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    The image on the right is an example of an Alexander Korzer-Robinson piece called a book sculpture; a kind of paper art that focuses on what he calls the “inner landscape". Big Servant Boy

    It is a kind of excavation, where he removes pages and pieces of the book until the only parts remaining are what he chooses. Indeed, what is left is something new—a book whose inner images are selectively revealed.

    Visually quite stunning, a physical manifestation of what we all 'know' but often have a hard time understanding and appreciating.  No matter what is being packaged and delivered in a complete form -  a book, a story, a system, or even an organization's collection of messages and stories.

    We know intuitively that no matter how much time we spend creating the perfect collection of information, technology, or narrative and painstakingly crafting the most complete and coherent story possible, that it is likely that it will be dissected, disassembled, and more often than not, reassembled and re-purposed in ways and for reasons that could not have been envisioned by the original creators.  

    The image on the right was created from a large encyclopedia volume.  Think of a typical, complex technology solution or a massive collection of organizational information like the encyclopedia volume.  Thousands upon thousands of pages, each one containing some relevant and to someone, important information, but in the whole too broad, too unwieldy, and too complex for any one individual's (or small group) needs. 

    Of course the encyclopedia has an index, it is an easy matter to simply look up the term or subject of interest, and find the precise information that is needed. Probably the same capability exists (or soon will), in the complex enterprise system or the organization's knowledge repository.  The process is straightforward, realize a need for some bit of data or information, seek it out, incorporate it into the current process, project, transaction, deliverable, etc. and move on. An easy process but often an inefficient one.  So we resort to the classic tricks to help us more easily locate the same information the next time - dog ear the pages, sticky notes, paper bookmarks.  And there are certainly digital equivalents as well, online bookmarks, shared favorites, user level personalizations to corporate systems.  These shortcuts are helpful, they help us get more efficient, but they are not transformative.

    A transformational capability would allow us to not only 'mark' the important parts of the system, or critical bits of information in the knowledge repository, it would allow us to reshape, re-constitute, re-assemble, and even re-imagine the information in a way that does more than simply organize but in a way that allows the opportunity to re-invent it into something more meaningful, relevant, and perhaps even artistic.  

    I think the next set of breakthroughs in enterprise technology won't be delivered by solutions that simply continue to tack on feature after feature, i.e. by adding more and more pages to the encyclopedia.  The real winners will be the ones that allow users to much more easily cut away the parts they don't need, discover the parts they do, and reveal for themselves and others something even more interesting and powerful inside.






    Weekly Wrap Up - May 10-16, 2010

    Still in keeping with the recurring theme of trying to break out of the echo chamber and making online content (like this blog) more easily accessible and consumable for those people that will never find their way here to read the blog (see the following crude pie chart below analyzing these populations).


    So as you can see from the chart, there is still plenty of 'blue ocean' out there. 

    I thought I would start posting each Sunday the summary of the week's posts in Tabbloid format. As you might recall from an earlier post, Tabbloid is a free service that lets you create a custom PDF format 'newspaper' from your selected blogs and other sites RSS feeds, and have that newspaper delivered via email on whatever schedule you choose.

    Here is this week's collection of posts, in handy PDF format - Steve's Blog : May 10-16, 2010.

    I hope making content accessible in this way is a help to someone out there, I will continue to post these collections on Sundays for the time being.  I hope that if you find them useful, or actually download the PDF and give/send it to someone that otherwise would have never seen these posts, you would take a second and let me know in the comments. 

    This is one way to try to break out of the echo chamber, but it is certainly not the only way, and if you have other and better thoughts on how to do this, I would love to hear them.

    Happy Sunday!



    Ok, I know what you are saying, enough about HRevolution already.  

    It seems like this event has been reviewed, analyzed, critiqued, and deconstructed about as much as the Zapruder film.

    For those of us on the organizing committee we are placed in the position of what, where, how, and when (and certainly if) this event, or similar events should continue.  As Jason Seiden observes, correctly I think, that there is an excitement and interest level in this event, that at times that seems disproportional to the the real size and influence of the event itself.  

    Maybe it is just the sound of my ears ringing from all the blog posts, tweets, and internet radio shows rattling around in the echo chamber.

    I wonder if we should take the event on the road, like in an old-fashioned barnstorming tour, hitting up five cities in a week to see if the message, format, vibe, energy, etc. that was HRevolution 2010 actually has meaning and relevance outside our bubble. Can I be Richard Pryor?

    I am actually (sort of) serious.  Load up a camper or a van, start in St. Cloud or Fargo or Omaha, pick an end point like St. Louis or Cincinnati, stop in a different city each day and conduct half day or full day, HRevolution 'participatory' mini-conference.  So instead of the typical local event for HR pros that can often focus on legal, compliance, and more 'practical' topics, we drop in with some of the HRev topics like influence, employer brand, technology, networking, or what ever is important to that community.

    Note: I am thinking we need to move from the 'Unconference' term if we ever do want to break out of the echo chamber.  If you don't believe me, check this poll of SmartBrief on Workforce readers.

    Taking the HRevolution out on the road might be the best way to try and directly reach some of the 95% of the working HR professionals that have no clue what all this fuss is about, get better connected to the real issues facing these practitioners, and perhaps ground those of us inside the echo chamber.

    Or it could be just an excuse to rent a camper or an RV and go on a little bit of a midwestern or southeastern roadie for a week this summer.  I have made many of the same arguments before with my family, just substituting 'attending minor league baseball games' with 'conducting HRevolution-style sessions with local HR professionals'. 

