Communities of Inquiry in Pursuit of Change

I am currently in week two of a cMOOC called Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning.  And so far there has been some great discussions around the various topics of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Communities of Inquiry (CoI).  Helen Blunden continued to inspire our thinking through her blog post, cMOOC, Social Learning Guided Design or Community of Inquiry – All The Same?  The big question seems to be around defining how a Community of Inquiry would fit in with our other social learning networks and then into the business environment.  What is interesting is that the more I read from the various articles, and then Helen’s blog, I am now convinced that not only can I relate to what a CoI is, but that I have been involved with one in the past and preparing to lead one now.

First I want to provide the context that led me to this realization.  Through our reading, I coi-presentation-diagram.jpgfound a definition of a CoI as broadly defined as “any group of individuals involved in a process of empirical or conceptual inquiry into problematic situations.”  This was originally defined within the scientific community and “represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements – social, cognitive and teaching presence.”

Then Helen posed some great questions in her blog:

  • “How can Communities of Inquiry help solve business performance problems?”
  • “Who can act as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry?”
  • “Does Learning & Development have a role as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry or should this be better served by someone who is an external consultant or someone within the business?”
  • How is a CoI different to a cMOOC or a Guided Social Learning Experience exactly? They all look like one and the same thing.

So with all of these questions and the model for CoI defined, I believe I can apply how this can, and has, been used in business.

My first experience was in the creation of a leadership model.  A “community” of people who represented various parts of the business came together virtually and physically to collaborate and define the leadership model and expectations for leaders in the organization.  The process through which all this occurred encompassed all three components of the CoI model.  There was a core team with a program leader (teacher), there was a great deal of thinking and discussion from high performing leaders in this community on what this model should look like (cognitive presence), and there was definitely relationships created and time to learn from, and about, each other (social presence).  This community of leaders had a very specific performance problem they were focused on – leadership behaviors and expectations.  And while Learning & Development (me) played a key role on the core team, the “teacher” was not L&D, but an Organizational Effectiveness consultant from within the business, supporting the business.  This was a great experience that lasted several months, with great relationships forged, and a model defined for 21st Century Leadership.

Now fast forward to the present.  I am preparing to launch a Change Champion Network in my current position as an Organizational Change Management Manager.

There will be a teaching presence (me) to help education change champions on some of the key principles of managing change in addition to other learning opportunities.  There will definitely be a cognitive presence in that we will all learn from each other how various cultures approach change and what we can learn and build together in support of managing and leading change within our organization.  And I will help ensure there is a social presence as this community engages with each other across organizational, geographical, and cultural borders.  While the experience I bring is primarily L&D, I am not currently L&D.  I am within the business, not external.  I may be the primary teacher at first, but I believe we will all be teachers at some point throughout the course of this community as we learn from, and about, each other.

And finally, as I look at a CoI through this lens, I see it as different from a PLN, cMOOC, or other learning network.  The CoI has a purpose – help the organization lead and navigate change more effectively.  A structure – the framework comprised of roles & responsibilities, expectations, and guiding principles.  An education component – leveraging virtual collaboration tools, change management concepts and tools.  And a “teacher” – me.  But the purpose of the CoI is not solely focused on learning.  It’s about applying that learning to help facilitate organizational change.

So in essence, when I look at the purpose of the various social learning networks, I can see the difference in purposes and how they are leveraged.  In pursuit of learning or education.  In pursuit of connections or networks.  And in pursuit of personal and organization change.  Give all of this, and your social presence, what is your pursuit?

Passion – Life & Living

As we journey into a new year, now is the time to reignite your Passion, ground yourself in your Purpose, and nurture the Presence that is you, The Leader.
Thank you, Jeff Brunson for your words of wisdom!

Jeff Brunson

I often use the phrase life & living in my writing to leaders. In part I think this is so because I’ve come to see that life is an unconscious emptiness unless one is living consciously.

To live consciously—out loud—is to live with and for Impact.

