CIPD Report on SoMe in the Workplace

Early December the Charted Institute for Personal Development (CIPD) released a new report called Social Technology – Social Business (#CIPDsocial13).

Rather than an advocacy for the use of social media and collaborative tools in the workplace, this report sounds generally quite sceptical (conservative?) and seems to underline a general lack of maturity when it comes to the adoption of social technologies at work.

I have tried to gather a few interesting highlights here below, followed by some more subjective thoughts.

Who use SoMe at work?

Just a quarter of UK employees (26%) use social media for work, compared with three-quarters (76%) who use it for personal purposes.

Most active users are :
Senior leaders (53% of whom use social media for work)
Digital Natives / 18–24-year-olds (42%)
Voluntary sector employees (38%)

A lack of access to social media at work is not an impediment for most people. Half (50%) of UK employees report that they have some access to social media at work (double the number who currently make use of it).

What for?

Pros of SoMe for work: help get the right information to the right people (49% of social media users agreeing) Cons: lead to information overload (48%).

Collaboration: 50% of social media ‘work users’ say that it aids external collaboration, compared with 28% for collaboration inside

L&D: 78% state that their organisations don’t use social media to deliver learning and development.

In the meantime learning ranks fairly highly among reasons workers use social media, although it is interesting to note that they are just as likely to help others’ learning by sharing useful or interesting knowledge as to focus on their own.

Thus, the main benefit of social media as a learning tool lies not in hosting formally designed tools and programmes, but supporting informal learning.

Almost half (47%) of employees who use social media for work on a daily basis see a great deal of benefit, but among non-users, who make up three-quarters of UK employees, the proportion is nearer 1 in 20 (6%). Thus, while an overall judgement would be that social media has made little contribution to the world of work, this may change as more people interact with it.

SoMe use vs. Seniority

CIPD found a clear relationship between professional social media use and seniority. Over half of senior leaders use social media for work, compared with a third of managers and a fifth of non-managers. Much of this difference is due to the professional networking senior leaders do outside the organisation and specifically through LinkedIn.

Senior leaders are more externally focused. Senior leaders are more likely to comment on forums and post blogs or articles. Although it seems that senior leaders have not taken on board the argument that social media is an important leadership tool.

Younger users tend to be more socially and less professionally focused in how they use social media. They use social media more to communicate with colleagues and chat with people in real time and slightly less to communicate with professional contacts outside the organisation.

Managers are more likely to develop meaningful new connections through social media and to have used social media to look for a job.

So what?

The relative lack of interest in using social media for work can be taken in two ways: employees have yet to understand its value, or the advocates have overestimated its value.

We may also want to question how the survey was actually set up (which social media and collaborative tools were included or not, which industries were represented or not…).

Personally I would tend to think there is a massive need for education around SoMe in the workplace in general (not talking about high tech start ups obviously). How SoMe can become more relevant (and therefore be used more widely) at work?

A lot of energy has certainly been spend on how to adopt and integrate SoMe as an external marketing tool in order to grow a business, now it’s probably high time to look at how SoMe can help “grow the people” and develop a “smarter workforce”…

Part of that education/maturity process could focus on :

Senior Leaders: help them realise the potential of SoMe as a leadership and engagement tool internally. See Julian Stodd’s Social Leadership model.

With regard to this unexpected high representation of Senior Leaders among active users, I am also wondering if they are actively present on LinkedIn (and Twitter) or if their accounts are actually managed by external/internal PR teams…

Young users : show them the potential of SoMe for professional development and cultural integration, not just as a tool “to chat and share pictures” (being digital native doesn’t necessarily mean one can differentiate purposes between a Facebook and a Yammer)

Managers : investigate with them how SoMe can help them “fix their problems”. Not only SoMe can help them connect, but it could also help them better collaborate, locate expertise faster, work remotely, work on their continuous development…

Risk of information overload: knowledge is not a product any more but a process (see G. Siemens). One of the main recommendations in that dynamic and self-directed process is to place FILTERS, to separate signals from noise (see PKM model by Harold Jarche).

Technology Mastery & Digital Literacy: Disruptive character of social technologies is a reason for fear but can also be their force. We need to understand the risks, as we won’t probably be able to get rid of them. Like in each practice it requires some discipline and patience. But also a certain level of tolerance for potential mistakes and clumsiness.

