Sometimes waves in the ocean reinforce each other forming a giant swell. From my vantage point I’ve observed 5 thought leaders whose messages are reinforcing each other in similar ways to form what I’ll term the “Engaged Enterprise” super trend. Businesses are under tremendous pressure to change in order to compete. But change in what way?
Leader #1: Gloria Burke
Gloria Burke, Chief Knowledge Officer of Unisys, is an expert in social business transformation. She views social business as providing competitive advantage and a key to improving operational efficiency and innovation. Her expertise is taking a company that doesn’t collaborate and putting them on a path that transforms them into one that does. It is no small task, but she has done it internally at Unisys and elsewhere. Look at the end result of this transformation as stated in her book, “How Companies Succeed in Social Business“:
Employees should feel empowered to share what they know. This was stressed in a quote delivered by Unisys CEO Ed Coleman during an employee town hall meeting. He said, “The key to fueling the success of social collaboration at Unisys is for our employees to ‘be curious’ and ‘feel empowered’ to openly and transparently share.”
Summary: Social business success is when companies create an environment where employees are curious and empowered to transparently share.
Leader #2: Frank Wander
Frank Wander, founder of PeopleProductive, is an expert on productivity and how to create a high performing culture. He describes companies’ need for pro-social behavior to improve productivity and the bottom line. He is quoted in CIO Insight as saying, “By leading five turnaround transformations across four corporations, I discovered the root cause of IT failure: The industrial era dehumanization of the workforce has bequeathed management practices that are incompatible with the emotional, cognitive and collaborative underpinnings of IT today.”
Frank advocates that rather than a rigid process-driven assembly line model, today’s knowledge workers need large amounts of creativity to be successful and problem solve in a very dynamic environment. They function much more like a group of musicians and the company’s goal is to create a positive environment in which these artists can be creative and hence productive. The emotional state and social interactions of an employee have a direct impact on productivity. For example, on team that lacks trust, people will act defensively to protect themselves and that toxic environment will hurt productivity. Companies like Electronic Arts are already using a project team’s overall mood as a predictor of whether they will meet their deadline.
Summary: Companies need to purposefully foster a pro-social environment to let their employees be creative because their jobs require them to constantly figure things out on their own. Re-humanizing work means looking at employee’s emotional and cognitive needs instead of looking at them like machines.
Leader #3: Jane Hart
Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, is an expert on social learning in the workplace. In her blog post titled, “5 Stages of Workplace Learning (Revisited Again)” she talks about the move from top-down, formal learning being the predominant method of training to bottom-up, informal learning. As she states in that post, “It’s not longer about taking on the impossible task of providing the workforce with everything they need to do their work, but helping to build a workforce that can survive in the new world of work.” Hart concludes with 3 key mindset changes:
- “work is learning; and learning is the work” – Learning doesn’t just happen infrequently and in large doses. Continuous learning is an integral part of a knowledge worker’s job.
- “learning in the flow of work needs to be enabled, supported and encouraged; not designed or managed” – This ties back to Frank Wander’s analogy of workers as musicians in a jam session and the need for the company to establish that creative environment through culture.
- “autonomous, independent and inter-dependent, self-directed learners are essential in an agile organisation” – Self-directed learning isn’t just a nice to have — it is essential for all employees in today’s dynamic workplaces where change is constant.
Summary: Companies need to enable their employee’s autonomous and continuous learning, because in order to do their jobs, their employees must learn at a pace that can’t be sustained by traditional top-down training.
Leader #4: John Stepper
John Stepper, founder of the Working Out Loud movement, stated on his website that he seeks to “help people find meaning and fulfillment at work and in their lives”. Over his successful career at large enterprises including AT&T and Deutsche Bank, John observed and put into practice a set of principles he calls “Working Out Loud”. Those principles have resonated with a wide audience that has turned into a global movement. The phrase was originally coined by Bryce Williams and defined as: Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work. John expanded on that and his definition is:
“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”
He states the 5 main points of that definition are:
- Making your work visible
- Making work better
- Leading with generosity
- Building a social network
- Making it all purposeful
Summary: “Working out loud” is working transparently so my work is visible to others with the goal of helping them by sharing what I’m doing. Working in this open way let’s me connect with more people which provides more opportunities to both help someone reach their goals and have them help me reach mine.
Leader #5: Responsive.org
The Responsive.org team has produced a manifesto which describes a new way to work.
The Responsive Organization is built to learn and respond rapidly by optimizing for the open flow of information; encouraging experimentation and learning on rapid cycles; and organizing as a network of employees, customers, and partners motivated by shared purpose.
The principles outlined in the manifesto are:
- Purpose over Profit – Unifying employees around a higher purpose than purely profit.
- Empowering over Controlling – Giving autonomy to employees
- Emergence over Planning – Embracing the fact that things change rapidly, and promoting agility, experimentation and learning vs rigid long term planning.
- Networks over Hierarchies – Organizing with many different connections and more autonomy than a traditional top-down hierarchy.
- Adaptivity over Efficiency – Instead of focusing on optimizing static processes, focus on continuous learning and experimentation as the means to adapt to any change.
- Transparency over Privacy – Promoting the sharing of information. As stated in the manifesto, “Today, we have access to so much information that it’s become impossible to predict which information might be useful, or who might use that information in a productive way.”
Summary: Inspire employees and trust them with the autonomy to do their jobs. Embrace change and use continuous learning and experimentation to adapt to any circumstance. Promote transparency and information sharing because you can’t predict what might be useful when and to who.
Distilling a thought leader’s wide range of thinking into a couple of sentences is fraught with peril, but I’ll attempt it anyway. If you look at a summary of these ideas side-by-side, the common theme of businesses promoting autonomy, transparency and continuous learning to gain competitive advantage is clear.
- Gloria Burke, focused on strategic social business transformation of the entire enterprise: Social business success is when companies create an environment where employees are curious and empowered to transparently share.
- Frank Wander, focused on re-humanizing work and building a productive culture: Companies need to purposefully foster a pro-social environment to let their employees be creative because their jobs require them to constantly figure things out on their own. Re-humanizing work means looking at employee’s emotional and cognitive needs instead of looking at them like machines.
- Jane Hart, focused on corporate learning: Companies need to enable their employee’s autonomous and continuous learning, because in order to do their jobs, their employees must learn at a pace that can’t be sustained by traditional top-down training.
- John Stepper, focused on a grassroots effort that gives the individual principles to make their workplace better: “Working out loud” is working transparently so my work is visible to others with the goal of helping them by sharing what I’m doing. Working in this open way let’s me connect with more people which provides more opportunities to both help someone reach their goals and have them help me reach mine.
- Responsive.org, focused on a changing organizations by giving them a blueprint of a new way to work: Inspire employees and trust them with the autonomy to do their jobs. Embrace change and use continuous learning and experimentation to adapt to any circumstance. Promote transparency and information sharing because you can’t predict what might be useful when and to who.
These leaders come from very different perspectives but arrive at similar conclusions about the value of autonomy, transparency and continuous learning as key ways to improve business. This is the core of the “Engaged Enterprise” super trend. When that many great minds think a like, it is worth paying attention to.
We believe in these values, and they are ingrained in Haydle:
- Autonomy: A crowd-sourced community where everyone asks and everyone answers. It is a living knowledge sharing network.
- Transparency: Information is visible to everyone within the community rather than siloed. Many eyes ensure the information is correct, and your contributions are noticed.
- Continuous learning: With Haydle, you pull in the information you need from your organization in bite-sized pieces right when you need it. In rapidly changing environments, the experts are the people on the front lines closest to the problem, and Haydle gives you a way to access them and learn together.