February, 2008 | Published by Anecdote - Putting Stories to Work.
Wow, is it time for another edition of the Anecdote newsletter already?
It seems only moments ago that you were breaking for holidays. But the festive season is well and truly behind you and you're looking forward to starting new projects with the entusiasm of the new year. We hope we can help by stimulating your thoughts and giving you some fresh ideas.
In this edition, we have:
Book Review -- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Breaking News -- Lots of ways to learn about Communities of Practice
We hope that you enjoy reading. Feel free to pass this email on to your colleagues and friends if you think that they would enjoy it too.
Please contact us with your comments, suggestion and ideas.
Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
— by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
'Influencer: The Power to Change Anything' is the latest work from the Crucial Conversations team of Kerry Patterson, Jospeh Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. They use real-world stories of expert influencers, often facing society's most difficult problems, to illustrate a collection of influencing strategies designed to make change irresistible.
Challenges and problems to be solved are common events in our personal and professional lives. They may vary in their degree of difficulty or the emotional investment we may have in them but the authors of this book argue that influence is the key to their resolution. You can learn and apply these strategies to get the change you want. Despite the usual claims as to effective personal change made on the cover the main focus throughout this book is much more on organisational change than personal.
Supported by current research in social science, the authors propose six sources of influence that can be brought to bear on a challenge and bring about enduring change.
Reluctance and resistance can be addressed by connecting to values in order to make the undesirable desirable. Learning how to master skills and emotions helps you to surpass your limits. Work at becoming an opinion leader, partnering and enlisting other leaders on the way in order to harness peer pressure. Influence is amplified by just-in-time teamwork that helps you find strength in numbers. Building motivational structures that modestly and intelligently reward early wins and using punishment only when absolutely necessary allows you to design rewards and demand accountability. And finally, you must change the environment in order to link the pervasive and invisible power of the environment to support new behaviour.
In a conversation with Shawn and Daryl yesterday, we talked about an article by Clive Thompson in this week's Fast Company that questions the idea that the Influencer role in social networks is critical to getting people to change what they do. Thompson discusses research which shows that Influencers had no impact on what songs were downloaded from a selection he provided. It was almost enough to make me consider abandoning this review. But, as I pointed out to Shawn, I would need to know more about what the research study was attempting to influence before giving up on it as a way to effect change.
After reading the article and a response from one of the authors of Influencer I feel reassured. The research Thompson talks about has more of a viral marketing perspective than influencing for successful change. I am unlikely to ask anyone else's opinion as to a tune I might download off the internet but I will definitely be looking to talk to someone I trust if I want to find a financial planner to look after my money.
I've added Influencer to my library but should warn you that it's not a book easily read in one session. It demands concentration, which is well worth the effort for the value of the stories it tells, and the principles it proposes.
Matt Moore, a good friend of ours, kindly offered to write a poem about Anecdote. Actually his offer was open to anyone who reads his blog and we took him up on the offer.
So that he had some material to work with Matt suggested that all of the Anecdoters keep 'experience' diaries for a week. At the end of each day, each of us wrote down our most memorable emotions from the day (joy, surprise, frustration), and things we saw/heard/smelt/tasted/touched. At the end of the week each Anecdoter had the chance to go back over their experience diary and choose what they wanted to share (with Matt and/or other Anecdoters).
We're looking forward to seeing what Matt comes up with as a result of this little experiment.
Going through this process reminds us of the importance of learning journals. Learning journals are used to record your experiences at work and integrate them with your current and past learning, knowledge, thoughts and insights in order to create new meaning about your work (or participation in a community of practice).
The objectives of keeping a learning journal are:
To increase self-awareness and acknowledge what you have learned and how your learning has progressed
To disrupt habitual ways of thinking through the development of reflective judgement
To identify problems you might be having and enables you to consider possible solutions/resolutions
Learning journals help you to learn and increase the probability of you using what you have learned. They also give you the opportunity to plan activities or to change the way things are going. This may help you gain a measure of control in the turbulence and busy-ness of work and deepen your understanding of how you do your job. It's a good way for you to better identify issues, problems, work-arounds or solutions that you can contribute to your workplace.