Implementing SoME only as a “tool” won’t bring the magic solution to a more open, transparent and dynamic workplace though… And one of the bigger dangers would probably be to “push” SoMe (as yet another top-down communications channel) to employees and force them to “do social”.

Working on attitudes, mindset and social/collaborative/networking skills for a real cultural change might require more courage, time, resources, inspiration and vision.

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Fear, Power and Beauty #1

The topic of fear was a recurring one in our #xplrpln seminar a few weeks ago. During our weekly Twitter chats and in our G+ community, we discussed some potential risks in mainstreaming PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) in organisations. One of the most spooky – and brilliant – illustration was Kay Assynt’s final artifact called the PLN House of Horror, where one of the key questions was : “How to motivate authentic participation in social networks vs. turn students/workers into social zombies?”.

As a cMOOC newbie, I was a little nervous at the start of that seminar. What would it be like to think out loud and to share “half-baked” ideas with other participants I didn’t know and who seemed to have more experience and knowledge of Personal Learning Networks (PLN)? Rather quickly though most of my fears dissolved. With the subtle support of our moderators and encouragements from other participants – also thanks to a good dose of humour – I gradually stepped from my initial position of “lurker”, to “sampler” and then active learner! What a great experience. Nevertheless, I can still easily understand why some people are worried about new technologies or/and social networks. And why there are some reasons to stay relatively suspicious about a more formal adoption of PLNs in organisation and the rapid emergence of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN).

Fear and anger: a lot seems to depend on how we manage these two emotions, at work, in our relationships, personal dreams and in life in general. Let’s focus on fear for now… “Focus” is the main title of Daniel Goleman’s new book “Focus – the hidden driver of excellence”. I was only 20 when I read Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” and I still remember that thrilling sensation, like if I had made a real breakthrough in life. Well actually I think that book may have changed my young adult life indeed; and that’s why I am so looking forward to the “hidden driver of excellence” (tip for X-mas present anyone ?).

In this 20 min webcast with IMD professor George Kohlrieser, D. Goleman reminds us again the primal quality of fear: that “amygdala hijack” he describes as our survival mechanism in a Darwinist world. That world has transformed though and our fears have changed too. The fears of the dark cold cave, the big grizzly bear or the unknown fire have turned into fears of rejection, imperfection, judgement, alienation, isolation, terrorist attack, market crash, natural disaster, loss of control, power, privileges, identity, lack of money, time, meaning, freedom… And the list goes on! So goes the list of questions on how we could change the world; one question I keep asking myself though is how do we transform our fears ?

In a great post called “Riding the wave of continuous improvement”, Jennifer Rainey, one of our #xplrpln participants, wrote : “We need to be what “society” wants us to be. We are conditioned to think inside the box. So we carry this mindset with us into the workforce, where we are told to, Think outside the box!  Be innovative!  Be creative! After 12-20+ years of conditioning, easier said than done.”

What if an important part of this conditioning comes from all the bricks we keep adding (or are added by others since our early ages) into our “Wall of Fear”?

Take and give a hand

A couple of weeks ago I spent my Sunday morning in a soft playground for a kid’s birthday party. While I was reading Jennifer’s post on my phone, my partner’s daughter (4) came to me and asked me to follow her. “I want to go on that big tube slide but I am scared” she said.  OK… time to remove my shoes and join the party – yeah lots of fun. Even more fun: I took little one by the hand and convinced her to go on the big slide with me. After that first slide she went straight up to do it again, and again…on her own, and then with other little friends. I was so proud of her, she looked so happy.

Coming back now to Enterprise Social Networks and the introduction of new collaborative tools in large organisations, I was inspired by John Stepper’s post on how he tries to help people “work out loud. His 12 week coaching programme aims at transforming the way people work, by developing new habits. This step-by-step approach sounds to me like an interesting way to transform the “fears of the unknown” : the “I don’t have time for that”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t know who” etc… John literally “takes people by the hand” in order to coach them and work individually on their top barriers. Even if that approach doesn’t seem scalable in large organisations, as the author himself recognises, that type of coaching offers clearly some opportunities to lower the threshold : “it gives people a simple way to start, structures their time, helps them think more deeply about relationships, and provides support while they practice consistently”.

Another common source of anxiety in large organisations is the “fear of peers” (peer pressure). I remember dealing with that when I used to organise corporate events for Top-Exec level in a large insurance company in Belgium a few years ago. “Only if they do, I do”, “who will be in the room?”, “how will this be interpreted?”.

