Culture Shifting

Culture is shifting. Top down hierarchical organizations are being ousted by flatter, more social, and participatory organizations that can discover and optimize value flows — thanks to the ability to use social methods to empower anyone within the organization as well as anyone connected to the organization to source value for the organization. This is way beyond social media as Zappos and Wikipedia demonstrate very clearly. To learn more about this culture shift, explore Nilofer Merchant’s writing on the Social Era in Harvard Business Review blog or read her book, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra.

I have spoken with clients who see the value seeping out the cracks in their current organizational processes. They know they are so busy talking at their own clients or not listening to the right people outside their organization for feedback they need to improve their offerings, retain their clients, and optimize where they spend their money. Some clients know they need to do things differently if they want better results. Sound familiar?

Unconference is the answer to the question you are asking yourself: “How do I put social era practices into effect in my organization?”

Culture doesn’t shift quite overnight, even with the shocking fast spread of viral memes. What is one step you can take to transform the culture you have while mitigating the risk that it will all explode?

An event. Time bound. Clearly sculpted with well honed and proven structures.

  1. Playspace. An event takes people out of the everyday practices of the organization where habit change is going to be hardest and allows for a playspace to try out something different. It is time based, so the risk is limited to the time given to the event. Some organizational change attempts, being open ended, reverberate through time without having easy escape hatches.
  2. Iterative. Along with all this social era stuff is the Agile virus. We have to move too quickly to adapt in the rapid changes of most marketplaces. Do something small that you can learn from quickly. Learn from what works and what didn’t, then try again. Make it a low risk investment by keep it small and time-based, so should it fail (and it rarely does on the whole), the ramifications are localized and easy learned from in future iterations.
  3. Process. Process is the structure you were looking for. There are proven processes that help increase your chances of producing value. The whole Social Era shift is about moving from answers to questions, outcomes to processes, nodes to flows. Maybe you used to rely on content. Content is in constant flux now. Trust the process instead. Unconferences have structures that encourage many-to-many interactions instead of one-to-many interactions. They are structures, and people have been using some of those methods for 30 years. It isn’t a new (high risk, great unknown) thing, it might just be new (not regularly practiced) in your sector.
  4. Culture is practice. Culture can’t be decreed from the top nor the bottom of an organization. It lives in the practices of the people of the organization. An unconference not only gives the organization a story about being participatory, it gives people an opportunity to practice being participatory.

Let’s talk about how participatory process can be an effective means of getting the right people to provide the right kinds of information to increase your value flows.

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About Jean Russell

As a catalyst and social ecosystem designer, Jean Russell is on a quest to catalyze group productivity. She has been facilitating strategy retreats, conferences, and workshops since 2007. Jean often custom designs participatory structures for group engagement that evoke play to achieve purpose. Demonstrating what she calls, “flash collaboration,” she curated, “Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch” with 65 inspiring people. She blogs and tweets as “Thrivable.”
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