“If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow. For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live. Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising.” —Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

While impact is technically an outcome—oftentimes expressed in virtuous terms—it is paradoxically also the beginning. And while I believe the flow is Passion to Purpose to Presence, the reality is, that once in rhythm, the flow becomes a stream where all of who you are is one.

This is Trueness moving in and for Impact.

The seed for any, and all, impact is passion…

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Take Action To Transform Toxic Leadership

Gold Fish

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~ John Quincy Adams

I recently read an article by Maya Orbach called, Watching out for toxic leadership in your organization.  After my initial thought of “Toxic leadership is an oxymoron because true Leaders are not toxic,” I was taken back to the first time I encountered the impact of a toxic “leader”.  Like the article, I went to a military experience.

I spent the 1990s – all ten years – in the U. S. Navy.  Beginning in bootcamp, the concept of following orders and attention to detail is drilled into new recruits for a reason – safety.  On a ship, or in any type of conflict or high danger situation, an individual’s attention to detail and ability to follow orders could mean the difference between life and death.  It’s usually taken for granted that the person giving those orders knows what s/he is doing because s/he has the knowledge, skills, and experience to be there – right?  Well, as we all know, these traits are not always accompanied by the ability to connect and communicate with people on a positive level.  What we often see are simply ineffective or bad leaders, not toxic.  Which brings me to my story.

My last position in the Navy was at the Service School Command, Great Lakes in the legal office as a legal investigator.  The responsibility of this office was to investigate and process any student for any infractions to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  I was known as the “Discipline Petty Officer”.  If anyone, student or staff, was investigated for doing something wrong, they eventually saw me.

One day, a student’s file crossed my desk after he had returned from being UA (Unauthorized Absence).  This file was about an inch thick, meaning this student had been in trouble quite a few times.  As I proceeded through the investigation phase of the process to determine the specifics, I asked the student WHY he had gone UA so many times.  I must have made an impression on him at some point because he shared his story.

While at SSC, his estranged father had reached out to him and was trying to reconnect.  When the student went to his supervisor, a Chief Petty Officer, to see if he could have, a few days to spend with his father, he was treated with disdain and disrespect.  The Chief’s response was something like, “Do you REALLY think your father wants to reconnect with YOU?!”

The student told me it took all his will not to reach across the desk and punch the Chief.

Now I knew this Chief by reputation from a previous Command.  Needless to say, his reputation was not very good.  And yet somehow, he had managed to get promoted.  But because this Chief was still at SSC, the student didn’t stick around very well.  He ended up going UA at least two more times while I was there.  The last time he stayed away for 31 days – grounds for discharge from the military.

When he returned, I made up my mind to try to help him.  I met with him weekly to “check in”.  I also went to our senior enlisted supervisor, the Command Master Chief, to see what could be done about the Chief’s behavior toward the student.  I was basically told that there was nothing to be done.  That said, I put my focus on helping the student weather the process long enough to be discharged so he could move on with his life.  And he did.

I’m sharing this story for a reason.  Even after more than 15 years, this is still a vivid memory for me because of the toxic nature and impact of the Chief’s behavior.  The blatant disrespect for another person was bad enough.  But lack of accountability from senior leadership for this behavior made the situation even worse.  This student may have been a fine Navy leader someday. However, he left the Navy because of a toxic leader who was allowed to continue on in a position of authority.

My point is that it isn’t enough to be able to identify toxic leaders.   Organizations need to take action.  Actions such as,

  • Enforce accountability and consequences for toxic behavior – Leaders need to be held accountable for fostering an environment where employees at all levels feel their potential is maximized. This means going beyond 360 assessments and employee surveys and doing something to help leaders change toxic behaviors, or remove him/her from the leadership position if necessary.
  • Take responsibility to develop the right leaders – Dr. Marla Gottschalk, in her article, How Not to Choose a Manager, shares some very good tips for helping to identify who is right for leadership, such as don’t “assume they want the job,” and don’t “believe it’s the only path to compensate top talent.”
  • Provide the development necessary for leadership success – Provide leaders with the tools they need to LEAD.  A leader’s “toolbox” should contain a variety of resources from multiple mediums:
    • Education-based: courses, books, lectures, seminars.
    • Experience-based: rotational programs, action learning, practice.
    • Relationship & feedback – based: mentoring, coaching, feedback.

