The Shift

Relationships-InstitutionvsNetworkThere is a shift taking place in organizations that is largely missed because of the way we conventionally think of the relationship between people and institutions. 

This post is about this shift.

A place to begin is to look at the social media world. Many of us spend lots of time interacting through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Four Square, and on and on. If you are like me, you do a set of activities through them. They serve us like a tool does.  We don't think of them as organizations. They are virtual places we go to do things.

With social media, we don't think of ourselves fitting into an institution structure. Yet, it is an organizational context whose mission is the social. This is not true many other organization's mission.

Think of social media as a street corner when people linger, share pictures, play music, show items in their shopping bag, then pass on by or venture off together to get a cup of coffee.  These social settings are measured by the influence of who we know, who knows us, and how many are in our network of followers.

These social platforms are also businesses. They are organized just like newspapers, around the sale of ads and virtual space for people to establish a presence online. That is how they make their money. Signing up for any of these is really not much different than buying a car from a Ford dealer, a Swiffer mop Proctor & Gamble or a  policy from a local insurance agent. We are buying into a set of institutional relationships that provide service, replacement parts, and financial security. The succeed best when they understand the needs and desires of people, what they want and how they want to be engaged socially.

I learn about this larger context by listening to people who are in the social media world.

Two of those people are marketing bloggers and podcasters Mitch Joel and Joseph Jaffe. I listen to them because they are asking similar questions to mine. I like the way they think and express their thoughts.

Their recent Across the Sound podcast was a discussion about Facebook's identity. It is worth an hour of your time to listen. I listened to it twice I found it so interesting.

Here's portion of my response left in the comments of both their blogs.

"Yes, Facebook is a new thing. But it thinks like an old thing. It thinks bigger is better. It’s the old industrial mindset. The bigger it gets, the harder it will be to change course. I’ve felt for some time that FB has about five years of relevance left before it is replaced by multiple platforms that someone figures out how to tie together without creating confusion. This is already happening.

Why? Because people change, and it isn’t that they want more, they want better or different. Facebook is changing their expectations, their behaviors, and their attitudes towards themselves. We already see it in the proliferation of so many different social media platforms.

Here’s where I see the shift.

It used to be that we individuals had to fit into the institutional structures, and Facebook is an institutional structure, to find relevance and identity. The institution was king, and we were simply serfs. Now, that scenario is flipped, and the individual is king, and becoming more so, and Facebook is just an optional tool for our use. For these platforms it is a race to relevance in a fickle marketplace.

It isn’t that these platforms are changing, people are changing by using these tools to express themselves in way that they did not have in previous eras. ..." (emphasis mine)

People are changing in their attitudes about institutions, and they have been slow to respond.

Historically, institutions existed and we had to fit into them. They were big, entrenched, historically significant, and we were just lone individuals. So we did what we were told, bought what we were sold, and became part of the faceless mass consumer society that served the institutions well.  We join the institution. They didn't join us.

Much of that has changed during my lifetime. More than anything distrust in institutions. We no longer believe that institutions have our best interests in mine. We don't think they have our back. We view them as selfish and out of touch.

Trust and Institutions

Hugh Heclo wrote a thoughtful book called On Thinking Institutionally. It is a manifesto about the importance of institutions in our lives.

"What I think is demonstrably true is that in the last two generations or so, the normal range and frequency of human failings have presented themselves to the public in new ways, ways that possess an especially corrosive power in matters of institutional trust. To put it in other words, even if human venality and other misconduct remained constant, we have lived through a period when the betrayal of trust has become formatted in such a manner as to magnify whatever public alienation would otherwise occurred.  That is what sets the last half-century apart in generating performance-based distrust."

This distrust of institutions is based on our shared belief in social trust. We want our relationships to be dignified, respectful and trustworthy. We genuine want our institutions to be trustworthy.  This truth about us as human beings is one of the reasons the shit is taking place.

On a Personal Level

I see people crossing a threshold in their lives. They are turning away from the traditional industrial model of work, and are looking for something more meaningful. The emergence of technologies that do not require a traditional institutional setting is affecting how people think about themselves.  Those who cross that threshold claim a new territory of independence and opportunity.

Three Goals of Life-Work - Simple

I have shown this image before. It describes what I see emerging as the expectations that people carry with them into social and institutional settings.

They want meaning in their lives. They want relationships of trust. And they want to do things that matter, every day.

This is at the heart of why Networks of Relationships are replacing Institutions. With this shift, individuals have more say-so over who they are and what they do.

The institutional relationship gets flipped. Instead of trying to fit in, we are now telling institutions that either they fit in to our life or risk obsolescence.

Facebook and these other social media platforms are not the markers of change in the 21st century. They will here and then gone.

The people who inhabit their virtual spaces are the evidence that the 21st century is different than previous eras. As individuals discover how to create a life that fulfills their desires for meaning, relationship and impact, change to institutions will come. In time we'll see trust return to institutions, not because the institutions have changed, but because we have changed. That is the shift that ultimately matters


Networks in Transition

Transition Point - without Title

Networks are the new management mantra. The back story to this development is the increasing importance of healthy relationships for the sustainability of organizations. I've seen this coming since the mid-1970s with the realization that relationships are the vehicle through which life works.

The science of networks is growing in sophistication and practicality. It is truly amazing to see what the data on networks can reveal. That said, networks are not the end point. They are a transition point to something else.

The first transition

If you step out, look back, you'll see that for most of the past couple millennia, organizations have been structured as hierarchies. I've posted on this before.

Hierarchy of  Structure

This hierarchies look basically like this image.  There is leadership, with a level of  middle and supervisory management, followed by everyone else. This is an over simplification.  The point though is that the structure was organized for order, efficiency, and bottom-up accountability.

This hierarchy has been the primary form of organizational structure since human beings began to organize themselves. Some form of this hierarchy will always exist. However, it will be different.

