Thinking outside the box

We reach our creativity’s peak at the age of five. What is wrong with our ability to be creative afterwards? Do we become essentially passive minds, accustomed to working in one way? Do we still have the ability to see things in a different light?

In the era of social business, our leaders want ideation and more conversations. All this requires from colleagues to become more entrepreneurs and able to think outside the box.

The good news is that we can learn again how to boost our creative spirits and see the world with the eyes of a five-year-old child. As community manager of an internal social platform, I had to find ways to stimulate the collective mind in such a direction. I would not want people to just sit behind their computers and say “there is nothing for me here”. Here are some of the things you could do, if you had to lead a similar initiative:

  • Some have a natural tendency to be unconventional. They will always look for ways to invent new uses. Give them that power.
  • Some will be happy if they get from your platform an ability to gather around them. Support them. 
  • As the attention span can be short, always think about ways to diversify activities in the platform. 
  • Make your activity feed look like a symphony – break the rhythm.
  • As a basic rule, when rules are clear, people are more keen to contribute. So, remind these rules on a regular basis.
  • In any circumstance, play collective.

Why is the corporate world going “social”?

  • Why are organizations massively introducing modern social collaboration technologies?

According to professional research, collaboration traditional tools are not that effective: staff spend 50% of their time searching for information, and on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document (Gartner). For an organization with 1,000 people, addressing the related time wasters is tantamount to hiring 213 new employees (IDC and Adobe 2012). On top of these productivity issues, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged (Gallup, 2013).

For all these reasons, it does not make any more sense to invest only in them. Moreover, it is widely recognized that organizations need to adopt the modern social collaboration technologies, which have entered the market since 2000s. Using these tools has led to significant improvements in employee productivity, strategic alignment, talent management and job satisfaction in companies such as BNP Paribas, Orange, Proximus, Deloitte or Adidas, or in government administrations, such as the European Commission or the UK Government.
As the world gets more complex, the corporate sphere is going « social » to simplify processes and increase performance.

  • What are the latest trends and innovations in the field?

Office 365, Confluence Wikis, Google for Work, Slack, Facebook at work, Jive, Chatter, IBM Connections, Zimbra, BlueKiwi… are some of the internally hosted solutions and cloud-based softwares available on the market. These technologies evolve exponentially!

From my own experience, cloud-based softwares have less technical limitations than internally-hosted solutions and are often more cost-efficient and elastic. But to each virtue, its corresponding vice, they are also considered less secure.

Until now, there is not yet a single product that is the best-of-breed with all features that satisfy all needs. Employees will always request the latest technologies available on the market. This is why it is often better to go for an eco-system approach, where functionalities will be integrated as the new needs emerge. The aim of any organization should be to offer a “one stop shop portal”, a real digital workplace for both informal and formal contents.

  • How can we be best equipped to overcome the challenges related to this topic within our organization?

The adoption of a new social collaboration tool often implies a change in the way employees work.  In working environments where collaboration is limited and characterized by silos, successful cross-cutting collaboration requires a cultural change within the entire organization.

Staff will only use the new tools if they are guided towards them with a clear purpose and vision, as well as a clear understanding of the benefits and code of conduct. You will need to count on change agents, who will accompany small and large changes, in a positive way, facilitate conversations, and train employees at every level. In order to energize the collaboration, some supporting strategies and behaviors will be necessary. Obviously, a lot of efforts will be required during the transition period, but the return on investment can be high. 46 percent of workers say their productivity has greatly or somewhat increased because of social media use in the office (IPSOS, 2014).

This post was originally posted in IFE Learning Lab, Management and Innovation blog on 15 June 2015.

Fighting Digital Distraction

Staying focused on a single task is difficult these days. I usually have such a strong ability to focus on work. You could come to my office wearing a green wig I would not see it. My former colleagues used to make loads of different jokes about it. Still, it happens to me to suffer from digital distraction. I cannot imagine how others – with less capacity for focusing – cope with it.

I am more and more convinced that multitasking kills creativity. And so I think it is necessary to find ways to stop the digital distraction. Here are a few tips, which I hope will be useful to you:

  • I don’t use anymore pop-up messages for incoming emails
  • I never have more than 3 internet tabs open at the same time
  • Unless I really need to be connected to my e-mails, I check my e-mails only twice in the morning, twice again in the afternoon and once in the evening.
  • The first thing I do when I connect to work is to check out my emails and social media accounts or other collaborative platforms. Then, I will connect to my social media accounts again in the morning only if I have a little time to spare. For example on my way to a meeting with my mobile phone, in a waiting room, etc. It is not a distraction, it is a way to keep me busy while I’m waiting for something else.
  • I also use Hootsuite, which allows me to manage my accounts in a powerful way.

