged access to information, but most likely they will also have spaces for more socially democratised and collaborative engagement. Trying to own and control all the spaces most frequently leads people to simply subversively engage out of sight.

The formal organisation cannot control or remove the social desire for private and collaborative space, better to recognise this and be engaged in facilitating it than simply deny it. But to engage means to recognise the reality that we simply can’t deny or control it.

Controller is expressed in many ways: part of it may be where we tell people which system to use for specific things, rather than focusing on the quality of outcome that we are looking for. We may tell people that they must collaborate using Skype, and that they are not allowed to use other collaborative platforms, and yet we fail to ask how this fosters collaboration.

In reality, the Socially Dynamic Organisation will worry less about its ability to control which platforms people collaborate on, and will focus far more on developing Social Leadership capability in collaboration itself. In other words, an adapted organisation will focus on effectiveness and capability, rather than attempting to micromanage and control which technology is used to do these things, a question which the community is more than capable of taking care of for itself.

Are there risks around technology? Absolutely. And yet often IT and HR move beyond simply managing risk. They move into areas of control that are simply not needed and are often, indeed, simply ways of justifying their own existence and reinforcing their hierarchical power. This type of power based control is directly counter to a mature and respectful Socially Dynamic Organisation.

This is not an incidental issue, it sits at the heart of the challenge, and refers back yet again to the notion of a holistic pattern of adaptation: we cannot adapt the organisation in pieces, we have to adapt the whole thing. We need an IT entity which is facilitating and enabling, along with an HR entity, senior leadership, recruitment, and so forth. If we only adapt part of the organisation, other aspects will work against the change. We will remain Resistant, or at best Constrained.

We have to help these different parts of the organisation find their strength in being enabling and facilitating. For as long as they find their strength in controlling, they will sit in opposition to the community, and hence we will fail.

The controlling nature of technology, and indeed the temptation to control with technology, is often founded upon technical features. For example, many organisational social collaborative technologies include the technical ability for asynchronous moderation of comments and posts, and hence organisations end up moderating comments and posts. But moderation is experienced as the formal application of ownership and power, and lack of trust in the community. Furthermore it does not silence dissenting conversation, but simply moves it into democratised spaces that are out of our earshot, so we lose twice: we lose the ability to contribute other views, and we lose the ability to hear the wisdom of the crowd.

To overcome this aspect of resistance requires a change in mindset and behaviour. It requires a new attitude towards technology, and indeed a new attitude towards risk, although we should not believe that this is simply about taking on more risk. It’s actually about getting access to greater expertise and engagement. Relinquishing control actually gives us greater access to the community that may help us to avoid future risk.

In a socially connected and technically connected world, our ability to control messaging, our ability to own stories, is significantly degraded, and this is a good thing. We need to find ways of being safe that rely not simply on formal control, and technology is often experienced as the most easily applied and most formally mandated mechanism of control.

To change, we will need to find new ways of being safe, ways that are based on deeply engaged communities, and high levels of trust between senior leadership, managers and leaders, and an engaged community. This will not be applied off-the-shelf using a feature of technology.

What we need to do:

• We need to move beyond control, beyond the notion that the organisation knows best.
• We need to maintain safe spaces which are well understood, safe technologies which the organisation owns, but also find ways to integrate more social technology, moderated by the community.
• We must move beyond simple mechanisms of control based on technology, towards mechanisms of responsibility founded upon trust.


We all want good value for money: the challenge for an organisation in the Social Age is to evolve the ways that they find it. Historically IT systems were complex and expensive, and that may still be true for the heavyweight infrastructure systems, but a big change that we have seen is the emergence of new models of ownership, low-cost apps, subscriptions, freemium, and open source. Many of these sit in direct contrast to those older models.

For example, many organisations are unable to understand the benefits of open source software, but also the responsibilities that come with it. They are used to the notion that to receive something you pay for it, and to benefit somebody else they pay you. They are not comfortable in a gift economy, or a mutually beneficial, co-owned asset economy. They see sharing as weakness or risk.