I’ve seen the impact of toxic leadership in corporate life as well.  High attrition and low morale are the least of the impacts.  I’ve seen people suffer health issues and heard first-hand stories of breakdowns and heart attacks.  Some people who have had enough just simply walk out.  And I’ve also see the difference made when a toxic leader realized what he was doing and made a conscious effort to change.  Today he shares his story with young leaders and is an inspiration to these leaders as they embrace their potential for future leadership.  Not all toxic leaders are “born” that way.  Sometimes s/he is just a product of their “upbringing” and doesn’t know any other way to be.

But as I was recently told, change will happen.  It may take 10 years, but it will happen.  New leaders are being developed with a focus on leading the “whole person”, the body, head, heart, and soul.  As the late Stephen Covey said,

“Unleashing the potential of this age will require a fundamental break from the control paradigm.  It will require leaders to embrace … the whole-person paradigm.”[1]

These are the leaders of tomorrow who know how to connect with people at all levels.  True leaders who, in the best definition I’ve seen because of its simplicity, others CHOOSE to follow.

What is our part in this?   Be honest, let your voice be heard, and inspire the true leaders among us so they can continue to inspire others.  What else do you think you could do?

Images courtesy of Flickr.

5 Lessons from the Dragonfly for the New Year

Dragonfly and lavenderEarly last Spring, 2013, I remember shopping in a local department store and browsing through the home goods section.  As I was looking through the bath selections, I came across a bath set with a dragonfly design.  What caught my eye was the elegant simplicity of the pattern and the colors used – muted blues and greens.  As much as I liked the set, and knew it would work with the current colors in my bathroom, I did not purchase it.  Several times throughout the year I would return to the department store, sometimes for specific reasons, sometimes just to “shop”.  I would often find myself drawn to the same bath set with the elegant dragonfly pattern.   I continued to pass on making the purchase, until this past Fall.  I was finally ready to bring the dragonfly home and I did just that.

I share this story because the dragonfly has been something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately.  And as I began to reflect on my journey and experiences through 2013, the dragonfly made it’s presence known to my mind again.  I’ve known for a long time that they have a strong symbolic meaning in many cultures.  So I did some research to find out what the symbolism behind the dragonfly was.  As I was reading through various sites, it became obvious that the dragonfly symbolism was very relevant to my personal journey over the past year.  In many cultures, the dragonfly is a symbol for change.  This isn’t so much about doing as it is about being.  It’s about the change that comes from a deeper understanding of yourself, a greater sense of self-awareness.  It’s change as a result of a deeper mental and emotional maturity.  My journey through 2013 was a time of a lot of change: personally, professionally, mentally, and emotionally.  For much of the year, it seems the dragonfly was trying to make its presence felt.  So as we step into a new year, I wanted to share five lessons from the dragonfly as a way to acknowledge the year behind us and embrace the year ahead of us and the potential this New Year brings.

Lesson1: Take time to reflect and embrace what you see. 

A dragonfly, depending on the specific species, can live as little as 3 months or as long as 10 years.  During its lifetime a dragonfly lives most of its life as a nymph, living in the water Dragonfly on waterand not yet flying.  This can be the more common 1-2 years, but as long as 6 years.  Once the dragonfly emerges from the water as an adult, it can immediately fly.  The metamorphosis the dragonfly goes through, and it’s short time as an adult skimming lightly across the water, can be seen as looking beyond what is on the surface and at the deeper aspects of life.  As we start a new year, it’s a great time to take a deeper look inside and clearly identify a few key items that make up who we are.  This could be identifying our most important values, our strengths, our personal purpose.  Then, as we take a deeper look inside, we can begin to identify our priorities for the year.  This will help us to be better prepared mentally and emotionally to embrace a change when the time is right.