Into the context of organizations appears a new phenomenon called a network of relationships. This is a new form of human organization that exists as connections without a designated location for these relationships. These are the kind of relationship that populate social media networks. They are virtual and intermittent, lacking comprehensiveness and continuity.

Prior to the advent of modern communication technology, the highest form of network was a local community of residents.  This ancient form of the network was based on physical proximity. Think of an Amish barn raising where all of one's neighbors come to your farm to construct a building that serves a family's need for sustainability.  Of course, no one talked about their local community as a network, but that is essentially what it was.  The connections formed a tight bond of closeness that made it difficult for outsiders to join. Today, networks are the opposite, loose, open configurations where the social bond is in the moment.

Hierarchy of Connection

Today, this network of relationships looks like this.  It is not primarily based on living near one another, but rather being connected through common interests. The sophistication of these networks is enabled by the data mining that modern computer technology provides. Social media provides the most practical and universal means for these networks of relationships to develop.

These networks are driven by the science of connection and its viral nature. There are great possibilities for impact when a network is mobilized for a cause, when an influential hub (person) sneezes and the whole world catches a new pair of shoes, or when one person posts a video of some random guy dancing, and it is shared globally millions of times. This is the power that this form of network connection holds.  This, however, is a feature of contemporary networks of relationships, and not the potential, ultimate end.

Two shifts

Networks are a basic infrastructure of the future of organizations. Where hierarchies are based upon position and role within an organization, networks are based upon who you know, and the ability to turn those connections into action.

To understand networks is to be aware of a couple shifts that have taken place over the past century.

The first shift is the elevation of the individual to a place of centrality in their own network of relationships. In this respect, being member of a community or an institution means less today than it did a generation ago. This individualism is a product of living in a society of choices made available to all who have the means as a consumers.  Today's consumer mindset sees organizations and networks existing to meet my purposes and desires. It is social in a limited, not a comprehensive sense.

The result is that much of the emphasis on networks is focused on developing them for one's own purposes as a universal platform for marketing the individual to a world of individuals.

A second shift is the emergence of the network as a place of virtual habitation. We live online, and our relationships are online, and our identity is formed online, and our life is lived online. What the old hierarchies and old local communities offered was a physical place to live one's life and to develop the habits and practices that provided a basis for a sustainable society. There is a reason why cultures survived centuries, even millennia, without the modern technologies that we have today.  These cultures of the past were communities rooted in a specific place, organized around specific traditions that helped people know how to live a life of contribution and meaning within that specific context. Many of the habits and practices that provided sustainability during the pre-modern era have eroded away as we taken up residence online. Today, everything can be done online, not requiring anything more than a wifi connection to be connected to a network of social profiles of people whom we only know as they choose to present themselves online. 

The significance of this shift is seen in the difficulty that people who are not highly engaged in an online network of relationships find in dealing with people who are not used to face-to-face human contact. Frankly, they do not understand the patterns of interaction and communication that take place through social media platforms. As a result, they are missing the necessary capacity to be persons of influence who can make a difference on a global scale.


Three Desires-Impact-NoFill
These two shifts inadequately address the fundamental desires that people have.  Those desires are for our lives to be Personally Meaningful, for Happy, Healthy Relationships, Socially Fulfilling and to Make a Difference that Matters. All of this can happen through our online network of relationships. To do so requires that they become more than simply a place where I daily project my personality into noise of the online social world.

The Next Transition

These changes are why I see our current fixation on networks of relationships as a transition point between the old hierarchical structures and what comes next. What comes next is a recognition that we are more than the constructed persona of our diverse social media profiles. We are real people who have lives apart from the online world.

The next iteration of the network is for them to become more communal. By this I mean that the relationships transcend the virtual to be transformational. For this to happen, there must be a personal stake in the relationship that moves beyond what I get from it. It goes to what I give to make it work.  In this respect, the next transition is a return to the old communities of proximity where being a neighbor meant that we were actively engaged in the care and sustainability of our community of common welfare.

SharedLeadershipImpact
There is a sharedness of these communities of relationships as seen here. When I speak of "leading by vacuum," it is a way of talking about how we each bring our own gifts and talents to the network of relationships, and in so doing, the network transcends the virtual to become something greater.

In this scenario, the individualism of the network is transformed into a community of relationships who share a common purpose or goal for their relationships.

For example, the Flow Ventura Global Triiibes Retreat  brought together people from around the globe, most who had never physically been together before. We knew each other online. The event would never had occurred had the relationships been simply virtual and individual. Instead, over a period of time, our relationships came to increasingly matter more and more. We were more than virtual connections. We were friends whose daily interaction online mattered in how we live in the dispersed places where we reside.  In other words, knowing one another online was insufficient for the sustaining of our relationships. We needed to be together in the same place, face-to-face, and side by side.

The retreat as a result was transformational for many of the participants.  Many common points of interest explored in the conversations and presentations elevated the shared values that transformed our once virtual network of relationships into a community of friends whose relationships matter to one another.

Facilitating The Transition from Network to Community

For a network to transition into a genuine community requires leadership. It needs people who facilitate and coordinate the interaction that is needed to build a community of relationships. Conversations within these networks need to clarify the shared ideas of purpose and values that are a basis for a shared vision of impact, and a common commitment to share the responsibility for it. Each provides a way for the relationship to transcend superficial connection to one that is meaningful, fulfilling and makes a difference that matters.

This is the future that I see emerging. I see it as the logical evolution of networks of relationships to become more communal than social. That does not mean it will happen in every place.  It does mean that it is possible. That it is a choice fueled by our desires for a certain kind of life that transcends the shallow superficiality of much of what we experience each day.


TransitionsOrgStructure
PDF of this guide now available
.