In his article “Adaptation: The Key to Become a Socially Integrated Enterprise”, Luis Suarez says : “Fear is a powerful factor that should not be ignored, nor neglected, more than anything else, because it’s the main element that gets added into the mix when embracing peer pressure. Practitioners would always be a bit reluctant to want to enter the digital world, if they would be fearful to try, to play and learn, perhaps even to fail or make mistakes, in case of being ridiculed by that social pressure of their own peers. So what do they do? They switched off, before they even try.”

In my final artifact for our #xplrpln seminar, I tried to “sell” the idea of a mini-workshop where I could to take the fictitious CEO and his/her Management Board by the hand to explore some basic features of collaborative tools. I wanted to work around these two types of fears : fear of the unknown & fear of peers. The risk of that mini-workshop approach of course is to allow decision-makers to scratch the surface of PLNs and their associated social tools, and then having to follow whatever decisions they would make…

Certainly one of my main take-aways from our discussions in #xplrpln was that success of PLNs and ESNs in the organisational context is first of all a question of mindset and attitude (see also my previous post on this). The cultural change we need might be bigger than we think. With this in mind, the most risky approach would be to play with a few collaborative tools and then decide (or not) to “do social”. Remember the zombies in the PLN House of Horror?

Unlike in the case of “little one” and her magic smile on the tube slide, I don’t expect suspicion and obstacles to PLNs or ESNs to vanish in a few seconds. I do believe the whole topic of social learning needs to be demystified and key people (at different levels of the organisation, including HR, IT, Legal…and Operational divisions!) be “taken by hand” to explore the potential benefits and risks. My point is that neither status quo nor big bang appear as a solution to increase chances of a successful adoption of ESNs or PLNs. So let’s get our feet moving, (small) step-by-step…

The beauty of fears

I won’t end this post without any reference to dance. Fear is the main emotion associated with the first rhythm of Flow in #5rhythms. Flow is the rhythm for exploration, continuous movement and embodiment, as opposed to resistance and inertia. I always remember the analogy made by one of my 5R teachers in his workshop “Fear, power and beauty” (thank you Adam Barley for letting me use that title for my post by the way…and for so much more). The image Adam took was the one of a wild feline engaging in unknown territories, a dangerous zone of the Savannah which was also the unique access to the only source of water in the area. You won’t see the big cat hopping happily to the source, and that big cat doesn’t say to himself : well actually, I don’t need that water. As both options might mean certain death. That animal will engage, gradually, fully embodied, fully present, focused and agile… Just in case some dangers might rise up and a fast fluid reaction is needed. As dancers, we use Flow to enter that zone of focus, fluidity and physical presence (“Put your mind into your feet” said G. Roth). We go for a freestyle exploration of the unknown, our internal and external space, with the intention to open up to the possibilities and discover our boundaries. Our main gateways in Flow are the feet, which we use to ground ourselves, not simply in a vertical way but also in a more horizontal and circular way. Never far from our “big mama earth”, but not rigidly and stubbornly anchored in one fixed spot. Breathing in into our own fears, inhibitions and judgements, we start recognising them and making friend with them. We flow in order to transform these fears and to gradually let in more freedom into our movements…. and more space into our life.

amur-leopard-going-into-the-water-1024x680(Photo credit:

That’s the beauty of fear. Transforming the fears of the unknown and fears of peers could be a very powerful process in order to bring more life, creativity and engagement in Enterprises 2.0. But what about the “Fear of Power” then ? More thoughts for a “Fear, Power  and Beauty #2” surely. In the meantime, please share yours… thoughts AND fears !

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PLN : Intentions vs Expectations

My last post “post #xplrpln flow” (well actually my first ever…) ended up on the topic of intentions and expectations. Then a few days later I read that quote posted by a friend on Facebook : “Too much intention creates tension”.