We may still need heavyweight infrastructure systems, but many of the more social collaborative aspects of our work are done through much lighter weight technologies, ones that we pick up and utilise in a matter of minutes. Ones that are often very low cost or free. And crucially, ones that are highly disposable when we have tested them, or when they have been superseded.

It’s important to differentiate conversations from technologies: conversations take place between people within communities, across many different technologies. We are primarily interested in great conversations, and technologies that facilitate them, hence the responsibility to allow those lightweight technologies to flourish, and to learn what type of ecosystem we may need to support in this new space.

To give you an idea, even within my own organisation, we started collaborating on WhatsApp, moved on to Slack, and are now starting to focus on Google Hangouts. There was no strategy for this change, simply a gradual evolution of what was useful, and a willingness of the community to give it a go. The other day when I asked someone in the National Health Service in the UK, one of our biggest employers, what tool they preferred for collaboration, they just laughed at me, and said they were almost unable to use anything within their network.

The next thing they said was typical: “but I can access Google Docs from my personal phone, and we can use that”. People work around the system.

In terms of investment we may need budgets and budgetary controls around formal infrastructure systems, but we may need a second space, a much more lightweight and impermanent one, where we are able to acquire and prototype lightweight and disposable solutions.

Not simply a budget to do so, but also a space and permission.

I’m writing this book using a tool called Scrivener, a piece of software that allows me to layout the book with every section and chapter held in a separate document, but all linked within one file structure. As I look at the page now, I can see that file structure on the left, and see how the section I’m writing relates to everything else. I bought it on the recommendation of a friend who has himself used it successfully to write several books. So his reputation led me to try it out for myself, and I’m very grateful!

It’s that ability to just try things out we should unlock: if we move on to adopt these technologies at wider scale, at that point we can start to worry about compatibility and integration. The reality is that maintaining the dream of connectivity and integration, maintaining an illusory idealised infrastructure, may be a fallacy. More likely, we need to develop the capability to manage diverse ecosystems of lightly interconnected technologies which have one core ability: to be rapidly disposable.

To achieve this, we not only need an IT function with a willingness to enable people to test and prototype (rather than trying to hold that ability themselves), but we also need finance and budget structures that allow us to do so rapidly and easily. Just because something cost us a lot of money is not a good reason to hold onto it if it is no longer doing the job it needs to do. Similarly we should not be afraid of free solutions, even if they are less well supported and robust than expensive ones. Just don’t use them for anything business critical. Even my phone, a piece of hardware that was pretty expensive, I don’t expect to last much more than two years. The general move is towards more regular updates, and towards fluidity of the ecosystem of technology that we utilise.

Our investment structures and controls must reflect this.

What we need to do:

• Ensure that the IT function has a mindset and capability to control core systems, but to devolve responsibility and create spaces for the prototyping of lightweight social collaborative ones.
• Create budget structures that allow the low-cost rapid prototyping of new systems.
• Ensure a mindset where it is easier to dispose of redundant technologies then to procure new ones. Rather than one perfect system, have an ability to rapidly prototype and test.


Actively consider where the organisation learns how to do new things. If we rely on a small number of people with deep specialist knowledge to do all the thinking, we will get good outputs, but within a known space. If we also include spaces for crowd sourced wisdom, inviting input from those who traditionally, within a formal hierarchy, may not be recognised for their deep expertise, we may find ideas from outside the known space.

This is another example of why the Socially Dynamic Organisation is so strong, because it derives part of its strength from outside the system: it is permeable to expertise, able to hear wise voices wherever that wisdom is based.

This is a capability that we need to develop: the reason that it is listed as a Resistor of change is that often the established capability in the organisation will resist either tacitly or explicitly, wisdom that comes from outside the group. This is the hardest aspect of change: for us all to find our pride in the ability to enable others to be successful, not simply to hold all the answers ourselves.