    So what do you think?  Anyone want to get on the bus this summer?  Anyone out there want to host and help us rally the local HR community where you live?

    Or is this more or less crazy?





    Before they walk in the door

    This morning I walked my 9 year old son to school, (and proved, despite his assertions, that the walk was not actually 'Uphill in both directions').  As we approached the main entrance of the school the school's Principal was outside, greeting students and parents, asking questions, checking on two students that were attempting to raise the American flag, and generally and actively presenting a positive message of enthusiasm, encouragement, and in a way, acting like an old friend.Patrick - too cool for school

    At one point, as he was chatting with a student and her Mom (I am making an assumption it was her Mom, go with me on this), his phone rang.  He glanced at it quickly, silenced the ringing, and continued to talk with the student and parent, while keeping one eye on the flagpole, one on the buses unloading, and the third one on the back of his head on people entering/exiting the doors.

    Yes, the kids are right, the principal really does have eyes in the back of his head.

    What was telling to me was how the principal was so out there, so up front, outside the school before the 'official' start of the day making sure that for as many students as possible their first interaction with school was going to be positive, welcoming, and in a way comforting.  

    It is the middle of May, these 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are mostly probably sick of school at this point, counting down the days to summer break, tired of the routine and the teacher, and maybe even their classmates.  A random Thursday in May can't seem to be all that exciting to them. 

    The principal knows this,  I am sure, and in this small way, by being the physical face of the school, by showing his engagement, attention, and genuine interest in the students and parents that he encountered outside the building he works to combat the natural disengagement of the average 10 year old.

    I am out here, I am interested in you, I want you to succeed, I will encourage you to achieve. 

    I am not sure if that message, delivered in less than 30 seconds by the principal, actually impacted my 9 year old this morning, but it made an impression on me. 

    I am sure in the time he spent outside with the student and parents, being a kind of cheerleader to some extent, the calls, emails, voice mails were piling up in his office.  I am sure he has to find time to read, reply, forward, comment on many hundreds of messages each day. 

    But for me, by taking a few minutes to connect with students before they walk in the door, seems much more valuable than anything he could of been doing tucked away in the dreaded 'Principal's Office'.

    This is an ineffective blog post, since I don't really have a 'call to action' I suppose, just an observation of a leader trying to inspire and encourage in an environment where the 'followers' can be really tough to motivate.

    Maybe my 9 year old was not inspired, but I was.  Hat's off to Principal Hall.






    What the pitch says about the technology

    You are the CEO, CFO, or CHRO of a medium to large size organization and receive this pitch to deploy some new technology from your CIO or Director of IT: Flickr- Marshall Astor

    We’re going to deploy some expensive technology that makes it extremely cumbersome for anyone to share information throughout the company. We anticipate that people will use it to enter transactions, run reports, process workflows, and complain to their colleagues about the new system, how they were not trained adequately, and how they long for the old system.

    We’ll recruit an initial set of users, drawn from both high and low places in the company, and including very few formal and informal leaders.

    We will create and issue detailed guidelines and policy statements, we’re not going to trust our employees and it will be easy to make mistakes, but hard to correct them. We’ll monitor usage, and if anyone misuses the technology we’ll eventually figure it out, and take corrective action.

    We’re going to run this pilot for a year or more, at the end of which we’ll report back to you with lessons learned and benefits received.

    Crazy right?  Would you as the decision maker buy-in to this project?  Wouldn't you be wondering just who in their right mind would bring you such hopeless pitch? 

    Expensive, highly inflexible, will take forever to deploy, and most of the users will hate it?  Sounds like the kind of project that will get you fired.

    How about if the pitch was changed just a bit - and you heard this coming from the mouth of the CIO?

    We’re going to deploy some cheap technology that makes it extremely easy for anyone to share information throughout the company. We anticipate that people will use it to post insights, point to good content, ask questions, and tell their colleagues what they’re working on, what they’re seeing, and what they’re learning.

    We’ll recruit an initial set of regular contributors, drawn from both high and low places in the company, and including both formal and informal leaders.

    Rather than coming up with and issuing detailed guidelines and policy statements, we’re instead going to trust our employees and make it easy to correct mistakes instead of hard to make them. We’ll monitor contributions, and if anyone misuses the technology we’ll learn about it quickly and take corrective action.

    We’re going to run this pilot for x months, at the end of which we’ll report back to you with lessons learned and benefits received.

    Last week on Andrew McAfee's blog, McAfee offered the preceding as a low-key 'Enterprise 2.0' technology sales pitch.  The pitch at the very start of this post is my (hopefully) creative modification of McAfee's pitch for a traditional, big enterprise technology.

    The key to the Enterprise 2.0 pitch, and to the underlying types of technology that are being pitched is simplicity, flexibility, and usefulness to BOTH the individual and to the organization.

    Big, classic enterprise software projects like ERP or Supply Chain Management are by definition expensive, time consuming, and incredibly inflexible. Drop $5M on a large ERP suite and you are living with it for a long time.  Heck, in big organizations just keeping the restrooms stocked with TP is a big, complicated undertaking.

    But the difference in the tone of the two fake pitches is, I think, telling.  People and organizations are desperate for more technologies that the Enterprise 2.0 pitch promises, while continually being drawn back into the familiar and painful clutches of Enterprise 1.0.