Personally I think tension in its stressful meaning is probably more the result of too many expectations actually. Intentions for me come intrinsically as a positive tension, except in case of bad intentions of course. As an introspective process, making intentions requires self-knowledge and discipline though. Or as @MitraClara, one participant in our #xplrpln seminar, said in her post on Knitting Intentional Networks : “And yet there is a heaviness to all this intentionality”. I agree. Making an intention implies stretching out and making some efforts, while having expectations is rather awaiting for something external to happen, anticipating a result or a reaction. Or worst even, making the assumption (see #3 of the 4 Toltec agreements) that something will happen…

Dance in Learning

Gathering on a #5rhythms dance floor for a couple of hours or for a weekend implies making the effort to be there and to show-up. It can be a bit weird sometimes to go dancing with people you don’t or hardly know; and all this without any substance to reduce your inhibitions, break up the resistance or ease up the fears. Each of us comes with different intentions, level of experience, vulnerability, age, professional/family/educational background etc… What brings us together there is a certain level of commitment, to move, connect and share where it’s possible and appropriate. To let the medicine of the dance be part of my learning – and healing – process is often my main intention. Is it something I can expect or assume to happen ? Personally I don’t experience it this way. And yet it is possible to create the right conditions for that medicine to happen. Certainly there are tools, techniques and rituals that may be used to facilitate the process. Although my belief is that the medicine is more likely to happen from the dynamic and the energy inside that unique constellation of dancers, rather than as a “packaged prescription” hidden somewhere in the room, in a book, or delivered by an omnipotent teacher aka “Shoemaker”. For me there are no mysterious red shoes in #5rhythms, whilst the way of the dancer remains THE mystery. Or like the founder of #5rhythms, Gabrielle Roth said : “Between jumping and landing, there is God”.

I won’t appeal to any spirituality in the context of PLN. Like I don’t think it is necessary to be spiritual to enjoy a good dance, a “wave” in #5rhythms jargon. What is well needed though is an “attitude”. Or as mentioned by K. Rajagopal et al in their article Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them : “…that networking itself is linked to a deeper metacognitive level, namely, the attitude of the learner”.

The way of the learner

Attitude seems to be the building block from where PLNs can emerge and flourish. From my own modest experience, I would certainly list the following ones : generosity, passion, trust, humour, respect, empathy and curiosity.

In her final reflections on our #xplrpln seminar, @tanyalau says : “I’m starting to think that an open attitude to learning / sharing, and mutual cognitive engagement is what drives learning in connectivist online learning environments.”

In another enlightening piece of research “People in PLNs : Analysing their characteristics and identifying suitable tools”, K. Rajagopal et al speak about “connection-determining factors”. How to create the right conditions for the social learning to happen ? And what drives learners to connect and use new technologies for their informal learning process?

As a result of their research into the concepts that drive PLN, they managed to identify a list of 22 concepts. Their Top 5 is made of :

– Connecting with people with different perspectives
– Connecting with people who have values I appreciate
– Connecting with passionate people
– Connecting with inspirational people
– Connecting with people I trust

These main connection-determining factors sound to me as quite “behavioural” and “intentional” indeed. At least they demonstrate a certain mindset without linking directly to any specific results or goals. Of course one could expect something from connecting to someone, but one has to do the “first step”, after reflecting on why and how to connect.

I was also quite surprised to see that less than half of respondents declared they were connecting to find “influential people” or “mentors”. That could possibly demonstrate the level of autonomy and also the boundaries PLN’ers wish for their self-directed learning.

The learner as orchestrator

One technique the dancer is invited to use in order to help the body get (and stay) in movement is by “taking ownership of the beat”. In PLN, the learner is supposed to take ownership of her learning. Or like described by K. Rajagopal et al in, “the learner as orchestrator of her personal learning network”.

In their survey, K. Rajagopal et al went a step further and asked participants about tools (social networks) they found most appropriate depending on the concept of learning. Interesting to see that Twitter scored highest in the Top 5 of the connection-determining factors. The only area where Twitter is competed by LinkedIn is on the concept of “expertise”. While Facebook scored highest on concept of “familiarity” and, quite surprisingly in my eyes, it did quite well on concept of “trust”.

That survey offers an interesting way to identify which platforms to use for which purpose of learning. However, as mentioned by the authors themselves, the research in that field is still quite limited. Their sample was limited to 46 respondents and a majority of them didn’t use tools like Diigo or ScoopIT.

Anyway for me these clear orientations confirmed some of my thoughts about the needs for education to social media and collaborative tools in the workplace. With “Attitudes” and “Intentions” as prerequisites, there seems to be a skill set to develop that could be composed of soft and hard skills. Soft skills being the various networking skills of the learner. Hard skills the way to use technologies and tools to continuously (and consciously) build, maintain and activate PLNs in a professional environment.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck

Photo Credit

The question is… do we really want PLN to develop in the corporate environment ? Where are the fears, shadows and obstacles ? Some scary thoughts for my next post…

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Post #xplrpln flow

A few days ago, a dear friend of mine who is a #5rhythms teacher reminded me how Flow is my “home rhythm”. In this moving meditation practice – as it says on the tin – we dance through five rhythms : flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.

