I started this post with a purpose. To offer up my thoughts on where I’m at with my thinking. It was stimulated by some great feedback on this blog last night. My dad and my sister, both regular readers gave me some great insights. First up, from Punkdaddy: “too much stuff. I can’t find your thoughts”. Yep, fair enough. Since redesigning I’ve been using the blog as a personal platform, a space to gather my various online footprints such as magnolia links (stuff I find), last.fm (what I’m listening to), flickr (images I’ve captured), twitter (observations and snippets of thinking aloud) and moonri.se (feelings expressed visually or with quotes). My sister said that she’d grapsed this and had passed on some of the links to friends who found them interesting and useful which is pleasing in itself. Sharing is part of the wide angle. What follows is synthesis of some of the experiences off the last eighteen months and some reflections on innovation, one of key roles at work. It also explains the thinking behind the Social Spaces Framework, a strategic service I’ve co-created with Antony Mayfield and others at iCrossing.
Finding focus with a blog comes naturally to some, whilst for me it’s part of a broader journey of self-awareness and exploration. Much like my work in general. That’s the current purpose of this blog. Underlying all of this, I believe there are many aspects to life and work that are changing. This is a major culture change. Being myself first and foremost is my personal goal. Sharing with others comes naturally, hence writing a blog and working in the online sector. Freeranging is a style of living and working that I’ve adopted as a loose descriptor for my approach and motivations, based on the experience of spending time with dozens of individuals, teams and clients across a range of sectors and disciplines. So that’s the focus, gathering what emerges from experience and allowing it to grow naturally. I’ve learned that the growth requires me to synthesis my gatherings, observations and reflections into constructive perspectives. Topics and themes are the best way to zoom in on this broad interest in life and work.
Particular topics of interest include styles of working and living that allow individuals and groups to be themselves and create new benefits from sharing and collaboration. At iCrossing I’ve established three guiding principles to drive the innovation agenda. The first principle is smart collaboration. This gives individuals and teams a guiding sense of how we can interact to fulfill our aims and achieve our goals. The assumption underlying it is that connections and relationships can generate growth. Through collaboration we can create meaning and value, and can drive business and personal learning and success, which is a holistic perspective on growth. It’s been a real pleasure of late seeing this played out in some fantastic group sessions where teams are forming, norming and increasingly storming the rules and behaviours that may no longer be applicable to the wider economic, cultural and social context that we find ourselves in. My observations lead me to further believe that this is encouraging individuals and groups to make new connections with the confidence to take risks.
That gives rise to the second principle, dynamic specialisation, one of many concepts I’ve found roots in the work John’s Hagel and Seely-Brown. This guiding principle when understood by a smart team of collaborators facilitates a rapid means of creating new services or propositions that can immediately create value and generate benefits for a range of people with reason to connect. Some of the most interesting and exciting experiences of the last eighteen months have emerged because of the relationships fostered with individuals and groups: iCrossing colleagues and new partners in wider networks of shared interests. We all share a curious interest in learning on a journey where the old power and order structures are changing. Changing to what, is what we’re all seeking to find out.
The third principle is that of engagement. This has become a major area of interest to many working in the wider area of communications, be that design, marketing and advertising or technology, particularly those seeking to understand or create online social spaces. What are social spaces? My definiton is
“Places where individuals and groups hang out, get things done, pass the time, share ideas and information and create and maintain relationships with other individuals and groups.”
Comments on a more succinct version welcomed 🙂
Organisations are just groups of people with norms, behaviours, identities etc. and many manifest aspects of their values, principles, behaviours in the brands they introduce. I see the broader culture change going on as one where the perspectives and behaviour of individuals and groups inside organisations (company or organisational culture) are keys to understanding how to share the appropriate dimensions of that culture to share in the real brand perception within social spaces such as online social networks. This has the knock-on effects in real-world relationships manifest in power relations between corporations and individuals. So brand and culture are two-sides of the same coin. An example: I collaborated initially with Headshift a couple of years back and worked on some really innovative programs with one of their clients BP. Both used social software tools to create engagement with individuals and groups. One was an internally focused knowledge-sharing and collaboration initiative to celebrate individual success and leverage the great work going on inside the organisation. The other was an experiment in harnessing the passion of a group that took pride in owning cars. Doing both at the same time was what gave me insight into how brands and company culture need to reinforce each other. The key to this – remove friction in marketing and communications by working with the emerging forces changing the relationships between individuals and organisations. Engagement is the key to this. Not as a wooly marketing term, but genuine engagement based on creating the conditions for relationships to thrive.
It’s engagement that’s really driving the Social Spaces framework, a strategic toolset that I’ve been developing with Antony Mayfield, Scott Lawson, Simon Mustoe, Ben Bose, Jason Ryan and many others in the team at iCrossing in the UK and US. The framework provides a suite of tools to frame the context and purpose, principles, processes and platforms that individuals and groups inside an organisation need to consider in order to engage with the people that use social spaces such as blogs, forums, social networks and emerging tools for various forms of one-to-one/one-to-many/many-to-many communications and relationships. It also provides the means to learn from and evaluate success, taking an implicit view that marketing is about learning through interactions with what we call Engagement Metrics. So in summary what we’re trying to do is help groups and individuals make sense of and engage in the social web. That’s a zoom on one specific aspect of my work.
This has all been great learning on a personal level as I’ve found a new way of harnessing my theoretical and practical interests in communication, social theory and psychology. I’ve also created a lot of new relationships which go beyond pure work matters, because the principle of openness suits many who find the social web a natural place to express themselves or create something new and valuable.