Lesson 2: Dance with strength and agility.

The dragonfly has the ability to move in all six directions: up/down, forward/backward, side to side.  It can also fly up to 45 miles an hour or just hover for a short time.  And all of this is done with a grace and strength that defies the simplicity of effort used.  While some insects move their wings up to 1000 times a minute, the dragonfly’s wings beat only 30 Red Dragonflytimes a minute.  Through the power exerted, and the agility of movement, the dragonfly is able to “dance” through life rather than fight.  So as we look to create life balance for ourselves, we can identify ways to renew and replenish our energies: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  This renewal will help us build our own strength and agility so we can engage in the dance rather than the fight.

Lesson 3: Eliminate self-created illusions.

The iridescence of the dragonfly’s wings and body will appear as different colors depending of the angle and polarization of the light touching it.  This property of the Dragonfly Iridescencedragonfly is seen as an end of self-created illusions and a beginning of self-realization and a clear vision of the future.  The magic of the iridescence also symbolizes a discovery of one’s own strengths and abilities, helping to reveal the true self.  We all have our stories that we tell ourselves.  These stories can reinforce a negative cycle of doubt and worry, or even delusion.  Or these stories can support a positive move forward toward our goals, our purpose.  The key is to cast aside any stories that hold us back and strengthen those that reveal our true selves.  Knowing who we REALLY are, will help us to set appropriate and achievable goals for this year, and beyond.

Lesson 4: Focus on living IN the moment.

The dragonfly is the epitome of living IN the moment.  With only a short time as an adult and able to fly, the dragonfly lives a full life and leaves nothing to be desired.  Living in theDragonfly Emerges moment is something we humans find very difficult to do.  We are almost always worrying about the past and how we could have done something differently, or concerned about the future and if we are going to do something just right.  Living like this has a way of transforming human beings into human doings. By slowing down and living IN the moment, we are more aware of where we are, who we are with, what we are doing, and most importantly, WHO we are.  With this internal and external clarity of our present, we can make more informed decisions about our future.  This in turn allows us to live our lives without regret.

Lesson 5: Keep your eyes, and your mind, open.

One of the key traits of the dragonfly are the eyes.  Over 80% of a dragonfly’s brain is used for vision.  And with the compound, spherical vision, a dragonfly can see in all directions at Dragonfly Eyesthe same time.   What this symbolizes is the ability to see beyond what we may be currently experiencing, the limitations and the barriers, and to leverage enhanced vision to see a much bigger, more complete, picture.  Another aspect of living as a human doing is getting caught up in tunnel vision.  As we set goals for our personal and work lives, and as we diligently work to achieve those goals, we often lose sight of a bigger picture.  Take time to stop and look around, in all directions.  Reflect on the past, BE in the present, and look forward to the future.

As one of the oldest living species, maybe THE oldest, going back over 300 million years, there is much we could learn from the dragonfly.  So as I look out my window to the white of a mid-west winter, and as I look a my new bathroom set, I can’t help but look forward to warmer days, by the water, looking for a chance meeting with a colorful dragonfly.  And I can’t help but connect this to the many changes of 2013 and the future journey of 2014.  May your 2014 be full of elegance, strength, insight, and color!

Happy New Year!

All images courtesy of Flickr

References:
1 http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html
2 http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2009/07/08/30000-facets-give-dragonflies/
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/arthropoda/uniramia/odonatoida.html

 

Riding the Waves of Continuous Improvement

Hamster on a Wave

True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.” ~ Tom Robbins, American Novelist

Having recently completed the five week course, or MOOC, on Exploring Personal Learning Networks, I found my way to the follow-up community, Learning and Change, hosted by Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott.  Already the conversation has inspired my thinking!  This week my thoughts are inspired by a post from community member Vahid Masrour.  In his post in Designing for Change, Vahid poses the questions such as:  How do we deal with the ever-evolving-organization challenge?  How can we shift to being fluid and flexible while still being manageable?  How can we cultivate innovation when our organizations are grounded in stability and predictability through processes?

