A Formal Request to Change

A Social model of organisational change is one that combines both formal and social elements: the formal being the organisational view and the social that of the community. It’s in the interplay between formal and social spaces that engagement occurs: engagement through involvement and co-creation, not simply hierarchical instruction. In this #WorkingOutLoud post, i’m just reflecting on the dynamics between both spaces, the formal and the social, and the mechanisms by which each expresses it’s opinion and control.

Formal and Social change

Change conversations play out in multiple spaces: the real world, private communications and online shared space. Each of those communications ranges from fully formal through to fully social: the differentiation usually being decided by the platform or space it takes place within, the context of the conversation and the nature of the other participants. For example, a conversation with other leaders, in a formal office, talking about team changes is undoubtedly a formal conversation. Two of those same people talking about the change via WhatsApp later in the same day may perhaps be only semi-formal. But move that conversation onto work email and it’s probably more formal. Why? Because the space the conversation takes place within dictates in large part the formality of the conversation.

Dynamic Change, the term used within the Change Curve framework to describe organisations that are adapted for and agile in their approach to change, recognise the spectrum of conversations that take place and, indeed, engineer in the spaces and permissions for each of them to take place and be shared back into a central space. It’s this interplay between formal and social that gives the Dynamic model it’s power: a story framed by the organisation, but co-created and co-owned by the community.

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

Reflections on DevLearn Day 3: Game Dynamics and Trust

I presented my session on Game Dynamics this morning: really an exploration of the underlying ways that games work and how it relates to some of the wider work around learning in the Social Age. The framework i’m using to present this distinguishes ‘game mechanics’, which are the actual nuts and bolts of the game (moving things, collecting things, scoring, shooting, winning), from ‘game dynamics’, which are underlying aspects of interactions (such as ‘sense of loss’, ‘micro failure’, ‘risk’, ‘collaboration’, ‘nurturing’, and so on).

Game Dynamics and Game Mechanics

One aspect that i focussed on today was the notion of who owns the authority behind reward: is it community generated, or formally bestowed. The analogy i used was this: which would you value more, an email from the organisation thanking you for your work on a project, or a hand drawn card from your nephew, thanking you for a birthday present? Clearly the latter would have more authentic value, even though transactionally they are the same encounter. I was using this as a conversation about intrinsic, inherent value: often the context is central to the value perceived. The point being that even if we design learning with the rituals we observe elsewhere, we won’t necessarily carry the intrinsic value with them.

Interestingly, much of the interest from the group was around notions of trust and community, how we generate engagement. For me, this is always about understanding that it’s about more than just the space or the technology. We have to address the sociological context too: how people engage, why they engage, how trust is built, how shared value is found.

The high points of the conference this year were really around analytics and data driven decisions: it’s good to feel that many organisations are looking at how to assess more social approaches, although i remain concerned that the gap between measurement and control is always small. Measuring things is just a function of measurement: it’s not validation that the organisational story is right.

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

Reflections from DevLearn 2015 Day 2: Sense Making, Curiosity and Sharing

I’ve been producing a video diary at DevLearn this year, trying to extend my #WorkingOutLoud to a process of continuous reflection. I’m recording short, one minute videos and uploading through the day. It’s reasonably time intensive, but forces me to think and commit to action: it’s a personal narrative that gives me a legacy and some challenges. Is it any good? Who knows: that’s the point of working out loud. You learn what works and what doesn’t!


So this process, plus the other interactions through Twitter and in real life have given me my three themes from the conference today: sense making, curiosity and storytelling.

Sense making is the process of figuring out what we believe: what will we take away from these events, what will we discard, change our beliefs on, adopt or challenge? It’s both an internal activity and a group one. Through the web of conversations that surround the formal sessions we sense make and, once we’ve done that, we should share our stories.

This type of reflective #WorkingOutLoud is one way, but there are others: i see teams huddled together, sharing what they’ve learnt from the different sessions. The thing about storytelling is that it’s iterative: we don’t have to get the story right first time. The trick is to start it and see where it takes us, so the story is not fixed and static, but rather iterative and evolving.

