For the past eight years I’ve been boots-on-the-ground either as a practitioner or in support of practitioners who were trying to bring about change within their organizations, often from a tech first perspective. They’d identified connection, collaboration, engagement and productivity efficiencies as the rationale for these efforts. Some talked to tech analysts, pundits, consultants. They’d read books and case studies. Some even got brave enough to talk to their employees and customers about what they needed and fought through the corporate mechanisms to try to answer a piece of that call.
We chanted encouragement in the background, patted each other on the back and commiserated when the behaviors didn’t change. How could they when we were simply talking about technology? Those bemoaning their 20 percent adoption rates chalked it up to a bad integration, feature set, project management or worse, let our cynicism take over and insist change will never come, that we are doomed to dysfunction -- or even worse, that it’s just tools. It really doesn’t matter if they use them or not, as long as the paycheck comes on time.
I keep going back to the same place: Until an organization can demonstrate authentic and consistent change in behavior, there is no way a change initiative will be successful -- technology driven or otherwise. It’s very chicken and egg, I get that. And time marches on. Organizations will hemorrhage budget and worse yet, people, in their efforts to be better though efficiencies.
But when you look to the reality of humanity -- our motivators, our capacity for truly facing tough issues -- taking brave and naked steps has been omitted from the required workplace skills. We bar through best practices, through highly focused and rarely understood measurement, through scientific efficiency boosters that miss the human element of loose and messy necessity. And the cycle continues. Binary thinking and dissociative behaviors are still lauded in business practice. We’re still taking diet pills and not really addressing why we’re overweight in the first place.
We can do better.
Parallels Between Enterprise and Entertainment Worlds
I relocated to San Francisco in 2011 to work with Moxie Software as their director of collaboration strategy, and in my second year here I became deeply ensconced in the arts community. It happened the way that many unexpected things happen in life: I had a friend who was bummed after a break up. I encouraged him to do things that gave him some joy before the relationship and ended up with him at a late night club watching the most insane live variety show I’d ever seen. I was amazed. I went back the next week, and the next. I had discovered a hyper local node of an international network of performers. I learned some profound things about relating and work through my relationship with this network.
These artists make up a deeply interconnected, interdependent network. All they do is work out loud, yet they face the same business issues we do: life and death decisions, money to worry about, the familiar hierarchies, leaders, mentors, winners and stragglers. They do a ton of this through social tools and even more face to face. I kept drawing the comparison to boardrooms and lunch rooms I’d spent so much of my career in.