The Kindness / Gratitude Connection

Five Actions Gratitude- horizontal
 
A friend of mine recently commented that his business and professional relationships were transactional, not relational.  In describing them, he meant that while they were congenial, the motivation for the relationship was quid-pro-quo.  

I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine, and will only scratch yours if you scratch mine.

A transaction-based relationship exists as a function of a reciprocal economic exchange. It is a sophisticated form of negotiated shared mutual self-interest. It's nothing personal. Just an agreement between two or more people, or the culture that exists in an organization or community.

In a transactional culture, the institutional relationship centers within a game of power, influence and control. The reward in such a relationship is the validation of self worth by the organization.

Communities, where a transaction-based culture exists, is oriented around the status of the influential and prominent, and the line between those who are and are not is clearly maintained as a part of the culture.

As my friend shared his experience with me, the context reminded me of the organizational leaders whom I interviewed in the mid-1990s. In those interviews, I asked,"If you were to lose everything this afternoon, who would stand with you?"  Most answered with silence. One or two offered, "My mother?" None said their business partners, their friends, their spouse or children.

One reason the psychic effects of the recession have been so severe is that self-worth for so many business and professional people is rooted in this transactional institutional relationship. In effect,

"I am my position, title, job responsibilities and compensation package."

Displaced from this organizational setting after years of service, cast adrift into a sea of other unemployed professionals, it quickly becomes apparent that these transactional relationships cannot sustain us through life's disruptive transitions.

Like the leaders I interviewed, many people are finding that their confidence in the support and security of their institution is disintegrating. As accomplished professionals, who successfully maneuvered the challenges of operating within a transactional business environment, they now realize that they are on-their-own to chart their future course in an unknown landscape where organizational connection matters less and less, and human connection everything.

The Gratitude Response

For almost three years now, I have been on a journey of discovery related to the practice of gratitude. It all started with my reponse - Say Thanks Every Day - to Daniel Pink's Johnny Bunko 7th Lesson contest. My 7th lesson quickly became The Five Actions of Gratitude, and my thinking on gratitude most fully expressed in my 2010 Weekly Leader series, The Stewardship of Gratitude

As with most of my projects, questions are the driver of discovery.

FiveActionsOfGratitude

At first, I wanted to understand gratitude, and how it can build stronger relationships and strengthen organizations. 

Then, I began to ask a question that got behind my original one.

When I am grateful to someone, to what am I responding?

After considerable of reflection, I finally concluded that it was human kindness.

By kindness, I mean acts that represent a certain kind of attitude and behavior that we have about people and our relationships with them.  I'm not just talking about family relationships, or close friends, but all our relationships, personal and professional.

Here's are some examples that inspire me to celebrate this human motivation.

A friend wrote me to tell about how she had been transferred to a different department within her company. While the change was good for her, it put her former boss and co-workers in a difficult position. Here's her description of what she did.

I told my ex-boss and current boss, that for my own conscience and personal conviction, I felt strongly wanting to help my ex-dept (esp my ex-bosses) as they were in very difficult times. I decided to take my few days of leave and go back to my ex-dept to coach and help them. Many, could not understand why I needed to go to this extent to help (by taking own leave) and jeopardizing my appraisal from my new dept by going the extra mile to help my ex-dept. I was not bothered because I knew what I was doing and I felt that loyalty, compassion and being there for my ex-bosses and colleagues were the most important things in life compared to how my new dept assessed me in my new appraisal.

My friend's former bosses and colleagues meant something to her. Her relationship to them was not a transactional relationship, but a professional relationship with a genuine depth of caring.

Another example that remains in my memory are the people I met in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast who had left the home communities, sold their homes or shut their utilities off, lock the doors and moved to contribute in the relief and recovery of the region following Hurricane Katrina. Six years later, some are still there making a difference as the region rebuilds.

I have the same respect for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of nameless people, who in the midst of the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center towers, the attack on The Pentagon and the bringing down of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania,  cared for people whom they did not know, yet were in need. Their acts of kindness and sacrifice are, for me, why we commemorate this day each year. They are a living reminder that not everyone bases their actions on a mutual economic exchange.

These examples, and many others, are for me the Kindness / Gratitude Connection.

Kindness

Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor describe kindness, in their book On Kindness, this way.

"... life lived in instinctive sympathetic identification with the vulnerabilities and attractions of others."

Kindness is not the first attribute that we'd use to describe a business. Yet, it is one that we may identify as why we are loyal to one.

Kindness is an expression of empathy.  People who are kind and empathetic are able to see in other people the challenges they face and the potential that they have.  The empathy connection, like kindness, builds relationships of strength to overcome serious life challenges.

Kindness is a leadership capacity that transcends the formal structure of the organization. 

Leaders who can engage people with kindness and empathy are able to find resources of motivation and commitment that are non-existent in a transactional relationship.

Kindness in its fullness requires a level of personal maturity that enables us to look beyond our individual interests. In kindness, we can see the dignity, value and potential of other people.

Think of the many professional situations we encounter everyday. We walk into a room. There are a dozen or more people in there. What should our intention be?

If our intention is to be kind to each person, then we enter the room with the purpose of honoring them. To do so I must see that my presence in the room is not about me.  It is about the connection that can be made between me and another person, and of the room as a whole body of people.  My purpose is not to get something, but to contribute.

Does everyone in the room deserve this sort of treatment? Obviously not. But it isn't about treating people as they deserve. That is the transactional mindset. Rather, being kind in a business and professional context is about my acting in such a way that we all are able to achieve higher levels of impact that we could have.

Yes,

I am suggesting that the practice of kindness and gratitude is a strategy for strengthening organizations. And, that without it, a company is weaker, less able to manage change and adapt to their opportunities.

Yes,

I am saying that a transactional mindset is inherently unpredictable and organizationally divisive, and contributes to economic instability in organizations and the global economy.