And how does learning and development fit into all of this?

The connection I made as I thought about this is that much of our corporate structures and environments actually “mirrors” our education structures and environments.  Granted, both education and corporations have become more creative and innovative in the past few years.  And I’m sure we all have had that one teacher, professor, manager, or colleague who was creative and inspiring.  I know I did!  And organizations are starting to see more and more value in encouraging creativity and innovation.  But look at what our K-12 education foundation is built on – structure and process.

I’m often reminded, as a visual, of the video for Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall where students go into the “machine” as individuals and come out as duplicates, or copies, of what the system is cranking out.  Or even Supertramp’s The Logical Song.  (If you can’t tell, I like my British rock music.)  We enter the “system” coloring our trees orange, the sky purple, and the grass blue.  Then we are taught to “color inside the lines” and use the “correct colors”.  We need to be what “society” wants us to be.  We are conditioned to “think inside the box”.  So we carry this mindset with us into the workforce, where we are told to, “Think outside the box!  Be innovative!  Be creative!”  After 12-20+ years of conditioning, easier said than done.

That’s why I’m thankful for the people who managed to keep their creativity, their curiosity throughout school and into the work environment.  They have the mindset we need to push the limits and make the changes that are needed.  They have what we need in our environments to invigorate us and keep us moving forward.  And I’m thankful that I have friends and colleagues in my network with this mindset!

So going back to the question of how can we deal with the ever-changing-organization, I go a keynote speaker at the 2013 Southeast Wisconsin Learning Leaders Conference I attended earlier this year hosted at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI.  Matt Levatich, COO for H-D, spoke about the four strategic pillars for the Harley Davidson company: Growth, Leadership Development, Continuous Improvement, and Sustainability.  What Matt had to say about Continuous Improvement is what inspired me the most.  What H-D has built into their culture is the mindset of continuous improvement – not managing change.

Change has a beginning and an end.  Change is about process.  And processes need to change to keep up with new discoveries and ideas in science, health, technology, and more.  When we are faced with change after change after change, many of us can get tired, frustrated, disengaged.  Also known as Change Fatigue.  But with a mindset of continuous improvement, we see the potential and possibility.  We see opportunity for making something better, for ourselves and for others.  And who doesn’t want things to be better?!  The perspective on change has…changed!

But how do we do this?  How do we shift the mindset of hundreds, even thousands, of people to look at never-ending change as continuous improvement rather than the latest change project?  And how can learning and development play a part?  There are many ways we can go about this.  But I’ll share three:

  1. Start with the Self – We shift our own mindset first.  And when we do, those around us will pick up on this.  This can be something as simple as building in affirmation rituals, reading books and articles, attending seminars, or talking with others with this mindset.
  2. Play – Play with our kids, play games, play with toys!  As L&D designers and facilitators, we can build play into classes and facilitated sessions.  I’ve used Tinker Toys many times to encourage play and demonstrate a point.
  3. Renew & Reflect – Take intentional down time.  Disconnect. Do something that reenergizes you and gives you a chance to reflect.  Reflect on what you do, see, or hear about.  Reflect on potential and possibility.

If we can just try these three things as a start, then, maybe slowly at first, the mindset may spread.  So rather than trying to boil the ocean, we toss in the pebble and let the ripples take effect.  And we can do this through learning and development.  Opening ourselves up to learning new information, new ideas, new technologies (even social technologies).  And then we help others learn, maybe casually, through our networks.  Or even formally through the sessions we design and/or facilitate.  Or somewhere in between.

I don’t have all the answers.  But I do know that much of my current mindset is a result of opening myself up to learning from the various, diverse people in my network.  Most of these people I consider true friends.  As one of those true friends just reminded me, we are constantly learning from each other.  And in times of seeming instability, even complete upheaval, our strengths in our learning and our relationships, will help us to keep our balance and embrace the changes – um, improvements – ahead.