What will we see when this is working? We will see people turning to IT when they have an idea, when they are able to think of new technologies that have been recommended to them which may be of benefit to the organisation, and in turn the IT team will welcome that input, and create sandbox environments and test spaces for them to utilise it.

The only condition of the support will be that at the end of the experiment, the users and IT team all work together to write the story of what worked and what did not, building deeper tribal knowledge. We have to recognise many of the existing entities within an organisation are experienced as mechanisms of control.

Many IT teams are truly superb, and yet still, time and again, we have a sense of dread when people have to bring something new to an overworked IT team. For as long as the technology arm of the organisation is forever running ragged trying to own and control, it will be deeply breathless and unable to truly support agility, so just as we need IT to adapt itself to be deeply facilitating and enabling, so to we need to adapt the expectations of the senior leadership and wider organisation to support it in doing so. It’s a two-way street, and as previously noted, the Dynamic organisation co-creates its answers.

What you need to do:

• Encourage IT to consider how it can create the sandbox and prototype spaces, and how to invite input from the wider community.
• Consider more widely the pressure that IT is under, and how to evolve expectations of senior leadership and the wider community.
• Consider actively where the organisation learns about innovation, where it develops its technical capability, and ensure that that is more widely then simply within an IT team.


Consider the fundamental attitude of the organisation towards permission: is it viewed as something that is granted by the organisation, or as something assumed within the community. Lack of permission, or fear of consequence that results from it, can be a strong feature of resistance. Simply being told we have a permission to innovate, or a permission to fail, is not enough. It’s the experience of it that counts.

It’s very easy to talk about permission, but often from a paternalistic mindset where the organisation believes it holds the ultimate control.

A Socially Dynamic Organisation does indeed maintain boundaries of permission, where certain people are allowed to do things, and others are not, but those permissions can be questioned and are fluid. Because circumstances are also fluid. Earlier we talked about how the oil tanker of the organisation, the mass and momentum that prevents it being agile, are in many ways engineered and accreted by the organisation itself. Permission is one such example: it’s easy to talk about a space where everyone is equal, we can experiment, we can be curious and inquisitive, we can be agile, but it’s much harder to actually achieve this, because permission can be lacking, and consequence is very real.

What you need to do:

• Think carefully about how permission is viewed within your organisation. Is this good enough?
• Where possible, actively have conversations about permission, and seek to understand how it is lost in your unique organisation. Understand the role of consequence in this.
• Consider how much permission is absolute, and how much is fluid: what spaces do you truly need to protect, and which are simply protected as a matter of control.

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Crowdfunding the new Social Leadership book

I’ve taken the plunge and started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the new book, ‘Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days’. This book consists of 100 practical questions and activities to develop your Social Leadership capability. It’s aimed at individuals who wish to become Social Leaders, and at organisations that wish to develop the leadership capability more broadly.

Social Leadership 100 days

Social Leadership is a type of leadership fit for the Social Age: it’s founded within our communities, based upon the reputation that we earn, highly trusted, deeply fair, promoting equality. Social Leaders operate with the consent of their community, outside the formal hierarchy of the organisation. Formal leaders may earn Social Leadership, if they are humble enough, whilst Social Leaders might have no formal position whatsoever.

10 Reasons For Social Leadership

The book will consist of a hundred different activities, many of which I have shared here on the blog as i #WorkOutLoud on the first draft manuscript. Each page will also contain a new illustration, so it will be visually rich and engaging.

I have been unsure how to fund this book: for me, writing is not a way of earning money, but rather a way of sharing my work more widely, and helping others to succeed. For every book that I sell, I give away three, and work on the principle that those individuals and organisations who can afford to pay will generally be happy that this leaves me able to support others.