There are an infinite number of possible and practical uses for learning journals. These are just a few that we have tried:
Collecting success stories
As a slight variation on the theme, you might also like to try producing a collaborative learning journal. A community or team journal can be written for and by a group of peers and places the exchange of ideas and learning energy into a collaborative, co-learning context. Team members could also maintain a blog instead of writing in a journal. That way they could post any related documents or material alongside comments for future reference or review.
Developing a collaboration capability requires more than wishful thinking
The ability to collaborate is becoming an essential capability for innovative organisations (actually, for any organisation). Imagine getting any big project done without collaborating. Here's what scientist and Australian of the Year, Fiona Wood, said on Andrew Denton's Enough Rope TV show about collaboration:
"I haven't got the intellectual capacity or the time or energy to actually manufacture all these pieces of jigsaw, but I know where I can find them. I go and I see amazing science being done, I think, 'Whoa, can we work together? Because that is one of the pieces of the jigsaw, I can see that it will fit and I can see I can help you with maybe a little bit of yours but you can help me with mine.'"
The trouble is, collaboration is a skill and set of practices we are rarely taught. It's something we learn on the job in a fairly hit-and-miss fashion. Some people are naturals but many of us are clueless. It's no wonder then that developing a collaboration capability is often the number one priority in the work we do to help organisations develop their knowledge strategies.
Establishing a collaboration capability requires someone to foster its development. People would think you are crazy if you suggested a company establish a sales capability without sales people or a human resources capability without a HR team. Yet, we have seen organisations wishing for a collaboration capability without identifying or resourcing people responsible for developing it. Wishful thinking is not enough.
The role of the collaboration co-ordinator (evangelist, manager, specialist; the title doesn't really matter) would include:
ferreting out good collaboration practices and tools and keeping up-to-date with the field
finding situations in the organisation where better collaboration would make a difference to the quality of products and services, the speed of delivering these products and services to clients, and the ability to use a diversity of ideas and approaches to innovate
helping people learn and adopt collaboration practices and tools
collecting stories of how collaboration really works for the times you need to justify the role
connecting people and ideas so new collaborations might flourish
Those organisations that move beyond wishful thinking and commit resources to establishing a collaboration coordination role can often face the frustrating dilemma of wanting the job done but are unable to free someone to do it. We've seen this situation a number of times now and have offered an Anecdoter (one of our consultants) to do the job while a suitable permanent staff member is found. Whether the role is filled in house or my a services organisation is immaterial. The important point is that the organisation is signalling to everyone that collaboration is important and that they are serious about enhancing their collaboration capability.
Lots of ways to learn about Communities of Practice
More organisations are recognising the need to enhance their social networks and provide means for people to connect across the traditional organisational silos. There is a growing understanding that learning is a social process and organisations wishing to enhance their knowledge resources must create conditions for effective learning. In both cases communities of practice provide an effective approach to achieving these organisational outcomes.
Anecdote is currently mentoring communities of practice for several dynamic organisations, and this year we are excited to offer an opportunity for other organisations to find out more about this very effective way of encouraging shared knowledge.
This one-day, highly interactive workshop is designed to help participants to build and foster sustainable communities of practice within their organisations, and is highly recommended for anyone wishing to either start a community of practice, or to find out more about what they have to offer.
Come join us at one of the following locations and dates in 2008:
Canberra 28 April
Brisbane 27 August
Melbourne 24 September
Perth 5 November
Sydney 26 November
Etienne Wenger and his collaborators at CPSquare offer a Foundations Workshop for CoP practitioners, which they are only offering twice this year - the next available starting on September 15. Let them know you found out about the course via the Anecdote blog and they will provide you with a discount.