Yes,

I am actually saying that leaders who only know how to work within a transactional model are weaker, and, their displays of control and ego are masks for fear and a sense of inadequacy.

Treating each person with respect, empathy and honor doesn't mean that we are simply nice to them. It is means that we listen and treat their ideas and their actions seriously. By treating them with honor, we are able to be constructively critical. Without honor, our criticism easily becomes self-serving and destructive.

With honor and kindness, we build understanding between us that elevates our mutual strategic thought processes. This is often what is missing in executive efforts to increase team communication and decision-making. It isn't about the analytical process, but about the relationship that builds understanding, unity and commitment.

A reason why so much of social networking, whether in person or online, is a waste of time is because its based on a transactional perspective. When we seek to be kind, to contribute to the welfare of others, to practice the Five Actions of Gratitude, then the social dynamic changes. 

As my understanding of Gratitude and, now, Kindness has grown, I'm also seeing how my best online relationships are mutual expressions of The Kindness / Gratitude Connection. 

The Power of Mutual Reciprocity

Genuine accountability in relationships requires openness, transparency, and a mutual willingness to adapt and change to make the relationship work. We share a mutual intention to submit to one another's critique and counsel.

When mutual accountability works, the relationship transcends the transaction and begins to move toward a relationship that reflects the kindness / gratitude connection

Kindness fosters giving. It opens up social settings to opportunities that do not exist except when relationships are healthy and vital.  Givers are the source of this openness. Philanthropy is an embodiment of the kindness of strangers giving to causes and institutions that matter to them. Their giving creates the strength that makes a society work.

For this reason, gratitude is more than a function of social etiquette to which my grandmother would earnestly approve.  Rather, It is a fundamental part of every human relationship that completes the act of kindness by giving back in gratitude.

In many ways, the kindness / gratitude connection is a type of love.  Here is the beginning of Trappist monk Thomas Merton's, No Man Is An Island.

"A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy."

"There is a false and momentary happiness in self-satisfaction, but it always leads to sorrow because it narrows and deadens our spirit.  True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared.  There is no end to the sharing of love, and, therefore, the potential happiness of such love is without limit.  Infinite sharing is the law of God's inner life.  He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.  In disinterested activity we best fulfill our own capacities to act and to be."

"Yet there can never be happiness in compulsion.  It is not enough for love to be shared: it must be shared freely.  That is to say it must be given, not merely taken.  Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring perfect happiness: not because love requires a return or a reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved.  And if the one loved receives love selfishly, the lover is not satisfied.  He sees that his love has failed to make the beloved happy.  It has not awakened his capacity for unselfish love."

"Hence the paradox that unselfish love cannot rest perfectly except in a love that is perfectly reciprocated: because it knows that the only true peace is found in selfless love.  Selfless love consents to be loved selflessly for the sake of the beloved.  In so doing, it perfects itself."

"The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it.  So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received."

The expression of kindness is analogous to the expression of love between people. Paraphrasing Merton, we could say. 

The gift of kindness is the gift of the power and the capacity to be kind, and, therefore, to give kindness with full effect is also to receive it.

The gift of gratitude is the gift of the power and the capacity to be grateful, and, therefore, to give gratitude with full effect is also to receive it.

The fulfillment of love for Merton isn't the expression of it. Rather, it is the mutual benefit that comes from mutual giving and receiving. This is what the Kindness / Gratitude Connection means.

My purpose is to show that gratitude is not just some nice thing that we do. Oh, isn't she nice. She sent me a thank you note. My point is to show that the expression of kindness and gratitude changes a professional relationship from a transactional one to an adaptive one..

When we act towards others with kindness, we open up possibilities in our relationship with them that would be more difficult to discover if my only interest was closing the deal. We become much more aware of the situations that we each have, and those that we share. As a result our communication level is deeper, and our willingness to help the other out is greater.

The Future is Kind

Everywhere I turn I see organizations and institutions failing because they think they can sustain the past into the future. The transaction-based professional relationship and institution are relics of a much more homogeneous, economically predictable time.  It is the model of the 20th century that worked.

The 21st century is vastly different. The organizational forms of the past are disintegrating, to the point that all that is left is the commitment and desire of people to sustain the place of their employment.

The future is going to be secured in relationships of mutuality, kindness, honor, empathy and gratitude. 

These relationships will transcend all the boundaries that we spent the 20th century seeking to overcome. Where they remain are places still committed to sustaining the past.

The beauty of the 21st century is that it is open to everyone because it is built upon our relationships with one another. It is not just an ethical perspective, but a strategic development one. Making the Kindness / Gratitude Connection a strategic focus on a business, the kind of relationship we need to manage rapid, accelerating global change can be realized. The real beauty of it is that it is not institutionalize, but personalized in each one of us.

If we want to be successful in every aspect of our lives in the future, then learn to be kind, giving, grateful and honoring of the people in your life.


The Initiative Generation

On top of Max Patch

Leadership is a product of personal initiative.  

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change that advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is a basic understanding of what leadership is becoming in the 21st century. It is different than in the past because it is not based on wealth, social class, educational credentials, national origin, religious preference, geographic location or organizational title, position or rank.  

This new sort of leadership is based on personal initiative, social connection and the desire to make a difference. As a result, it is a kind of leadership that anyone can do.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that, 

Passive followership is over; Personal initiative for impact is in. 

The implications of this shift are significant. If you are the senior executive leader of an organization, it means that the game of recruiting talent is changing.

This is an ongoing conversation that I'm having with Gretchen Zucker, Executive Director of Ashoka's Youth Venture. Recently, she gave a presentation on Talent for the 21st Century. She, graciously, shared her presentation with me for this blog post.

Gretchen points out that

"8 million jobs have been lost since 2008 in the US; nonetheless, employers are still having difficulty filling jobs with the right talent." 

She quotes Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation.

Between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S.were created by firms that were 5 years old or less. That is about 40 million jobs.