This is just a start.  But I am reminded of a perspective I shared a couple of years ago as our organization was going through some major changes.  Stability isn’t about digging in your heals and holding your ground.  Stability is about being able to keep your balance, even picking yourself back up, as the ground beneath your shifts.  This way we can be fluid and flexible, get off the hamster wheel, and ride the waves of continuous improvement.

What are your thoughts?  What is your mindset?

Image courtesy of Flickr

From Public to Private – What is your PLN?

Social-media-and-leadership

Earlier this week, as my daughters were getting ready for bed, as usual, the evening did not go smoothly.  The following occurred,

“Mom!  She’s reading my diary!”

“It was just laying on her bed!”

“It’s mine!  It’s private!”

Just listening to this exchange about something totally unconnected, and considering that as we wrapped up the course, Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#xplrpln), we were asked to crystalize our thinking, I did just that.

There is no doubt that PLNs are “personal”. There was a great amount of discussion within the course in our community trying to define what PLNs were.  How were they characterized?  And how do they fit within an organization?  Many participants in this course felt that there was no place in an organization for Personal Learning Networks because they were … well … personal.  But does this mean that an individual’s PLN should be private – like a diary?  Is a PLN something that is owned, possessed?  Is a PLN more along the lines of being public?  Or is it somewhere in between?

Obviously that really depends on the individual.  But for me, I consider my PLN closer to the public side of the continuum.  There were a few realizations I came to as I progressed through this course and had the wonderful opportunity to get to know some very interesting people from around the world.  As a part of the course, we were asked to create an artifact that addressed this problem,

Your CEO (or equivalent organizational leader) just heard about PLNs at a cocktail party and is excited about gaining a competitive advantage (or improving impact on mission) by leveraging PLNs for the organization’s success. But, she/he knows little about PLNs or what to do with them to support organizational success and strategy. Is the organization set up to benefit from and support PLNs, so it is more than just an individual thing? She/he is going away on vacation for one week, and upon return wants you to explain what PLNs are and to provide guidance for what to do. You have a one-hour meeting to facilitate a conversation.

Through the course of conversation, and seeing what artifacts were being posted, I realized that my PLN is a core part of who I am as a professional and as an individual.  When I have the opportunity to leverage my network to help others, either by finding an answer, pointing toward information, or connecting two individuals within my network with each other, I feel I’ve accomplished something of value.  I’ve contributed to a larger purpose.  And this makes me feel good!

What I found interesting is that while the course was focused on discussing how participants defined a learning network, and the sources that were shared to support the discussion, perspectives were for the most part very positive.  But when we turned our focus to the problem we were asked to work on, much of the conversation was tinted with suspicion.  Suspicion for the motives of the “CEO”.  Suspicion about the potential for exploiting an individual’s PLN.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not saying that this perspective is bad or wrong.  There was a lot of healthy, idealogical conflict (as Patrick Lencioni would say) in our discussions because of the differing perspectives.  And without this, I may not have crystalized my own thinking as I did.

According to Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, the opposite of trust is often displayed as suspicion rather than a complete absence of trust.  And a lack of trust is often a result of fear.  So this line of thought, and additional discussion, led me to wonder what was the fear about?  Judgement?  Exploitation?  The potential for being inaccurate?  Some past experience?  Or just a lack of understanding?

Through this whole experience I recognize, acknowledge, and accept that each person has their own perspective of whether their PLN is closer to private or closer to public.  And even though I consider myself a life-long learner, and thrive when learning from, engaging with, and building my network, my learning has never really been just about me.  It’s about who I can help with what I learn and who I learn it from.  It’s about the potential I see in others and doing whatever I can to help encourage their success – their possibility.  The reason I learn is to help others learn in return.  That is who I am.  And this is why the final artifact for the course that I submitted with the help of a few course “team members”, PLN Artifact: CEO of a Global Company, was advocating for the support of Personal Learning Networks in the organization.

So I ask, “Who are you?  Where on the continuum do you place your PLN?”  

I would really like to know!

Image courtesy of Flickr

Personal Learning Networks: The power of WHY

Start with Why

Why.  It’s such a simple word.  But often overlooked while we place our focus on the “What” and the “How”.  So as we enter week three in Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#xplrpln), “Why?” is where I find myself going.

