Divided We #FAIL

With all my dedicated passion for the social web and its inspirational, world-changing promise, people often wonder why I’ve chosen to focus on the enterprise.  My answer is: because it’s hard and #ifnotyouthenwho?  One of the last bastions of resistance to embrace the tenets of 2.0 philosophy is found in the large corporate culture.  It also happens to be an area where I feel I can do the most good and leverage my career relationships to inspire individuals to start thinking and acting a different (read: better) way.

That said, the “2.0 for the enterprise” community is small.  It is a mere fraction of the worldwide tech population.  Consider the Enterprise 2.0 Conference brings out maybe 1500 people.  Compare that to, say a tech conference like Oracle OpenWorld, which will draw over 40K people to San Francisco alone next week.  Even if you layer on the explosion taking place with social media, social CRM, and online communities, it’s still a relatively new phenomenon even here in the USA where professionals are still just now signing up for LinkedIn and Facebook.  The #newTwitter will arrive as the only Twitter for the millions of people who have not been Twitter enthusiasts from the beginning. There will come a time when social media will be like air, but that is still a time in the future.

Considering where we are in the evolution of making a difference, today’s mission should focus squarely on inspiration, not perspiration.  It’s that 1% of spark of genius that will ignite a revolution in our time.  Last week, I tracked  JiveWorld 2010 via Twitter (#JW10).  I so now regret not going.  My hat is off to Jive for inspiring its customers to go beyond, to literally encourage and support them in their mission to change the world of work.  So many of our members who are Jive customers are having career-changing, life-changing experiences as a result of this newfound freedom and empowerment.   Take Council member Bart Schutte, for instance, who blogged passionately,

“As someone who has been in the IT industry for 28 years… together we have the opportunity to define this new revolution…I can’t remember being more pumped up about my work.  Nothing that I have done over the last three decades will have as big an impact as what I am doing now.”

And it’s not only Jive customers who feel this excitement.  Whether our members are working with SharePoint, Lotus Connections, ThoughtFarmer, or the so-called Frankenstein suites that have been integrated to meet the needs of the large enterprise, customers who are in the driver’s seat of this transformation all share a similar desire to create change.  My hope is all vendors will inspire their customers to get as charged up as Jive’s customers are.  In a small market, it’s easy to get drawn into religious wars over platforms and persuasions, but petty in-fighting is counter-productive to the larger task at hand.  That task is expanding the small pie sliver that now comprises the social business movement, so real change can occur on a grand scale.

Passion is no ordinary word.

To the uninspired that are not feelin’ the passion, I feel compelled to address the principle argument against embracing working socially: what’s the ROI?   Management theorists have posited that employee engagement leads to business outcomes for years.  There are books, lectures, MBA courses that even pre-date the 2.0 enterprise movement that validate this premise.  I am not worried there are no formulaic guarantees on social business successes yet. “If you do x, you’ll get y.”  Personally, I wish we could change ROI to become Return on Inspiration.  The fact remains, large companies who are experimenting and rolling out these massive deployments are still in the early stages.  I’m certain the proof positive is coming, but ask yourself: are we measuring the right indicators?  Are we (only) looking for evidence under the spotlight of things we know?

Which brings us to the job of the Internal Evangelist.  We call them evangelists because they are preaching a foreign gospel in their large organizations.  I’ve done this, it’s tough.  It’s a thankless and oftentimes painful job.  We are researching salaries for internal evangelists in the Council at present.  Although I’ve been pleased to see we have fairly high level managers responsible for driving this change, it occurred to me that our members should receive “combat pay” bonuses as part of their compensation package.  The career risks our members take every day on the front lines of change, should be rewarded in every way possible.  The members come to the Council for refuge, to get support when they are faced with skepticism and setbacks.  Yet, we rejoice a lot more than we complain.  In fact, we have a running tag in the Council: #clang.  We ring a bell for every victory.  This tag is by far one of our most popular tags.

Don’t hate the playa; hate the game.

So to all those who wish to derail the conversation away from what is needed right now– passion– I offer this video interview with Seth Godin and dedicate it to the hard-working folks who are doing this every day.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here are some nuggets:

“The heart of what’s going on here; the heart of the shift in our economy is this at the core.  You don’t have to be [famous] to do this.”

“It’s not about permission; it’s about the passion and the decision to make an impact.”

“…highlighting and talking about the good stuff and giving those people a platform to succeed.”

“If you’re going to have an impact, you’re going to have to find out where the fear is.  What tricks do you have available to you to overturn that resistance to change?”

“Happiness’ best friend is kindness.”

“Passion’s best friend is generosity.”

“Give people the emotional gift of connection and meeting them in ways that matter.”

For Ada Lovelace Day: The other Esther Dyson

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewtopia/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s hard to not think of Esther Dyson on a day that recognizes women in Science and Technology.  I’m not the first to write about her for Ada Lovelace day, but I hope to reveal a side of Esther that will serve to inspire women everywhere.

I first met Esther in 1989, I believe.  I was working for CMP (Now TechWeb/UBM) on Long Island, and my boss asked me if I wanted to join him at a lunch date with her.  “Absolutely!” I said.  There was no equivalent back then to Esther (and probably hasn’t been since.)  She was a bona fide tech icon.  Even then.  Without Twitter and Facebook, even.

What I found most curious about our lunch was, in addition to sharing morsels of wisdom, she took the time to speak to me personally, in earnest.  She told me to check out a few women in technology organizations and offered to introduce me to some contacts that shared some of my interests.  I never forgot that meeting.  (I’m sure she did.)  What was memorable was her kindness and instinctive generosity, in addition to her intelligence and confidence.

Over the years, I kept in touch with Esther mostly as a reporter/researcher.  She never hesitated to return an email or give me a quote.

In 1998, when I decided to launch a business, I reached out to Esther to become what I cleverly described as an “e-Advisor.”  Essentially, my pitch was that I would only contact her if it was absolutely necessary, and all she’d have to do is return an email with her thoughts.  I still have the original email I sent her.  It’s a little over-the-top, but to her credit, she not only agreed to be an “e-Advisor,” she agreed to meet me in her office in New York to review my business plan.

Long story shorter, over the years, Esther has always (always) been there when I’ve reached out.  I most of the time can’t believe it.  Her advice has saved me from some pretty dumb amateur mistakes, and her insight has opened my eyes to considerations I never would have recognized on my own.  I once sent her a Van Morrison CD because I felt I needed to do something to thank her for all her support and help.  It wasn’t much, but I couldn’t really think of anything she could possibly need, so I sent her something I liked.

The lesson in this story for women everywhere– and all professionals young and old– you’re never too famous or too special to show a kindness to a stranger.  Share what you’ve learned over the years with someone who’s still learning.  Just this week, Esther has been helping me sort out a business opportunity.  Once again, I begged her to let me do something for her.  To this she responded:

For this reason, in addition to being a brilliant technology and science icon (who happens to be a woman), I celebrate Esther for being just a really great human being.  May we all (attempt to) emulate her.