Although dance is not the purpose here, it has become such a great teacher for me over the last 5 years that it cannot not come up as a perpetual reference along my learning path in – private and even professional – life. As a way to anchor my thoughts and ideas in the physical reality, if any.

“Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
T.S. Eliot

The main topic I would like to discuss here is my first experience of a c-MOOC on “Exploring Personal Learning Networks : Practical Issues for Organisations” that took place during 5 weeks from October 7th 2013.

Flow is the perfect rhythm for exploration. Getting your feet in motion. Seeking, breathing in and feeling. During our first 2 weeks of exploration in this on-line seminar, we tried to define what PLN is, or should I already say what PLN’s are? Under the inspiring guidance of Jeff Merrell (@JeffMerrell) and Kimberly Scott (@KGS_Scott), our freshly created #xplrpln network became a place to share and discuss thoughts and insights on how to define PLN, in case we would have to explain it to our Mum or – bit more challenging – to our CEO…

My main influences so far had come from passive (but massive) readings about Social Learning by experts like Jane Hart (@C4LPT) and Harold Jarche (@hjarche). I was particularly interested in Jane’s “scaffolding vs. packaging” idea and Harold’s vision of the future of work in a wirearchy model. Then suddenly, after a few miscellaneous clicks on Twitter and Google+, I became part of a global community of passionate people showing similar interests in new ways of learning and collaborating in the digital age ! All coming from very different professional, geographical and personal backgrounds; the ideal context to give it a go and have play in the “ambiguity sandbox”. And so we did… using our G+ community, blogs and weekly (and hectic) Twitter chats to exchange our views on which definitions should be given to PLN in the organisational context. And if PLN should actually be pitched in organisations or not…

In my final artifact – a sort of fictitious conversation about PLN with “a” CEO, I inserted an introductory document which mainly aims at defining the scope of PLN in a large organisation and demystifying the term PLN as such. I still think today “personal”, “learning”, “networks” would remain rather less popular in some large corporate organisations than terms like “individual”, “productivity” and “hierarchy”.

This also brought me to the idea of using the terms Collaborative Leadership, which sound to me a bit more “corporate” and maybe easier to introduce in a business context. The final goal of my fictitious discussion with the CEO is to convince him/her to take part in a ½ day Immersion Workshop with his/her direct reports and PA’s. On this occasion the objective is to create appetite and identify particular interests among C-suite participants to become “sponsors”, and to open the debate on the cultural changes needed to shift to a more collaborative culture in the organisation (easier said than done…). The workshop is structured like a coaching session based on questions related to some work situations / issues, whilst participants can experiment some 2.0 and collaborative tools in « real time ».

At this stage I want to specially thank Helen (@ActivateLearn) for initiating our “Corporate” sub-group in G+ community and @JenniferRainey7, @tanyalau and @shalineemattoo for this amazing and inspiring thread of conversations.

The way I see my “artifact” is definitely not like something written in stone but rather in sand (in the same colour palette as the above mentioned sandbox…). Actually this continual flow through all the on-line discussions, readings and personal reflections has raised more questions than it has brought me answers so far.

The only few fragile conclusions I am able to pull out from this whole exercise at the moment are :

1) PLN is only the tip of the iceberg, covering an unprecedented need for CULTURAL change in “the way we work”

2)  INTENTION is one of the keywords for successful PLN – and Social Learning in general.

3) PLN has its own shadows and the question of OWNERSHIP needs to be clarified.

So there I am… still in the deep uncomfortable zone of not knowing. An exciting place though where I feel the urge to continue exploring, flowing and seeking. And also breathing in the “why” I feel so passionate about this topic ?

As a final thought for today I am tempted to say that trying to define PLN is probably mission impossible. It’s just something you have to experience and practice, with high level of intentions and low level of expectations. Likewise we cannot really define what dance is or not, when a movement stops being robotic and conditioned and become fully human and expressive. Or when using social media and new technologies stop being fashionable and enslaving, and become empowering and a way to create more sense.

My intention is to write a bit about this in a next post !  So expect more,,,

Sand painting I made after a “Dreaming Body” dance workshop

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