To me, new technologies bring a lot of great benefits to keep in touch and work in a more efficient way. But they can also be big time wasters. This is why I believe we need to show a little discipline in the way we use them. They will only be good if used in a proper way. What are your tactics to avoid digital distraction?

Public and global by default

A government has a lot to gain by being public by default. With intelligent use and good design of digital technologies available, it is finally possible. Any government can open the door to any contribution, in an efficient way for minimal costs.

The general public can change Europe. Or at least citizens can follow closely what is happening and get that essential sense of transparency. Experts can also contribute more and better. Digital technologies will simplify historical, rigid processes and will allow them to join conversations at every step from all parts of the globe. More and more, with the increasing use of digital technologies, things will be made easier. Initiatives with amazing impact are already observed in the domain of education and culture, health and digital Europe for instance.

Before the world was private by default. You had to add people to your communication. Now the world is public by default. This is the other way around, you need to remove people from your communication. This shift provides a great opportunity to connect citizens back to the institutions in a significant manner.

To contribute to a better Europe, you only need a computer with the right connection. There is no limit. What power and what influence we can have. This has never been more possible and more true.

The European Commission has recently tested EU open policy-making. This is a great new game which gives you the possibility to design future european policies. “Public by default” should continue to bring amazing opportunities. Are you ready to grab them?

About the art of networking

On average in France, women have 50 people in their networks and men have 72 people. A survey conducted by HEC Management School revealed these figures a few days ago. These are rather small numbers when you think that this activity is essential for the success of any career.

For 59% of executives, networking requires learning and technology. More than one in two believe that maintaining a network requires considerable efforts. And 73% of them do not think they have the time to build up a good network. From my own experience, the art of networking is far from being superficial, it is a quick to learn activity and the cost is low. But the relationships you will have created will be dear throughout your entire life.

These are basic principles of the Art of Networking:

  • Win-win philosophy, networking does not mean “selling”.
  • Good listening and questioning skills.
  • Clear communication, a good understanding of the people you want to meet, proper use of the media and language.
  • Straight profile, you need to be able to tell who you are and what you do in a few words.
  • Promises kept, which means being realistic about what you can offer.
  • Regular contacts, with a quick message from time to time.

Contrary to common beliefs, networking does not mean going out every night. You can include this activity in your daily lives in a simple manner. Digital tools, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Meet-ups for instance make it easy for you to develop your network. Just show a little creativity.

Any job is a combination of needs and solutions. Your network will play an instrumental role in getting things done in this complex world. Develop new bonds outside your traditional circles and you will be able to access ideas that may not be part of your natural groups’ thinking.

Positive in every circumstance

It may seem obvious but to lead change, a positive attitude is an absolute must. It is essential to believe in what you need to achieve and never let show any doubts. Others will test change agents all the time which I think is fair.

  • Always smile, show confidence and desire to do more. Always be available to others.
  • Listen more than you talk and learn how to question behaviours and routines in an efficient but gentle way.
  • Surround yourself with those who also believe that things can change. Grow an internal network of positive change agents. Don’t do everything alone.
  • Use positive language, and avoid phrases such as “if you do not change, you will not survive.”
  • Put great energy and effort into accompanying small changes, they will have as much impact as large ones.
  • Bypass people who do not seek to understand and who want to block at all costs.
  • Be a facilitator of change. Do not be in control, and start to learn a lot from others.

Accompanying a profound change is rewarding for oneself – if one applies to respect some basic rules above to get to the vision. I wish you a fruitful journey!

Winds of the old days

In the old days, internal communication services generated information, with little input from staff. Employees were rarely, if ever, motivated to contribute to more than their jobs.

In the old days, turnover was rare and thus, little knowledge management discipline needed. Some were deleting their email right after a long vacation. Some others were destroying all copies of their deliverables before they retire. And at that time, we could see the same mistakes again and again.

In the old days, it was expensive to test performance. Thus the good worker was one who was coming in early and staying late in office. We could see strange behaviors for this reason. Some employees were hiding themselves behind screens in their small offices. Whereas some others were running through corridors or meetings all their days to remain visible.

The winds of the old days blew away parts of our knowledge and engagement, but we will still find good things to say about our good old ways. And they are plenty of course!

We may also start to improve a terrible situation – only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged (Gallup, 2013). Digital makes it possible to foster improvements by providing each individual – not just some – an unlimited influence. And many things too expensive for any business are finally processed at low cost. Such as surveys, evaluation, knowledge management and idea generation.

Today, we hear talks about staff engagement, staff as ambassadors, right to fail, and transforming cultures, and it feels good.