Who is creating these new businesses and the jobs that follow?

People who take initiative, are socially connected, and have a clear purpose that drives their desires to make a difference.  The difference though is in the numbers.

While there may be a long history of small business in the US, entrepreneurism did not become the world changing movement that it is until about 30 years ago. 

This came clearly to mind recently as I sat across a work table in the office of a web designer, colleague and friend who is in his mid-20s. As he took a call and left the room for a moment, the difference hit me that when I was his age in the late 1970s, I did not have a single friend or acquaintance, in my age group, who had started their own business. I know entrepreneurs existed, but I didn't know any. Sitting in my friend's office, I realized that his circle of friends were creating a new culture of entrepreneurism in our community.  

According to Paul Reynolds, entrepreneurship scholar and creator of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,

"by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers."*

My own path to entrepreneurship began in the mid-1980's with the reading of Peter Drucker's Innovation and Entrepreneurship. My contact with people who had started their own businesses was very small. Not so today.

What this indicates to me is that there is a growing class of initiators whose leadership is changing not only the landscape of business, but of communities and nations worldwide.  

This is the point that Gretchen Zucker presents.

Gretchen's organization, Youth Venture is part of Ashoka, created by Bill Drayton, who coined the term social entrepreneur.  Ashoka and Youth Venture invest in people who are changemakers.  

Ashoka and Youth Venture are shaping an Everyone A Changemaker™ society: every individual will take initiative, develop solutions to social needs and drive positive impact.Every part of society will benefit from having more changemakers, from a company to a school to an entire country.

Ashoka and YV help ensure the success of any entity, region or field by finding the best new ideas, by cultivating the changemaker talent to act on those ideas, and by designing new ways to allow major change to happen.

Ashoka and Youth Venture are helping to nurture the people I describe above. Currently Ashoka is supporting 2,500 Changemakers in 60 countries. So you can see that as this trend continues, it not only changes the world within the proximity of each person who is a changemaker, but it also sets a standard by which their peers begin to understand themselves.  

This standard is appealing because it isn't based on someone else's idea about who they are, but their own. It is out of their passion and commitment that these Changemakers venture forward to change the world within their reach.

This is the world that is coming to schools, congregations, scout troops,  and businesses everywhere.  This is a societal change that is being led by children and young people. This is a grassroots, entrepreneurial movement that begins at an age young enough to care for the needs of the world that they can identify, even at six or eight years old.

Recently I asked Gretchen Zucker to respond to two questions.

What is the single greatest misperception that businesses have about the current generation of young people as employees?

Businesses need to realize that the current generation of young employees (Millennials) is very different from the last generation (GenX) or the generation before that (Baby Boomers).  Times have changed dramatically and Millennials reflect that accelerating change in a new information era.  Millennials are very purpose-driven, tech and information savvy, globally aware, highly engaged (volunteer at twice the rate as their parents), and struggling to come out from under the very broad wings of their parents.

The best thing a manager can do to maximize the productivity of young employees is to encourage and enable them to be changemakers.  They are craving this!  Don’t be threatened.  They will amaze you with their creativity, drive and ability to mobilize teams to get things done.  

I've seen this trend grow over the past twenty years. A tipping point is approaching that will mark a shift that is of historic proportions. This point will be when a critical mass of people worldwide decides that they are going to take personal initiative to make a difference, and do so within a social context of shared responsibility and commitment.  When they do, they will no longer look to institutions to take care of them, as in the past. They will join together to take care of each other and their communities. 

I asked Gretchen, 

"Where do businesses go to find people like Ashoka’s Changemakers?"

Any employer (businesses included) needs to look upstream to figure out how to get far more changemaker talent (entrepreneurial problem-solvers with strong team, leadership and empathy skills), as the proportion of our society who are changemakers today is only 2-3 percent, making the “war for talent” as fierce as it’s ever been.  By enabling and supporting dramatically more people – in particular at a young, formative age – become changemakers through actually experiencing taking initiative to address a social need and leading change. 

Once a young person experiences the power of entrepreneurship, teamwork, empathy and leadership, he/she will forever carry the mindset and skill set with him/her in all aspects of life.  As change accelerates and employers must stay ahead of that change, the single greatest factor of success will be the proportion of their community (staff, stakeholders) who are changemakers.  

So, you can see how monumental is this shift for organizations.

No more passive followers who care little about their company. No more disgruntled employees who only care about how well the company compensates them for the sacrifice of personal time and the personal inconvenience they must go through to be away from the things they do care about. Strangely, it means that owners and managers will have to respond to a higher form of expectation for how their organizations function.

The cause of poor morale in the workplace isn't the external realities that affect the business. Rather, the internal ones. Morale is not some mysterious human social phenomenon, but rather an outcome of organizational design and management. It is an indicator of uncertainty, and produces a passive aggressive followership which is antithetical to the genuine leadership of personal initiative. The talented and self-motivated will leave or force change.

Regardless, organizational leaders have a choice to make. To resist the emergence of a generation of leadership initiators and watch their organizations decline, or to embrace them as a beneficial movement by accommodating their energy, ideas and influence to create new opportunities.

What, then, must a business person do to create an environment that is most conducive to attracting the young men and women that Ashoka and Youth Venture support?

First, envision the possible.

See it in this illustration from Gretchen Zucker.

What if this was your typical employee?

"I saw a problem with our operations and so I got our team together to devise a solution, which we’re now working on implementing with the involvement of other colleagues. I just wanted to make sure with you that I’m moving in the right direction. Is this okay?"

Second, invest in people.

Read my post Return on Initiative: ROI for the 21st Century. You can take a regressive cost/benefit approach to the development of people. It isn't a zero-sum game. Instead, it is a game of survival. Every business' survival is dependent upon creating an environment that accommodates and nurtures the kind of social entrepreneurial initiative that Ashoka and Youth Venture are developing in people worldwide.

