The Internet has changed the scale at which we can observe and participate in activities that express or pay off our own human nature - that of being social. As technologies get cheaper and more ubiquitous, more people can join in, independently of social status, geography, age, etc. Before the Internet, businesses were the center of our active social lives - especially in the last ten years, and for most, not all, of us.
Businesses replaced the local community as the center of our attention - and time spent - but often only for that. Businesses, as represented by companies, have become the most efficient possible without the injection or re-insertion of the human voice in them. Many business have done such a good job of exploiting the resources at their disposal - human or otherwise - that they have, in fact, become useless.
According to Umair Haque, socially useless business is the status quo — and the status quo says: "You don't matter. Our bottom line is the only thing that matters." The construct of business, the very fabric of value in the context of business, needs a radical tune up. Tom Peters has been saying this for a long time - it's not old until it's done.
The connected company is not merely the company that lets its employees get on social media sites, although that might be part of what the change needs. The connected company is one that understand the importance and value of enabling its employees and customers - the people in its community - to be all they can/want to be, to paraphrase an old ad line.
It's true, connecting ideas and people is where it's at. There may be only 150, well, yes, for some of us even up to 400 connections, we can manage to pay attention to, nurture, and care for closely. For the rest, we scale by team and networks.
Many friends and colleagues have been crystallizing their thoughts towards this very same point in our collective journey and work. There have been many conversations over the years about what that connected company looks like. When I started reading Olivier Blanchard's post earlier today, I knew that my take or part of the conversation warranted a post of its own. Building on his points and those of others.
(1.) Joining a connected company happens by network, attraction, and invitation.
This is valid at all levels. Value creation needs to be something everyone understands. Umair Haque talks about thick value, Auren Hoffman describes it as A-player behavior. Kathy Sierra talks about helping people kick ass. In addition to respect and trust, I add love. Love is greater than passion - it includes empathy, a rare quality that is missing in many with poor emotional intelligence. It's time to get past the ivy league culture of scarcity and exclusion and join the age of abundance in inclusion.
(2.) Working in a connected company means learning, growing, and giving growth to others.
It happens by design, by example, and by practice. It doesn't matter which department or job function you're in, it's about education, training, engagement and interaction (mix of thinking and doing). Walk into any office of any company today and what do you see? Dis-connected people trying to keep up with email - or staring at a screen rather that looking you in the eye. Why? People do not feel they can contribute and make a difference.
(3.) Collaborating in a connected company means using the best tools for the best results. Period.
A connected company hires trusted people and respects them. There is no need to block social media, lock down phones, or expect people to show up physically in a specific place at a specific time. There's room for connected (or creative) cities, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Places are important, but as part of the journey and not the destination. One of the best tools for collaboration is conversation. Choose face to face time over face time. Get over that.
(4.) Implementing in a connected company means creating, enabling, and engaging.
Two words - kick ass, not ass hole. Pardon the French, but there is no room for ass holes in the connected company. You know them, we don't need to go into painful detail about them - it's about them everywhere but in this post. This post is about you. Attitude and approach take us to delighting in helping others succeed. I like the idea of the IT department becoming the TE (technology enablement) department, as Olivier puts it.
(5.) Facilitating conversations inside and outside the connected company means designing business through interactions.
Which means these professional business designers don't need no stinking analyst to tell them what to do. They are personally connected with the people they serve and those they collaborate with in designing, prototyping, testing, and evaluating value. They focus on creating and expanding, rather than extracting, leveraging, or allocating. Process being more important than outcome here. As Olivier writes, these folks are highly connected, well traveled, intellectually curious, passionate leaders.
There is much more to say on the topic. This is as much about stopping the insanity on the never ending bureaucracies and belly gazing activities organizations procrastinate with, as it is about agreeing to roll up the collective sleeves on the stuff that matters (hint, it's not the PowerPoint slides).
Things like partnering with like-minds, integrating external collaborators, building teams of practice - all in service to value expressed as the business of the connected company. I've been saying this for a long time - people are looking for a company that will join them. This is the connected company.
Character is what you can control. It's what determines your internal thermometer and calibration. It's not about alignment, it's about connection. You can control character. Character is what gives you reputation. Reputation builds trust and credibility through value exchanges.
Connected doesn't mean number of fans, friends, and followers. It's not a quantity thing. It's a depth thing. Many organizations take the heart out of you. The people who want a connected company put it back. They care. Do you? We're talking about the future - our future.
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.