Saturday, June 7, 2014

We're all social craftsmen now: how eminence is more than just technical

Social, mobile and cloud technologies are having a dramatic impact in business. The combination is called many things, depending where you start the conversation: the social business, the sharing economy, or the API economy.

The effect has been discussed at length on how these technologies transform business, whether customer engagement, business models, even employee engagement. I myself wrote a little about these technology's effects on Marketing last year.

It's also having an effect on us as individual producers and leaders. I liken it to the "hollywoodization" of the fundamental work model. Not Hollywood as an entertainment marketing machine. But rather how companies will increasingly organize around virtual projects and teams. I think companies will focus on maybe 3 things: R&D, Sales, and Marketing / Strategy. Everything else will eventually move to a contractor model, where individuals are brought together for a specific project or opportunity (like a film), and once that opportunity is done, disband the group. In the world of entertainment, you ARE your portfolio. And more and more, no matter what work you do, you will be your portfolio.

But one outgrowth of that theory is the effect it will have on social work styles. Expertise isn't enough. It's also about being someone people want to spend time with (the "No A**holes Rule"). I think that means expertise must be married with a certain level of sociability: the increasingly deliberate choice to be both open and positive.

I use "open"  in the sense of sharing openly, including not just my point of view and successes (my portfolio of expertise), but failures and uncertainties as well (my authenticity as a story of my ongoing journey). I use "positive" in the sense of pragmatic change agent (sees reality but is still willing and eager to change things for the better), rather than cynic (a capitulation to a belief that the world is corrupt and unchangeable).

I use both open and positive together, because I believe there are a "1 PLUS 1 > 2" and a "1 or 1 < 2" effect:
  • people want to engage with other people who are happy. Sure, in the short term, sarcasm, irony and a negative take can be funny or cool. But in the long term, I posit that those conversations suck the life out of you because they ultimately lack the kind of creativity the opens the world up, rather than closes it in.
  • people also want to engage with other people who are open. They want to feel like they're being listened to, not just spoken to. "It's not about the nail" is a funny take on this. But I also suggest you try an experiment. The next time you meet someone, do only 2 things: Listen, and Ask Questions. You'll be amazed (or perhaps not) that that someone will walk away feeling good about themselves AND saying "jeez, he [she] was such as good conversationalist!". As Maya Angelou said, "...people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
  • put positive and open together, and people will go out of their way to be in your presence. Use one but not the other, and you're missing a golden opportunity. Use none and you might as well be at a restaurant, glumly telling the maitre-d': "saucer for one, please".
Your technical eminence has always been important. But I think in this world where companies are more and more virtual, two things happen: your social eminence increases in importance. AND your eminence overall is now outside the corporate firewall. Are you seen not just as "good at what he / she does", but "easy to work with" or "hard to work with"? "A joy to be around" or "a soul sucker"? And is that reputation known outside your company walls?

When we're all virtual employees, we get a lot more choice in what projects we'll take based on who we'll work with.

Don't believe me? Look at the continuing trend for more telecommuting, and tell me we have to find a better way to make ourselves visible. And think about those Hollywood stars that have a reputation as being "hard to work with". Eventually it catches up with them.

Do you believe social eminence will matter as much as technical eminence? Am I being too optimistic to think that "open" and "positive" will be the preferred way to work?

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