“Why does the CEO in our problem want to leverage PLNs?”

“Why does he/she think PLNs will help with company success?”

“Why do we think we need to place a structure on PLNs?”

“Why are some organizations successful with internal PLNs?”

“Why do other organizations fail?”

These are just a few of the questions that come to mind for me.  And then of course, they generate even more questions.  According to Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why” and TedX presenter in 2009 with “How great leaders inspire action,” I’m starting with the right question.

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek – Author “Start With Why”

Every organization knows “What” they do.  Some even know “How” they do it.  But very few organizations really know “Why”?  The same could be said for implementing PLNs.  While the decision-makers are asking,

“What are we implementing?”

“What is the structure?”

“What tools need to be in place?”

“How will we do this?”

“How will we make people live in to this?”

The employees, the receivers of the latest change, are asking,

“Why should I care?” (WSIC)

“What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)

So now my question is, “Why don’t we answer these questions first?”

In our reading Intranet strategy: Understanding the impacts of networks, power and politics, I think Gordon Ross nails it with identifying power and politics as the major barriers. He talks about how their workshop had “…intended to surface the question of “WHY?” a social intranet.”  With some of the things identified as organizational effectiveness, recognition, innovation, even trust.  These are the potential results of implementing a social intranet.  While some of the barriers to achieving these things are “people don’t know what’s permissible” or “knowledge is power.”

Again, why are these barriers?  The interesting thing is that this article could have been describing any number of organizations of which I am familiar.  And the answer to this question is usually the one that Gordan Ross identified – “us” – meaning the managers in the “room.”

Then as I read Tapping Into Social Media Smarts, I clearly saw an absence of even considering the question “Why?”  The author states as part of the title, “Employees share information in their personal lives. Companies can use those skills to improve workplace collaboration.”  Rather than jumping to the skills (the What), I would ask why employees are more comfortable sharing information in their personal lives and not in an organization.  Why are behaviors different?  Yes, I have the skills to leverage internal social technology.  But why should I?  What would the benefit be for me?  Recognition?  Job security?  Promotion?  All are external motivators that rarely have “sticking” power.  Meaning, they don’t motivate many for long and are rarely applied consistently.

When we start with “Why”, we tap in to personal purpose – our reason for being – for existing.  And if what we are doing aligns with and supports our purpose, our motivation comes from within each of us.  And there is our motivation to make it work.   Which leads me to Helen Crump’s blog posting, “Personal learning networks: the value proposition, work as service and a general foray into unknown territory.”  Helen shared a link to another blog that was quite interesting for me, WORK AS A SERVICE – IS THERE A PEOPLE CLOUD?  In this post, Terri Griffith talks about Work as a Service (WaaS).  I love the idea of this!  From personal experience I can say that when I had the opportunity to work on something, even for another organization or company that aligned with my passion, my purpose, and allowed me to meet like-minded people, I was even more engaged in the work.  I then found it easier to continue with work that I might not have been as interested in.  Or I found a way to leverage what I had learned in support of my other work.  However, it always seemed that politics would get in the way.  And my motivation would diminish.

Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  Tapping on the science of the brain, he poses that when we communicate from the “inside out” of the Golden Circle, we speak directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior – the Why.  Imagine what we could accomplish to advance change if we just took the time to really understand “Why”, to tap into the values that people believe in.

We could fuel a revolution for democracy- Spring Awakening: How an Egyptian Revolution Began on Facebook.

We could contribute to world knowledge: A Brief History of Wikipedia.

And we could help provide disaster relief: The Impact of Social Media on Medicine: Expanding the Scope of Treatment

Bottom line, if we take the time to understand why people will or will not embrace a change, why people willingly share knowledge and information in forums such as Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, but hesitate, even avoid, social options in organizations, then we might be able to make the appropriate recommendation to our “CEO” for, or against, personal learning networks in our organization.

And when we make our recommendation, we could start with “Why.”

Image courtesy of Flickr.