This shift changes the talent recruitment game from a race to hire the best credentialed person to the one who has demonstrated that they are a Changemaker.  

Third, understand what motivates people to take initiative to make a difference that matters. 

No one asks people to initiate. It comes from an inner desire to make the world a better place. Ancient philosopher Aristotle saw this motivation as a function of the purpose of every individual. Something inside points to something outside that connects the two together and creates what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia which is happiness or human flourishing.

In simple terms, this desire for happiness, that is a kind of completeness, can be seen in three goals that I observe in people.  These goals are active reflections of their inner purpose. This is what people want from their life and work.

Life that is Personally Meaningful

Relationships that are Socially Fulfilling

Work that Makes a Difference that Matters

The children and young people that come to RandomKid** have these goals, as do those who work with Youth Venture. The people with whom you work, play golf, and share the subway have these goals. Each person's expression of them is unique. Yet, we are the same at a very fundamental level.

We look for social and organizational settings where these goals may be pursued. This is why children and young people are coming to RandomKid.

RandomKid's mission is to provide staff and services to youth, of all backgrounds and abilities, for the development, management and accomplishment of their goals to help others.

We educate, mobilize, unify and empower youth to directly impact local and global needs. By helping kids to become innovative and successful world problem-solvers, we are securing a better fate for our world now, and into the future. We don’t ask you to be a part of us; we become a part of you (emphasis mine).

In this sense, RandomKid provides an organizational structure for these young leaders to take initiative by creating projects that make a difference that matters to them. As Anne Ginther, RandomKid Co-Founder recently commented,

"What is most important to remember is that our mission is to help KIDS help others. It’s about empowering youth to make a difference. It’s about building the change-makers of tomorrow."

Dana Leman, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President tells me that they have learned that kids want ownership, fun and measurable impact from their projects.

There is a parallelism between what I observe in people and what RandomKid has identified in their project leaders.

Personally Meaningful = Ownership

Socially Fulfilling = Fun

Make a Difference that Matters = Measurable Impact

There is no dividing line between the child and the adult in this regard. Their goals are one and the same, just expressed differently.

This is the environment that initiators and Changemakers want. This is not the business environment of the 20th century. It is of the 21st century. 

Dana Leman commented to me recently about what she sees in the kids who take on a RandomKid project. 

Today's kids are not about trying to fit their ideas into standard business models. They are trying to develop business models that fit their ideas. They think about process as an afterthought and tend to engage in a more organic and responsive approach to today's emerging markets.

This is why so many young people in their 20s and 30s are starting their own businesses. Because they don't see themselves fitting in the institutional setting of the last century. And what organizational leaders must understand is that their competition for talent is not within their industry, but rather between the business structures of the past and the future. Either accomodate or become irrelevant is the reality that we face.

I started this post with the following manifesto.

Leadership is a product of personal initiative. 

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change the advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is the future of leadership. And its future can be seen in the 10 year olds, the 14 year olds, the 18 year olds and the twenty and thirty somethings who are taking initiative to follow their passion to make a difference in the world.

Sixteen year old RandomKid Co-Founder and CEO Talia Leman speaks of her organization's mission as 

Leveraging the power of kids worldwide to drive an economy of positive change.

This is the purpose they share with Ashoka's Changemakers and Youth Venturers. This is the 21st century talent pool that stands apart from the rest. 

If you want these young people to work for you, then you must become like them. You must become an agent of change by encouraging and equipping the people in your business to take initiative to create an environment that can make the difference that matters. 

This may seem to be one of many options for the course of organizations and businesses. I'm convinced that this is the future that is fast approaching.  It isn't an option.  

When Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in their book The Starfish and the Spider write about "leaderless" organizations, they are advocating for a leader-filled organization.

In a traditional sense, it could be said that organizations like Ashoka, Youth Venture and RandomKid are developing the next generation of organizational leaders.  In reality, these kids are already leading random organizations of social connection that are making a difference in local communities across the globe. The future is now, not tomorrow or next year.

This new future may seem filled with ambiguity and doubt. The reality is that as you accommodate your organizations to the ingenuity and 21st century leadership skills of these young people, a level of impact that your organization has never known will emerge. I'm convince that our best years are ahead of us, and they are going to be fun.  Because the children who are leading us today would not have it any other way. 

The Initiative Generation is here. Welcome them with openness, support their initiatives, and celebrate the difference they are making now.

*Wikipedia: Entrepreneurship-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship

** Disclaimer: I am the Board Chair of RandomKid.


The Leader's Guide to Social Media

This week's Weekly Leader column - The Leader's Guide to Social Media -  addresses the value of social media to organizational leaders.Social Media Icons - 125__608x608_01-iconsetc-black-inlay-on-steel-social-media-icons-webtreats-preview

I know many people who resist using social media. They are content with a relatively small circle of relationships. They prefer face-to-face interaction, or at least conversation by telephone.

This is a luxury that most business can no longer afford. They must adopt a social media strategy in order to have access to the widest possible network of information and influence possible.  Welcome to the age of social media


Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom - by @TomVMorris - a Leading Questions review

(Welcome to friends and followers of Tom Morris, our Poet Philosopher of Twisdomville)

Let the tweeting begin!

Twisdom


The morning: Right after the fog, clarity comes.


Before engagements, prior to the mix, a brief, full moment of calm.


Bird songs begin the soundtrack for this docu-drama of life. A distant rustle. A buzzing bee.


The morning: This morning, never to be again. Attend to it. Relish it. Use it well.


A crunch of toast, a spread of jam, a topping of nuts, and I just am.


“Everything on earth is subject to change.” The I Ching


Lemons to lemonade: When the place burned down where the band Deep Purple was about to record, they wrote the hit “Smoke on the Water.”


