Last week, I had a fantastic conversation with the folks at EDF Innovation Exchange about transparency and social media adoption. Specifically around the question, "What it is in the culture of organizations that are able to make the shift that is different from organizations that cannot?" Also last week, Stephanie McAuliffe shared an article by Bill Traynor called "Vertigo and the Intentional Inhabitant: Leadership in a Connected World" and here's an attempt to weave these ideas together.
The leaders of the nonprofits that can embrace social media can tolerate vertigo. Another way to put this is: the c-suite is comfortable with discomfort. Openness and transparency are hallmarks of the networked mindset and a successful social meda strategy. Leaders at EDF specifically brought Dave in because he thinks differently, he has that mindset. As Dave notes, "I often hear "everything you say makes me uncomfortable - but go do it." The leadership of the organization understands that social media and connectedness has an impact on the organization and they need to embrace it.
Traynor's piece is a reflection on how network leadership is different from more traditional leadership skills for leading organizations. He describes the discomfort that many of us feel when we shift from working in traditional environments (in organizations) to working within a network or working in the clouds. The phrase working in the clouds is a nod to Marc Pesce's essay, "The Tower and the Clouds."
Traynor talks about the discomfort between the two different modes of working. He says it feels like vertigo:
He talks about the issues of scaling:
He goes to describe ways that a network can scale, but be efficient. He made some points that resonated with me:
shrink or contract routine and recurring actions to their simplest and most efficient forms—everything from operating systems to routine functions, such as providing food for meetings and creating newsletters. These things should be efficient but are not, mostly because of human problems, such as poor communication, resistance to compliance, forgetfulness and so on. Because of this, “efficiency” in these areas is less a system-building challenge than a habit-building one. One management tool we have developed to help us is FOLKS Protocols. These binders for staff and key leaders break down all the network’s routine and predictable functions into a simple one-page description of what the task is, how to do it, whose role it is to do what, and so on. This tool is designed to help us make progress in the third way of creating and preserving space: by shrinking routines. FOLKS is our network management motto and stands for the following:
- F (form follows function): We want to build only the level of structure and formality that we need to do the job—no more and no less. If we overbuild, it will require more resources to support and be that much harder to deconstruct.
- O (open architecture is best): We try to build forms (i.e., committees, teams, and processes) that are flexible, informal, provisional, have provisional leadership, and are always open to new people. These forms are more in sync with a network environment.
- L (let it go): If it isn’t working or if there is no demand, you have to let it go and let it go quickly. That goes for an idea you might have and for which you can’t get interest or for a program you have run for five years that no longer sells.
- K (keep it simple): We need to keep simple things simple so that we have the time and energy for the complicated stuff. Anything that can be routine should be. A five-minute problem shouldn’t take 15 minutes.
- S (solve the problem): In a flexible environment, we need to move through stuck places a hundred times a day. Everyone needs to make “solving the problem” the most important rule of engagement with one another.
It struck me that taking a FOLKS approach to implementing social media strategy experiments could be very beneficial.