Tuesday, 29 November 2016

It's time to liberate experience

Everybody's experience is valid. But all too often we are required to limit our experience to conform to the will of others.

Nowhere is this more true than in organisations. Every organisation has a shared system of beliefs and behaviours, which can be understood as its culture. Cultures emerge from the constant interaction of people with each other and their environment.

But the unpredictable, non-linear nature of these interactions is a primary reason why organisations find it so hard to change a culture. The principle of cause and effect that guided approaches to leadership in the industrial era is no longer suited to the complexity of the knowledge era.

Liberating experiences

So what can we do? Well, one powerful solution to this problem is to harness the power of experiences.

A key value of experiences is that they are neither right nor wrong, they just are. You may think you know what is happening in your organisation, but unless you are making a conscious effort to listen to the full range of customer and employee experiences your understanding will be limited.

The digital age has made it possible to liberate, access and search the constantly shifting landscape of experiences happening within and beyond an organisation. But we are only just beginning to see a corresponding shift in the willingness to use these experiences to guide decision-making.

Legitimation by experience

Every experience is legitimate. If you have an organisation of 1,000 employees, you have 1,000 pairs of ears and eyes that can help you build a picture of what is actually happening. If you widen the net to include customers' experiences, this number increases exponentially.

Using these experiences to guide the activity of employees makes an organisation significantly more responsive to its environment. But while digital tools have shown us 'how' to do this, many organisations are still struggling with the 'why'.

As we move further into the knowledge era, it is no longer effective to expect leaders and executives to have all the answers to complex problems. The answers lie in the crowd, in the employees and customers who make up the organisation and its ecosystem. Their real-world, real-time experiences are an invaluable resource of information that shows what is actually happening, and not what the 'organisation' thinks is happening.

Every organisation has an army of potentially willing helpers who want to share their experiences. Why wouldn't you want to liberate this power?


The QoE use the Perpetual Experience methodology to help businesses become more responsive, more innovative, more authentic, and more efficient. If you're interested in harnessing customer experience to transform your business, you might also like:
Thank you to Philippe Leroyer on Flickr for the use of his excellent photo.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The fulfilment potential of professional networking

Many of us, myself included, probably spend a bit too much time on social media. Why? Because it provides a way for us to find and consume relevant knowledge recommended by professionals in our network.

But there is a more important reason why engaging in professional networking is valuable to us: it increases our potential for fulfilment. How? Because it enables us to give the most valuable things we have: our time and our attention.

Motivational guru and life coach Tony Robbins believes that we can only achieve real fulfilment if we are
  • growing, and
  • giving beyond ourselves
Sharing information with your professional network can be viewed as a way to grow. Identifying and sharing relevant information requires us to empathise with the needs of those in our network, and think critically about the information they are likely to find useful. But if we go beyond sharing and take the time to comment on other people's ideas, we become more fulfilled as we our giving our time and our energy to formulate meaningful responses to their activity.

You don't have to do it, you can just read what they wrote. But taking the time to consider their idea and formulate a useful response is a way to give beyond ourselves, and empower that person further through dialogue.

Our lives are becoming increasingly distracted. A recent Microsoft report found that the average attention span is now 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. That's less than a goldfish. As we are able to consume more information on more platforms than ever before, our attention is rapidly becoming the most valuable commodity that we possess - and everybody wants a piece of it. If attention is the new currency of the internet, then the concept of 'paying attention' is increasingly likely to assume the financial value it implies.

Learning how to pay attention in a world of distraction is becoming a critical skill. Understanding the mechanisms through which social networking can lead to growth and fulfilment is vital if we are to prevent technology from determining both our future happiness and our productivity.

Humans are social creatures, and words are one of the primary tools we use to construct our reality. The Internet, and in particular social networking, provide us with a powerful means of growing and giving beyond ourselves, helping us to become more fulfilled in the process.

All it takes is a little time and attention.

How 'community' can drive digital transformation

Two problematic areas for today's organisations are employee engagement and digital transformation.

Although organisations want employees to share knowledge, care about their work, and embrace digital ways of working, they often try to impose these desires on top of the existing culture of work. And attempts to impose culture change from above will always be met with resistance.

The problem is that we have two sets of forces pushing against each other: an outdated, hierarchical view of work based on a 20th century industrial model of organisation, and a 'socialised' view of work stemming from a desire to harness the power of online communities and networks.

These two opposing approaches to organisation are fundamentally incompatible, and this is a key reason why many organisations are struggling with digital transformation. Digital provides an entirely new way to approach work, collaboration, and organisation, but if transformation is undertaken with a 20th century industrial mindset then it will not reap the full benefits that digital offers. This is not a new problem, as Cham (2014) notes by referencing the argument made by Marshal McLuhan back in the 1960s:

"If we try to understand digital transformation with an industrial mindset we are 'walking backwards into the future'"

In the hyperconnected 21st century, we should be designing organisations around community, not work. Millenials have grown up in a hyperconnected age, they instinctively participate in a wide variety of communities, and they expect the modern workplace to function in the same way as their connected personal existence. So it is no surprise that they often become quickly disengaged when confronted with bureaucratic, hierarchical organisations using outdated technologies that bear little resemblance to the community-oriented tools to which they are accustomed.

So how can we design work around community?

If you look at start-ups, community happens automatically. Everyone knows everyone else, and has a good idea what they are working on. There are never enough people to do the work that needs to be done, so everyone has to help each other out on a daily basis. There is a strong sense of shared purpose, and an urgency that binds the team together. Each employee has to make important decisions under pressure, giving them a strong sense of connection to the vision and purpose of the start-up. Autonomy and initiative are essential.

And most of all, people talk to each other all the time. There is almost no hierarchy to quash the inherent creativity of the team. All ideas regarding how to improve the business are welcomed, discussed, adapted and implemented.

The challenge for larger organistions and businesses is how to reimagine their operational model around principles of community. If we designed our organisations around community, not just around work, things could be very different.

"Putting community at the centre of the organisation fundamentally changes the motivation to do work"

Communities develop around a clear purpose, and this purpose is what drives people to engage with the community. Establishing a clear purpose for an organisation (beyond simply making money for shareholders) is therefore a valuable way of tackling the problem of a disengaged workforce. Designing an organisation as a community turns it into a place where people are emotionally engaged, share knowledge instinctively, and collaborate on shared projects with a strong sense of purpose. And in a knowledge economy, these three factors are fundamental to an effective, engaged, and digitally literate workforce.

Digital transformation represents an attempt to harness the innate human desire to share useful information and participate in purposeful communities. But any digital transformation strategy that focuses on platforms instead of people is almost certain to fail - successful transformation is dependent on understanding what motivates people to participate in communities.



2014  Cham, K.L. “"Virtually An Alternative ? The Medium, The Message and The User Experience; Collective Agency in Digital Spaces and Embodied Social Change", 5th LAEMOS Colloquium on Organization Studies Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?, Havana, Cuba http://laemos.com


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