“The loftiest towers rise from the ground.” - Chinese proverb. We all start from where we are.


Just wrote on our economic and political crises, “Living in Plato’s Cave.” Plato and Aristotle nailed it for us.


A thought: One half of human nature got us into our current troubles. It will take the other half to get us out.


These are the first tweets of Tom Morris.

Last spring, in an off-hand comment, I commented to Tom that he should be Twittering. I thought it was a good outlet for his congenial approach to ancient wisdom that he shares daily with people through his books and presentations.  Little did I know that a Twitter phenomenon of Vesuvian proportions would erupt. 

Partial proof is found in the pages of this marvelous book by Tom called Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom. The tweets you see above are his first ones. What is missing are his thousands of responses to the ReTweets and messages that came in response to his sharing of himself.  Tom Morris on Twitter is a picture of the joyous philosopher at work in the garden of life. After knowing him for almost forty years, I can say that this is some of the best work he has ever done, because it is built on his own personal interaction with people. The Tom you see in Twisdom, is the Tom that many of us have known over the years.

When I first picked up Twisdom, and begin to read, I thought: "Tom's a poet. Who knew?"

This is ancient wisdom as the great philosophers of Greece and Rome would have written. Read Marcus Aurelius and you find short bursts of insight, written down in the midst of the crush of being Roman emperor. Read Plato and Aristotle, and you'll find philosophy for living, not the dry, boring, over-written tomes written for the academy and not for the common citizen.

What Tom has discovered is a virtual Lyceum, a place to practice his profession as philosopher where he can reach out through the tools of social media and touch the lives of thousands of followering Twitterers. This isn't just a curious incident, but rather the convergence of the ancient art of the imparting of wisdom and a communication vehicle perfectly suited for one another, and the right teacher to make it work.

A few questions for Tom:

1. Today, what are your Twitter numbers? How many are following you, and how many tweets have you done.

I started on Twitter with two followers. Thanks to you, it wasn't just one!  Now, having done nothing to gain followers except to try to do interesting tweets about life, I have over 5,600, and the number is growing each day. (And Tom is approaching 22,000 tweets as I write.)

2. How have you changed since you started Twittering?

I think using Twitter has made me a more focused thinker and a succinct communicator. I have come to value more than ever the ability to distill wisdom into a small nugget that can expand in the reader's mind as they mull it over. I can wake up in the morning and within a few minutes bring a little ancient wisdom or some modern insights into the lives of thousands of people, an opportunity I otherwise have had only by flying around the country and speaking in the larger meeting facilities and convention centers.

3. Has this impacted your business ventures? What are you doing now that you were not when you started?

Twitter has broadened my sense of business opportunity. For example, in connection with the new book, some accomplished Twitter friends started a Twisdom Store on Zazzle, with various of my tweets available on shoes, mugs, T Shirts, postage stamps, cards, and other items. This is something that literally might never have occurred to me.  

4. Where does this Twitter thing go? How can it grow to be more substantial in linking people together?

I think we'll be coming up with more and more ways to integrate Twitter and the Twitter community into larger communities and enterprises, for social good, personal growth, and business opportunities. I don't think anyone anticipated a year ago how big Twitter would become and how fast it would grow. Now, almost anything seems possible.

Twisdom is filled with "really good stuff." More importantly, it shows how a simple media tool like Twitter can be a vehicle for influence and impact. If you are not on Twitter, you should be, and even if it doesn't make sense to you, at least join up, and follow Tom.  It is the Twisdom way.

Here are three random samples to give you a further taste of this special book by Tom. 

Continue reading "Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom - by @TomVMorris - a Leading Questions review" »


Is Social Media a Fad? You decide

Watch this video closely. If you need to pause it to capture the message? Do so. Social media is a technology. The real change is with people.

Since the first human walked on the earth there have been clear limitations placed on human interaction. We may have been social beings, but limitations on movement and communication made it difficult for people to know more than a handful of people during their lifetimes.

Over the past two centuries this has been changing.

The first change was the steam engine which when applied to a train allowed human beings to travel faster than a horse.

Then came the radio, as my grandfather told me, openning up the world to people who had no conception of what life was life on the other side of the planet.

Along came the internet, and as the technology developed, social media. 

The technology of social media creates a context where people can connect. They share ideas and values. They collaborate and celebrate. They co-create and do things just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.

Social media is not just a way people connect. It will be how we organize in the future. There will always be some sort of hierarchical structure. But the inner workings will reflect more and more the interaction that we have through social media. We'll all be networking, working in groups where the "first-among-equals" takes the lead for as long as necessary.

We are a society in transition. Nothing anyone has experienced up to this point has prepared them for what we are now experiencing. We are at the point of the most dramatic change that human history has experienced since the days of the Roman Empire. The principal difference is that it is not led by powerful elites who control the means and therefore the substance of social media. Social media is the most egalitarian of all technologies, and the most individualized. Remarkably, it is in its infancy.

Interesting time to be living in, huh?

HT:Bill Kinnon & Jonathan Brink


The New Intelligence

  Hierarchy of Relationship2

If you stand on a hill, and look across a divide to the horizon, some times you see something of awe-inspiring beauty. This morning I awoke realizing that I've been seeing something that I can only call The New Intelligence. I'm not talking about smarts, but rather a collection of seemingly random ideas that reveal a pattern of insight.

What I see is represented by the following authors who have influenced my thinking. Each one is different. There are links to what they have written. But the connecting ideas are not obvious. You have to read them to begin to see what I see. And I encourage you to do so.

Daniel Pink - A Whole New Mind

Seth Godin - Tribes

Tom Morris - If Aristotle Ran General Motors

Matt May - In Pursuit of Elegance

Chip Heath & Dan Heath - Made to Stick

Dan Roam - The Back of the Napkin

Garr Reynolds - Presentation Zen

Bill Moggridge - Designing Interactions

Keith Ferrazzi - Who's Got Your Back

Hugh MacLeod - Ignore Everybody

J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter (All seven volumes)

What is it that I see?