Crowdfunding is a new approach, which will let me offset the upfront costs, which will help. I am, of course, nervous that the book will not reach its target, but of course I will have to learn how to do this: it is a feature of the Social Age that we can only rely on 50% of what we already know, and we will have to work within and alongside our community to learn the other 50%.

If you would like to fund the new book, you can find it here on Kickstarter.

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Change in the Social Age: Which State Are You In?

I’ve worked across 14 separate parts of the book today, but just sharing one section which is written from scratch. This piece sits after the detailed description of the three manifestations of change. We have talked in depth about the Resistant organisation, the one that resists and denies change, the Constrained organisation, which is well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective, and the Dynamic organisation, which is agile and adapted. The chapter I’m sharing today ask the simple question, which state are you in?

Co-Created and Co-Owned change

I am continuing to #WorkOutLoud as i try to complete the full 3rd draft manuscript by the end of next week.

Title: Which state are you in?

We’ve looked at the three manifestations of organisational change, so what state is your organisation in?

Is the diagnosis simple? Can you say whether the organisation is simply Resistant? Or is it definitely Constrained? Perhaps it already feels highly Dynamic? The answer is different not only for every organisation, but often for different people that you ask within an organisation. It is a subjective question, although I hope the indicators of what we see, hear, and feel will give a clue.

When I ask this question in different organisations around the world, the most common answer is Constrained, although invariably with pockets of Resistance and pockets of agility, parts that are Dynamic. That may say more about the types of organisation that I deal with, the type of organisation that invites me in, more than it points at any particular global truth.

If asked to generalise, I would say this:

Older organisations that have survived over many years, especially engineering and manufacturing types of organisation that have heavyweight infrastructure, tend to start from a position of Resistance. I should stress that this is not because they are bad people in these organisations, simply that resistant behaviours with the very behaviours that we wanted in solid organisations operating effectively at those times. As I’ve already said, we are not dealing with failing organisations in a known space, we are dealing often with successful organisations operating in an evolved space. The challenge is not the nature of the organisation today, it’s the ability, willingness, and capability to adapt into the kind of organisation that will thrive in the change we see today.

The youngest organisations tend to start off inherently Dynamic, simply because they have not yet had time to accrete the mechanisms of control and lethargy that would make them Resistant. It’s like when you move into your first house, you walk in carrying just a couple of boxes, but years later, when it’s time to move out, you need a van.

Many of the organisations in the middle space are middle-aged: the troubled technical teenagers, those organisations that were highly disruptive in their youth, and are often deeply influential and powerful today, and yet somehow find they are losing something of their ability to be creative, to be innovative. As they become part of the mainstream, they may experience more elements of Constraint.

In the second part of this book when we start to look at the Dynamic Change Framework itself, we will see that it is not specifically a change process, not a specific set of tools or a methodology that you can apply in any organisation, but rather it is a way of unlocking the energy within, of creating spaces and permissions, of creating the conditions for success.

It’s important at this time to consider where your organisation lies, because it is against this baseline that we will measure change, and measure it we must.

Constrained organisations are very busy, but would find it hard to measure much change, because they are not truly changing. Undoubtedly there will be some progress, but because the energy is not aligned, it’s change within the system, not a change of the system itself.

A Dynamic organisation should be able to measure six week change: every six weeks there should be a sense that the view has changed. If six weeks seems like a short time, we can say 12, but if we say 12, before we know it, it has become 24, or 48 weeks. Before we know it the future is upon us and we have not changed. Ultimately changes about both change in the physical system, the structures, processes, systems, and controls, but also the everyday behaviours, the mindset, the conversations, the sense of energy and urgency, and if we cannot see a change in these within six weeks, then we are simply observing the fact that we need to change. We are in fact Constrained.

What you need to know

1. It’s important to think about the space that your organisation inhabits, and to see where you agree or disagree with the opinion of others.
2. Most organisations tend to fall to Constraint: it’s the entropy state
3. We should be able to measure change in six weeks, because if we can’t measure it, we are not changing.

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