And, at the heart of this, curiosity: these events, at their best, are about being curious. Sampling new ideas, sharing new thoughts, challenging the status quo. If we get that right, if we are curious, try to make sense of it, and share our stories, it’s worth the trip.

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

Reflections from DevLearn 2015: Innovation, Badges and Social

I’m at DevLearn in Vegas this week: for the first time, i’ve been using YouTube to share some #WorkingOutLoud reflective posts through the day, and now, in the evening, i’m writing a summary of key themes i’ve taken out from the day.

DevLearn 2015

The theme of this years event is Innovation: for me, there’s a sense of dissatisfaction, of something not quite being right, and that innovation is seen as key to solving that. But that may miss the point: the disturbance is the recognition that the world has changed. Innovation is the straw we are grasping, but we can probably break it down to something more granular. We need to give permission to be curious, to question. We need to see new technologies as provocation to find new ways of working and learning, not as solutions in themselves. We need to recognise that innovation and creativity are more a function of the right spaces and permissions than of technology alone. It’s easy to reach for the tag of innovation, when in fact, what we may mean is different. Similarly, it’s easy to just try different, when what we need is true innovation, which can only occur when the ecosystem permits or provokes it. A circular question that sometimes traps us.

Creativity and Innovation

Another theme today was ostensibly ‘badges‘, part of a track on gamification (which i’m presenting in on Friday), but which really uncovers another fundamental recognition that learning is being both democratised, to be more on our terms, and made more social. The insistence on viewing badges as being somehow engaging fails to recognise that they only engage one type of behaviour. Any conversation about games needs to be in a wider context of learning and effectiveness, recognising that they are only one part of a complex answer.

Game Dynamics and Game Mechanics

Finally: social learning is still firmly on the radar, but still with an unhealthy focus on systems, when in fact it’s primarily a matter of sociology. Trying to own the space will only give us the conversations we deserve. Which may not be the conversations that we need.

If we approach Social correctly, we have a permission to be in the conversation: if we get it wrong, we just drive the conversation elsewhere, where it may be more subversive.

So a good first day: i’m enjoying that many of the conversations are moving beyond purely the technology, but i still feel the need to recognise the widest lens of change is that of the Social Age itself: the democratisation of learning and the move to Social.

Posted in Reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sharing an extract from the new book: ‘Welcome to the Social Age’

I’m writing this week so, as is my usual practice, am sharing some of the live work as it tumbles out. The new book is provisionally entitled ‘Organisational Change in the Social Age’, and is based around the framework i’ve been developing on the blog for the last couple of months. Today, i’m working on an early section, a foundation piece, called ‘Welcome to the Social Age’. I feel slightly cheeky sharing this here, as it’s substantially based on a prototype essay i shared earlier this year called ‘Here be dragons: Ecosystem of the Social Age’, but i have partly rewritten it (and improved some grammar!), and, when it comes to it, that’s the point of this space. It’s a rehearsal space, letting me develop ideas that, eventually, make it into a broader (and better proof read) space.

Ecosystem of the Social Age 2015

A map of the Social Age

“The world has changed: everyone can feel it, but it’s not always clear what to do about it. There’s a sense of restlessness: hierarchies of power and control are being edged out by more collaborative, competitive, evolutionary and relevant business models.

The change: it’s everything. From the ways we work, to the ways we manage our money, the ways we shop (and rate the experience and service as we do so) to the ways we get healthcare or entertain ourselves. The ways we are governed and the accountability of those who govern us. Everything is changing, everything is in flux. And it’s constant.

So with so much change going on around us, it seems slightly odd that I felt the need to write a book about change. Surely all we have to do is batten down the hatches and sit it out, or grab a paddle and surf along on the waves?

