Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yes it's about speed but don't forget the process

Communication code schemeImage via Wikipedia

We all have those people in our lives, you know, the ones who say something and you know immediately that the opposite is true. Recently my certain someone proclaimed that Twitter had peaked and was soooooooooo dead. Hehe.

Personally, I think Twitter is irrelevant. Twitter is just an application. It is what people are doing with Twitter that matters, and that is anything but irrelevant. It's the future. Twitter is changing the world because it's changing the way we communicate. It's changing our expectations in regard to: timeliness, transparency, flatness, engagement, and even the way that knowledge is constructed. Hint: it's a social process.

This talk by Marc Benioff has been receiving a lot of attention: The future of computing looks like Twitter:

Any concept of batch or delay in development or execution, I think, will not be tolerated by customers anymore. Even in development, customers are demanding now that they want to be able to build in that sandbox and deploy immediately, instantly, no delay.

The Marketing Pilgrim picked up on this meme and elaborated, The Reality of Real Time Hits Real Hard :

What is more important is a real sea change that is occurring which shows that in business it’s real time or it’s no time. While it may not be practical or even possible to have true real time for everything, most companies should be tapped into some form of real time availability of information that occurs outside their four walls. If not, they stand a real chance of being left behind.

I'm in complete agreement that expectations around timeliness are accelerating. It's no longer acceptable to make them wait. Focusing on speed alone, however, misses the most important trend-- people expect to be an integral part of the process.

Bottling knowledge for later consumption is an industrial era model. Knowledge is not something that you package and put on the shelf. It's not something to be found at the end of a Google search string. Knowledge construction is a process. It's a conversation, thinking-out-loud, learning. It's a journey that people embark on together.

In the future (which is now) if you're going to survive, the artificial walls you've constructed around your organization are going to have to fall. The sooner you realize this and start tearing them down the better your long term prospects for survival.

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DairyScienceMark said...

I'm going to a "cutting edge" conference late this summer where the focus is on packaging of knowledge. I'm trying to think of ways to help people understand that in today's interconnected world, it's the conversation that's important, not the omnipotent sage. Hmm.

Peg Boyles said...

"Packaging knowledge." Heh, heh. Good luck to those conference organizers.

Mark, consider the cutting-edge literature and research on storytelling as a means of helping folks understand the multi-dimensions value of conversation over "content."

I've been doing a lot of research and pondering on the many uses of storytelling in organizations and workteams.

It's a huge topic that draws on and has infiltrated many disciplines, from anthropology and faith traditions, to business, leadership, psychotherapy, medicine and more.

It'll be a hard sell in CE, what with our relentless focus on quantitative analysis, logic-model planning rubrics, and publications that rarely stray beyond fact sheets and research or impact reports.

But humans come hard-wired for stories; we dream, plan, and think in stories/narratives. Our decisions and actions flow from the stories we construct.

It's counter-intuitive, but the rational approach to decision-making or behavior change is counter-productive. Here's a good blurb from Steve Denning (I'm about halfway through his powerful book, The Secret Language of Leadership) that challenges the pervasive idea that we can change minds, hearts, and behavior by hitting folks up with the latest research results.

For a quick dip into the power of narrative/storytelling, visit Storytelling: Passport to the 21st Century and read all those links. If you're pressed for time, just whip through John Seely Brown's words on science.

I have many other references I can share, but have yet to organize them into a coherent presentation for colleagues.

P.S. Here's a nice quotation from Chapter 12 of The Secret Language of Leadership:

"In making the case for narrative, I am in no way trying to undermine science or drag the world back to the dark ages of myth and superstition. On the contrary, I am committed to science and its self-correcting methodology.

"We need to apply double-blind controls in experiments, where neither the subjects nor the experimenters know the experiment’s objectives during data collection. We need to vet our results at professional conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. We should insist that research be replicated by others unaffiliated with the original researcher. In our reports, we need to include any evidence to the contrary, as well as alternative interpretations of the data. We need to encourage colleagues to be skeptical and to raise objections. If extraordinary claims are being made, we must put forward extraordinary evidence. Those methods need to be applied to the language of leadership as well as to everything else.

"But when we’ve done all that, and it’s vital that we do it, how do we communicate the results of what we have discovered, particularly if our findings are highly disruptive to people’s lives? If we try to communicate those findings by the same methods through which the findings were derived, what usually happens? Pushback. Resistance. Cynicism. Hostility. If we use narrative intelligence and employ the language of leadership, the results can be very different.

" It’s a matter of using science and analysis for what they are good at, and using the language of leadership to communicate science’s findings and get them implemented. Just think for a moment. Would it be scientific to go on using the language of analysis for an activity for which it isn’t suited, while refusing to use a different language that does work? To adopt such an approach would be the height of unscientific behavior."

Peg Boyles said...

Example of Twitter's storytelling power.

Kevin Gamble said...


You're going to a conference on writing books? What makes it cutting-edge? "Advanced Word Revision Tracking"? :)


Kevin Gamble said...


Loving your stuff on storytelling. Thank you!!!

And that was a very moving twitter post. Can't imagine. Interesting that he turned to his online friends at that moment. The world is definitely changing.


DairyScienceMark said...

Thanks for the great comments. I'll ponder them and think about storytelling a lot, especially on the drive to IN.


DairyScienceMark said...

The conference is "Dairy Herd Analytics", but I know most of the speakers. They're going to be telling all of the audience how smart they are because they developed these computer programs that they'll demonstrate. Been to conferences with most of them before, but I should have the opportunity to inject some "process" conversation during the small group session.

Peg Boyles said...

The Truth Alone will not Set you Free Please have a gander at this provocative, multi-layered piece by Chris Hedges, which argues for story over mere fact as an antidote to the destruction of human culture by corporate culture.

It's deep and dense with implications for an organization like ours, whose primary mission sometimes comes across (both implicitly and in much of our explicit rhetoric) as teaching folks to become ever-more-discriminating consumers.