First, the eclipse of two eras.

The era of Industrialization and its offspring, the era of Corporatization.

The second is the era of Information.

What, then, is emerging?

The Era of Connection.

That isn't a new idea, others have said much the same thing.

However, here is what I see as different. 

The era of connection is taking place in two ways and is why the eras of industry, corporations and information are being eclipsed.

Circle of Impact-Life&Work

My Circle of Impact diagram provides a visualization of what I see.

Connection is driven by creativity and design in the Ideas dimension.

Connection is driven by the desire to be free to explore, discover, create and connect with others in the dimension of Relationships.  

These connections are powered by the rise of social media that provides a new organizational context for creativity and social interaction.

The New Intelligencia are those who bring creativity into their relationships.

Yes, we could say, borrowing from Tom Morris' section on Beauty in his book, that today, our connection with people is a performance art.

I encourage you to read the above books and see if you see what I see. I also encourage you to answer this question.

If creativity in relationships is the mark of the Era of Connection, then what should we expect the impact to be?

What should we see rising from our social relationships as an art form?

Please think about this and share your thoughts here.

If you have questions that take this to another level, please ask them.

Let's get creative and see what we can create together.


Twitter needs to grow small

Twitter is a unique social media platform. With a character limit of 140, posts are short, simple platitudes at their most superficial and genuinely wise and connecting at their best. In an article in the Wall Street Journal - Twitter Trips on Its Rapid Growth - we read the following.

The biggest issues facing founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone are bringing on new staff to get ahead of its user growth while working out a business model. Twitter is free and the company doesn't sell advertising.

"Twitter has no current revenue stream to balance the costs," says Gartner Inc. research analyst Allen Weiner.

Twitter isn't Facebook, as I wrote about here. It is different because it provides a way of connection that doesn't require the management of a complex infrastructure. You just post and listen.

Here's what co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone have to say about their next steps.

Twitter will need more "business-type folks eventually," says Mr. Williams, but those are the "parts of the business that we haven't fleshed out yet."

Twitter's plans for the near future include a new homepage, says Mr. Stone. Today Twitter.com is geared toward showing people how to post a Tweet, he said, but in the future, Twitter wants it to highlight how the service can help people discover what is going on around them, says Mr. Stone.

"In the long-run, we need to make Twitter the product more relevant to more people," he says.

My own opinion on Twitter's future is that it is being smaller. Not smaller in posts size, but smaller in how it sees the value of its service. What most large corporate organizations struggle with is communication. Email and internal bulletin boards don't meet that need. They are either too formal or cumbersome to use.

Twitter on the other hand could be a platform that provides a way for large segments of a company to be in constant communication. In a sense it is like cross-training. If folks in accounting are twittering and those in sales are receiving their tweets, then a sense of the whole life of the company begins to unfurl in people's minds.

Twitter can sell a customized platform that provides security and builds a level of conversational community that is hard to produce in many organizations. They are selling a customized package that is focused on building community with security. This is one way Twitter addresses its need for a business plan that can provide a marketable benefit that produces a dependable revenue stream.  The key is in understanding the corporate community conversation context.

Update:  Here's Evan Williams and Biz Stone interviewed at the All Things Digital conference.


The Five Eras of the Social Web - Jeremiah Owyang

A simple Twitter post by Doug Lacombe at @techvibes expanded my perception of what social media is about. His post was about Forrester Research's Jeremiah Owyang just published report on the Five Eras of the Social Web.

Doug Lacombe wrote in his Techvibes

Kids these days - they don't even understand handwriting!

When a self described "young Gen Xer" like Jeremiah Owyang (of Forrester Research) tells an anecdote about a Gen Y teacher having trouble relating to her students, Boomers like me better take note.

"Like all kids, they hated homework," commented Owyang "but they loved blogging assignments. This teacher was amazed they couldn't understand her writing on the board - they're used to seeing computer fonts, not cursive. And when they couldn't answer a question, they'd respond 'IDK' - I don't know - like texting."

A half century ago, President Eisenhower said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." I believe we can now add, "Not all social media people are leaders, but all future leaders will be fully engaged in the social web."Social Web Ladder And this probably applies to teachers as well.

Forrester Research, through their Groundswell research and book, and the Five Eras of the Social Webb report by Jeremiah Owyang, provides valuable insight for understanding what is happening with social media. Here are diagrams that I find helpful.

The first is the Groundswell scale of social media involvement. Look at this ladder image and answer this question. Where will future leaders find themselves on this scale? Of course it depends on what being a leader will require in the future.

My answer? The future belongs to the Creators. They are leading through the use of their ideas, building network of relationships in the virtual world, and are becoming agents of change. Use this paradigm to understand leadership, the Creators are really the only ones who are going beyond simply showing up and contributing.Five Eras of Social Web - Owyang


Take this picture of the future and add to this Owyang's Five Eras of the Social Web perspective.

The Five Eras of the Social Web
1) Era of Social Relationships: People connect to others and share
2) Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating system

3) Era of Social Colonization: Every experience can now be social

4) Era of Social Context: Personalized and accurate content

5) Era of Social Commerce: Communities define future products and services

Read Jessica Tsai at DestinationCRM.com onOwyang's report.
"The community will take charge," Owyang tells CRM magazine in a one-on-one interview, "and that's going to happen whether or not marketers or brands participate." Social networking, he adds, will only continue to facilitate the power shift toward the consumer.

The shift that is taking place for leaders is huge. Gone is command and control. Now, every leader must truly respond to the marketplace. Smart leaders will take Owyang's report and the Groundswell material are recognition its value for creating the next generation of their organization. If you are not organized to be a community, then you are behind the curve, and it is time to catch up.