Those who batten down the hatches, who resist or deny change, those are the ones who will be swept away. And those who grab a paddle? Well, it’s easy to talk about sailing, but sailing is an art and a science. It’s easier to talk about than to master, and it’s in the execution that it’s easy to sink. The theory is the easy part. As we will see, when we come to talk about the Constrained organisation, it takes more than willingness and intent to achieve transformation.

The changes we see cross from technology to sociology, from attitudes to action. I call it, the Social Age.

With change in the Social Age being constant, only the agile can survive and thrive: It’s a significant challenge for organisations and individuals to adapt, which is why I’ve sketched a map so we can find a way.

The Social Age sees change on every front, and it’s only through a holistic pattern of adaptation and agility that we can hope to surf the wave. First: recognise how much has changed. Next, prototype, learn, adapt.

Let’s start with the ‘Nature of Work‘. You used to enter a contract with the employer: a legal and ethical one. The organisation gave you a job: a defined role, the hardware and software to do it, an office, maybe a car, mobile phone, laptop, access to fax machine and a secretary. In return, you got a salary, health insurance and security, a development pathway and a sense of purpose.

That was the Social Contract: play the game, reap the rewards.

But it’s broken: i no longer need an office, because if i’m not working from home, i can work in a coffee shop or a co-working space, which is not only more fun, but serves better cake too. A laptop? It used to be a differentiator, but now the technology is cheap and accessible. It’s no longer adding huge value and, indeed, it’s likely to be limiting because it’s heavy, slow and comes with a troublesome set of IT policies and a HelpDesk which is more of a hindrance.

More importantly though, both the security the organisation offered and the development pathways we could follow over time have gone: you used to join at the bottom of the ladder and slowly climb your way up, but today, the ladder has collapsed, fallen by the wayside as everyone over the age of thirty has been made redundant or fears for their job. Nothing is permanent, your contract especially so. The impact?

When the social contract is fractured, we won’t engage in the same way: sure, people are nice, they are willing and they are able, but they are not emotionally invested to the same extent they once were. Simply saying ‘this is our change journey and we need this from you’ is of no use unless it’s also accompanied by the sentence, ‘and we recognise you may not come out of it with a job at the end, but we will do this for you instead…’. The flexibility afforded by a flexible attitude to employment from the organisational perspective has driven the evolution of an independent and flexible attitude by us, the employees. We operate as a unit of one: the only constant you will have through your career is your own company and the community that surround you.

But our ‘unit of one’ is not alone: we are connected through our communities, communities that empower, challenge and support us. These communities are facilitated by social collaborative technology: the technology that supports our conversations. This is typically both synchronous and social, meaning that it falls outside the reach or control of the organisation and can often respond faster.

This is important when we are considering engagement. When organisations want to support communities, they are best informed to do this through offering resources and permissions, not by owning the technology. Anything that you own yourself, as the organisation, inherently falls into the formal space, and can feel like a throwback to the older social contract.

This forms the backdrop to organisational change: a revised reality in which we have fewer levers of power over the individual (but greater opportunity to engage openly in a wider number of spaces, semi formally).

But as individuals, we don’t need infrastructure: we have infrastructure coming out of our ears, so the organisation is unlikely to be able to keep up with either the pace or fluidity of the wider ecosystem.

Instead of trying to own everything, help people to use it better. Even if that means losing control.”

Posted in Book, Change, Change Management, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sharing an extract from the new book: Organisational Change in the Social Age

Over the last month or so i’ve been working up a series of articles around Change: a framework that explores manifestations of change in organisations and seeks to provide a route map to agility. Today i started pulling all of this together into a book and, as those of you who have been here for a while will know, when i work on a book, i like to #WorkOutLoud and share some extracts as i go. Some parts of this text you may recognise already as i begin the process of reworking and refining it into a longer form narrative. Feedback is always welcome in the writing process!

“This is a book about change. It’s about both individuals and the organisations that they work within, cohabiting a culture within the ecosystem of the Social Age. It’s a book about how change affects those people and how those people affect change. It’s a book about how we can both understand and influence the process, with the aim of helping organisations reflect and restructure, becoming truly agile and dynamic in both mindset and action, truly fit for the Social Age.

