When we speak of collaboration we often talk about the benefits of serendipity or emerging leadership, but within the confines of the current public institution, complete with Ministerial accountability, perhaps we speak about it too much. My underlying worry is that proponents of collaboration do themselves a disservice by failing to engage in a debate around how to be directive within a collaborative effort, to demonstrate how exactly collaboration is different from the status quo, and what are the inherent benefits of this new approach. The conversation around collaboration to date is far too Utopian for my liking; it conjures 1960s imagery of peace and love. Collaboration, it would seem, is a real righteous groove, and those who oppose it are just squares in need of a good melvin.
This attitude makes me uneasy. I think it is problematic, and the reason I think we are stuck there is that we don’t know how to be directive within collaboration. We seem to think that collaboration is an open arrangement that, through a mystical and undefined process, reaches an outcome. What we are missing is discourse on how we move from open process to outcome. We need to unpack the elusive magic between the two. In order to do this, I want to first lay out a conceptual frameworks and then move to an example to illustrate my thinking.
The “Why”, “How”, and “What” of collaboration
“Leaders hold a position of power or authority. But those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.” – Simon Sinek, “How great leaders inspire action” TEDx Puget Sound (full video embedded below)
My view is that being directive within a collaboration largely means inspiring action:
One of the problems is that we tend to inverse Sinek’s golden circle (as explained by Sinek in the TEDx talk above), focusing too much on what it is that we do. How many of us would describe our work starting with why we have chosen to undertake it?
Our friends at Altimeter have done it again, providing insightful research and the inside scoop for those of us who are fervently working 20 hours a day in hopes of launching ourselves into orbit!
The definition provided is:
The Corporate Social Strategist is the business decision maker of social media programs providing leadership, roadmap definition, innovation and directly influencing the spending on technology vendors and service agencies.
Five methods organizations have been utilizing to configure their social media approach are also identified including:
Words can be powerful. They influence purchases – “I’ll buy this good over that good”. “This good is better for me”. “I want that”. In government, they affect public opinion – “I am/am not for government sponsored healthcare reform”, “ I am for less taxes” “We need more roads”.
This is why the industry of preference formation (advertising, marketing, and public relations) is a multi-billion dollar industry. Often goaled with sending just the right message, or controlling the message, it is founded upon the belief that if organizations can just choose the right words—the magic words—consumer and citizen behavior result.
But what about people – those like us? Aren’t we the most important actors in preference formation?
All those working in the museum, gallery or other historic buildings and sites who wonder what social media tools might do for them when it comes to community engagement and two-way interactive involvement may want to look at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. What they have already done provides a glimpse of the future and the below 184 slide presentation from @PaulaBray provides an excellent graphical representation of these accomplishments including many real success stories and hard examples.
The Powerhouse Museum, part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, presents exhibitions and programs based on the ideas and technologies that have changed our world, and the stories of the people who inspire and create them. Our purpose is to enable visitors to discover and be inspired by human ingenuity.
The Powerhouse Museum is located in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Its diverse collection, built up over more than 125 years, spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration.
I struck a nerve around open data, as I mentioned in my earlier article, when I stated that “XML is simply a markup language, a container for data. Is it one of the most preferred containers? Absolutely. However, open government data is not synonymous with XML. Open government data is simply government-owned data that can be mined in order to create useful information. It can be in XML, PDF, text files, print outs, etc… The key point is that the data is being released for others to use to create value from it, not the format that it is released in”.
Initial comments on twitter argued that open data had to be XML, then opened up to being any open, non-proprietary format. For developers I would absolutely agree that this makes sense. It’s much easier for developers to work with open formats like CSV and XML vs. proprietary formats like PDF. Developers, however, are not the leaders of open government.
According to ITWire, Gartner Analyst Andrea DiMaio recently gave Government 2.0 a failing grade, noting that all nations “seemed to have missed the point”. He clarified further on Twitter stating that he:
“never said “fail”, said that challenges & real benefits are in employee 2.0, not a prty for many”
Sometimes editors jazz up the headlines to make articles more compelling than the speaker intended. Andrea is right, however, when he states that we have a lot of work to do and that successes have not been across the board. Successes still occur more often in pockets rather than across the board and are driven by passionate, well-meaning, technology types instead of being driven by top-down goal-oriented approaches.
I would simply state that Government 2.0 is in its infancy. We must harness the energy and passion shown by those that are being successful and focus it on achieving the highest priority goals first. All of those leading the charge, driving Government in Action, need to remain focused and recognize that they are appreciated. The early results are what is needed to continue the evolution.
At this point there seems to be few parts of traditional organizations and the functions within them that will not be touched or even perhaps radically altered by the forces of social media connectivity and communications. But there are still many naysayers out there asking
Why do we need social media?
Some typical responses from those who still don’t get it:
To share inane updates with random persons only hungering for us to follow them back?
To expose ourselves to just one more medium where avid advertisers can spam us into submission?
No if there wasn’t more than this, I would set the Twitter Fail Whale as my screensaver and never turn the application on again! (exercising maximum restraint to avoid mentioning obvious parallel to recent Twitter service uptime issues; oops I guess I just did, sorry @biz =)
Fortunately there’s more, much more to social media that can and will make a difference. A difference in one to one communications, one to many communications and most importantly to all manner of human organizations.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere over the last 50 years the majority of people in the world lost their mojo when it came to fighting for change. Didn’t matter whether the issue was big or small, even bad customer service and poor quality flourished because of the divide and conquer realities of slow one to one and the high cost of mass communication.
People grew tired and weak from being browbeaten into submission to the point where apathy set in when it came to believing in, mobilizing and exercising their power as an individual within society.
The ability for people to communicate, organize and take action around an issue or idea had become very slow, difficult and costly. Even more significantly, the poor results often seen by those who actually made the effort led many to accept “Is it really worth the bother?”
People seem to instinctively create barriers around what they feel is their territory and so a silo is formed. Many people also feel the need to classify everyone and everything mentally tossing it into the bucket or silo where they think the person, thing or idea belongs.
Whether due to demonstrating personal power or simply for mental convenience, our instinctive urge to build a silo, or pop everything and everyone into one, inhibits both communication and performance.
The concept of smorganization was born out of my desire to find one word to first grab the attention and then communicate the dramatic changes to organizations of all types which are currently underway facilitated by social media.
Most have still not grasped the depth or realized the breadth of the communications revolution happening around us, but it is real, it is impactful and once these titanic forces are positively focused by forward thinking leaders within the organizations of the world, smorganization can and will take us to a better place.
So smorganization in its’ simplest interpretation is Social Media Organization or just smorganization, a one word conglomeration representing what in its’ entirety is a complex and rapidly evolving transformation process.