Originally published on January 12, 2019
This is the 39th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Luis Suarez works at panagenda as a Digital Transformation and Data Analytics advisor. He helps organizations work smarter, not necessarily harder, through social business and data analytics, based in Playa Del Ingles, Canary Islands, Spain.
Luis is a veteran social/open business strategist and 2.0 practitioner, with over 22 years of working experience on Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities, and Social Networking for Business. He is currently focusing on helping organizations make the most out of their own change initiatives and digital transformation programs through making sense of their own data analytics visualizations.
Luis is the founder of the #NoEmail movement back in February 2008. If you get in touch with him, he guarantees to help you reduce your email traffic by 80% in just 5 weeks regardless of the social/digital tools you may be using.
I have been quoting Luis’s blog since I began my own in 2006. I first met him in person at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in 2010 when we were co-presenters on communities of practice. We are long-time friends.
- Panagenda — Digital Transformation & Data Analytics Adviser, Jan 2017 — Present
- Independent Consultant, Mar 2014 — Jan 2017
- Lead Social Business Enabler, Jan 2013 — Dec 2014
- Social Business Evangelist,Jan 2007 — Dec 2013
- Knowledge Manager, Community Builder & Social Computing Evangelist, Jan 2001– Dec 2007
- Customer Service Representative, Jan 1997 — Dec 2001
- University of Salamanca, 1994–1995, BA in English Teaching & Literature
- University of León, 1991–1993
- First LinkedIn Observations after 4 Years of Absence
- I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip
- Social Media Today
- CMS Wire
- How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business May 13, 2014
- The Future of Collaboration Lies in Human Resources’ Hands Feb 21, 2014
- Social Business in 2013: A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Commitment Dec 20, 2012
- Social Task Management — When Social Business Got Down to Work Jun 28, 2012
We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into oneself and question whether either our mindset or behaviors, for instance, have some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favorite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed the gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blaming the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?
Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have left. We just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to divert attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #LeSigh
You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher. Well, perhaps we may need to start realizing it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviors of how we adapt to them, or fail to, that’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hmmm, not really. It’s us. the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether we are the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?
Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realize that different people have different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they want, whether individually or in groups?
At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have different needs to cater to; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviors, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better? And how nowadays, it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?
It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that can cater to distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business-related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposal. That’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e., *cough* email *cough*), and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that, and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st-century thinking.
At the moment, my current favorite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas Vander Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at the KMWorld 2016 conference in Washington, DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing it over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect in the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater to, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that no single tool in any organization can feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of the collective.
The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment when we will stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.
Work smarter, not necessarily harder. Don’t you think?
Articles by Others
- Mary Abraham
- Bill Ives
- Luis Suarez Interview by Lilia Efimova
- Luis Suarez: Get Your Knowledge Out in the Open by TallyFox
- Luis Suarez on #e20s: “Knowledge shared is power” by Cathrin Mittermeier
- A World Without E-mail: One Man’s Vision of a Social Workplace by Amy-Mae Turner
- Luis Suarez, agent of change by Gloria Lombardi
- IBM Gives Birth to Amazing E-Mail-Less Man by Robert McMillan
- Interview: Luis Suarez Wants You To Engage Outside Your Inbox by Mimi Dionne
- On collaboration: interview with Luis Suarez
As Quoted by Me
- elsua: The Knowledge Management Blog — Blog from the world of Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Communities of Practice, Social Networking, and Web 2.0. Specific topics include remote collaboration in distributed/virtual teams, ways to foster and boost KM techniques, personal knowledge management, etc.
- Intranets as a News Channel — About to Enter the Next Wave of Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
- Modern Social Software Could Be the Key to Building Effective Enterprise Knowledge Systems — Reinventing the Intranet
- Working Out Loud
- Have you seen @Dennis_Pearce’s PhD dissertation on the topic?
- I think it’d be a great start into #WOL & what you’re looking for.
- Informal Learning by Jay Cross
- Knowledge Management Online — KM Online — Open Source KM
- How Tags Help Businesses Organize
- The Name Game — Where Folksonomy Meets Taxonomy
- Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?
- Enterprise Social Networking Tips
- Podcast posts
- Video Posts
- Are You Ready to Vlog?
- Why Best Practices Don’t Work for Knowledge Work
- When Context Transcends Change Management
- Why Looking After Your Personal Brand in the Social Era Still Matters
- Expertise Locators
- Expertise Locators on the Brain — Trusting the Experts
- Expertise Location without Technology — The Power of Storytelling (Part Deux)
- Finding Experts in Your Company — While You Are on the Road!
- Finding Experts in Your Company — Through Micro-Sharing
- Bringing Knowledge, Relationships, and Experts Together
- Searching Kills Employee Productivity — Are We Actually Searching for the Right Thing After All?
- Enterprise Expertise Management Systems and Organizational Reality
- Fringe Contacts — People-Tagging for the Enterprise
- AI and Cognitive Computing
- APQC KM & Innovation 2007 — A Conversation with Bob Buckman from Buckman Laboratories — Bob shared one of the best quotes I have heard, read, seen ever on what Knowledge Sharing is all about: “Don’t be afraid to share what you know, because you know it better than anyone else!”
- The Three Eras of Knowledge Management — Towards the Collective Knowledge of Conversations
- Making the Business Case for Social Computing
- If social computing is supposed to revolutionize the way we share our knowledge, connect with others, collaborate, communicate and innovate, then I think it is about time we move into the 21st century, progress further in that Knowledge economy and try to figure out how to get the most value out of it, because figuring out its ROI, in my opinion, is going to be a waste of time, energy and resources.
- This post by Luis prompted a response: ROI is so Business 1.0: not by Dennis Howlett
- The assumption is that ROI is always about payback. While that is often true, you need a value figure with which to develop the calculation. Forrester has already tripped up over this one, concluding, as do many others, that the benefits (are these the same as value?) are “soft” and therefore difficult to measure. The fact something is difficult is not an excuse yet this is how ROI is positioned.
- To which Luis replied: Making the Business Case for Social Computing — Part Deux
- If ROI wants to make a stand in the world of Enterprise 2.0, it needs to evolve. It needs to progress further into becoming ROI 2.0 (Yes, I know, you saw that coming, didn’t you?) and stop thinking that the only thing to measure the intangibles is following the same approach as with tangibles, because that is going to fail. It has for the last few years with traditional KM and I am sure it would fail again, again and again. We now have a precious opportunity to make things different; this time around with how social software is taking by storm the corporate world, getting everyone excited, once again, around the subject of knowledge sharing and collaboration (Not sure about you, but it was about time!). So let’s try not to repeat KM history again by making the same good old mistakes we have all along.
SIKM Leaders Community
- February 18, 2020 SIKM Call: The Impact of Data Analytics in Digital Transformation Programs
- Community Roles and Adoption Planning
- Communities: Hotbeds of Innovation at IBM
- Exploring the Adoption Archetypes