Why? Because the Social Age is a time of constant change: to thrive, organisations must adapt. But that adaptation means change in itself, change which is hard to visualise and harder still to embark on, to steer and to achieve. The result? At best, lethargy, churn and lost opportunity. At worst, extinction.

The world is in flux and those organisations that fail to adapt will simply fail. We see waves of change sweeping through financial services, technology, medical and education sectors, through the creative industries, publishing and even the military and government. Change is not the exception: it’s the norm, and when the environment we inhabit changes, we need to adapt, fast.

Change is complex: both in it’s conception and execution. It involves a journey from intent to transformation and requires both micro and macro adaptation. Organisations progress at different speeds, with different levels of success. In this book i’ll lay out a framework of the ways that this change is manifested, to determine patterns and to provide insight as to how an organisation can progress.

The Change Curve

Where does your organisation sit on the Change Curve?

In this picture, you can see a change curve that bifurcates: on one leg, we achieve momentum and transformation. On the other, we end up with churn and lethargy. Between these spaces, most organisations fall and fail.

We will explore every aspect of this change curve: what it means to be ‘Resistant’ to change, what it means to be ‘Constrained’, what it means to be ‘Dynamic’, and the stages we go through as we transition between those stages.

In that sense, this book is intended both as diagnostic and toolkit: allowing an organisation to reflect on where it sits on the Change Curve and to take actions to move up it. This is not a book about theory: it’s a book about change, and how we take hold of things to change for the better.

What’s the opposite of change? I’ve settled on lethargy and churn: that warm and comfortable illusion where we think things are fine whilst, that we are doing the right things, whilst the world collapses around us. Lethargy is where we fail to gain understanding, buy in or momentum. Churn is where we rush to activity, but fail to achieve transformation. Lost opportunity is where we fail to innovate, to adapt, to be creative in our approaches to our evolved ecosystem and to grasp the opportunity that it presents to us.

Many organisations that think they are changing are, in fact, in a state of churn. Busy, but ultimately just splashing. Some are still in denial, or mistake holistic change as simply being about millennial or technology. In fact, it’s neither and both: technology is simply one of the most visible manifestations of constant change, and millennials are simply the first to adapt. They are the canaries in the mine, not the problem itself. The problem is in those organisations unwilling to listen or unable to adapt. Those are the mindsets that will kill us.

The origins of this book are through a series of articles #WorkingOutLoud on the blog: that sense of iteration and co-creation are central to this work. Under the Change Curve framework, the future state is not imposed upon people, but rather co-created with them. It’s a framework that allows people to invest in the future state and, through that investment, be part of the change community. Under this mindset, the role of the organisation is less about defining and controlling change, more about framing it and then getting out of the way to let it happen. But more of that later. For now, let’s start by exploring the three manifestations of organisational change. The Change Curve.”

Posted in Book, Change, Change Management, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Game Mechanics versus Game Dynamics

I’m presenting some new work next week, a session entitled ‘Beyond Badges: Game Dynamics in Learning‘. As i pull that session together, i’m refining some of my earlier work and finding the right framework to present it in. I’ve settled on contrasting Game Mechanics (stuff that we do within games), with Game Dynamics (underlying concepts and social frameworks that power the game).

Game Dynamics and Game Mechanics

For example: game mechanics may be ‘scoring‘ things, ‘moving‘ things, ‘shooting‘ things and ‘building‘ things. By contrast, game dynamics may be ‘sense of loss‘, ‘resource marshalling‘, ‘facing adversity‘, ‘identifying risk‘. It’s an inexact differentiation, i realise, but my hypothesis is this: much gamification in organisational learning tends towards mechanics, which make it look great, but possibly at the cost of the underlying dynamics, which are what really matter.

Great games will be designed to mirror and reflect facets of the real world, providing rehearsal spaces to prototype and explore new behaviours. That’s the thrust of what i’m rehearsing for next week as i #WorkOutLoud today.

Posted in Games, Gamification | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments