Let’s talk books! A year in review

“What is the best book you read this year?” A question I asked some of my friends mainly to pry the best recommendations out of them. But it turned out to be a great social experience. Books are an incredible social object, they trigger thought provoking conversations and have an amazing serendipity effect! (I have met very interesting people through book discussions!) So while I’m organizing all the recommendations I got into a decent reading list (that I promised to share later), here are some of the books I read this year and some of the interesting ideas I came across while reading them.

By Tharon Howard

The thinking here [flatter organizational structure] is that it doesn’t matter where good ideas come from—if you empower all of your employees and all the members of a community with the same information and if members of a department also understand that they’re expected to share all the information that they have with you—then the best solution will evolve.

Knowledge isn’t static. That old saw that encourages people to “collect pearls of wisdom” is false because, unlike pearls, knowledge changes. Knowledge is a process; it’s something that is made, and consequently, communities and social networks aren’t about and shouldn’t be about collecting facts.

People tend to get siloed in and are inclined to communicate with others in the same silo rather than reaching across what Burt calls structural holes in a network. People tend not to talk across the gaps between silos and don’t discuss ideas with people in other silos.

The ability to see how something obvious in one field (such as bicycle chains) can be applied to a problem in another field (such as how to transfer power from an engine to a propeller) is often how new knowledge is created. Membership in multiple communities enables that.

The future, therefore, doesn’t lie in everybody being connected to everybody. I don’t agree with those who see us headed toward a single, flat, monolithic culture where we all share the same values and the same literacies and sense of purpose.




Social Networking for business : Choosing the right tools and resources to fit your needs

By Rawn Shah

The basis for high-performing individuals and groups now includes those who demonstrate social intelligence and find the best ways to incorporate the wisdom of crowds

Blogs and Wikipedia emphasize the role of individuals, their ambitions, preferences, competitive spirit, interactive behavior, personal characteristics, interests, and personal goals. In contrast, most organizations still try to manage themselves through centralized, hierarchical structures, forged in the days of ancient empires. This command-oriented structure emphasizes predictable and standardized processes to manage an operational environment, while deemphasizing individual expression and direction.

Culture, an integral part of social environments, can exist in obvious or professed levels, or can hide in the unspoken but shared behavior of members. It emerges as a confluence of shared ideology and values, behavior and rituals, imagery, and stories about the social group.

Researchers were able to demonstrate that the topology of the network has a strong relationship to their work performance…they found that just the size of a consultants network did not translate to increased performance.

Social computing facilitates new strategies that change how businesses can apply the collective efforts of many individuals to solve problems and contribute to the success of the organization. Understanding the dynamics of how these methods work is both a science and an art.  



By Clay Shirky
But like a chain of volcanoes all fed by the same pool of magma, the surface manifestations of group efforts seem quite separate, but the driving force of those eruptions is the same: the new ease of assembly.
Information sharing produces shared awareness among the participants, and collaborative production relies on shared creation, but collective action creates shared responsibility, by tying the user’s identity to the identity of the group. 
It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen
All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on the managing of information for two audiences employees and the world.
Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies, it happens when society adopts new behaviors.
By David Coleman, Stewart Levine
In the 90’s, collaboration was primarily about working with colleagues within the corporate firewall. Today, it often means working with people inside and outside the organization (in your value network) who have a wider spectrum of roles and relationships in this ecosystem that develops across and between organizations.  
Mary OHara Devereaux and Robert Johansen: Historically businesses have viewed diversity as a chronic problem that had to be minimized and managed. The new challenge of globalization represents an opportunity to take a radically different approach: one that embraces diversity in ways that allow business to grow and profit from the many dramatically different cultural qualities that characterize most of our communities and organizations.
Multiple realities inform each other, fertilize, stimulate, and stir the cauldron of creativity. David La Chapelle
A trend in the industry is moving toward contextual collaboration, where user access to collaboration features is integrated within the business process or application being used. This can improve rates of adoption, since the use of the collaboration technologies becomes seamlessly melded into the way people work.  
In order to work in the space effectively, People, Process, and Technology must all be addressed simultaneously
By Robert L. Cross, Jean Singer, Sally Colella, Robert J. Thomas, Yaarit Silverstone
It does little good to make changes in the community if  the organizational context will simply drive the community back to ineffective patterns
Too often, a firm’s potential for innovation goes unrealized because it is unable to combine the ideas, energies, and skills of  people working in disconnected pockets of  the organization.
A collaborative innovation network reaches beyond a firm’s boundaries; it taps into and connects talent regardless of where it dwells; it is diverse and often cross-disciplinary; and it builds relationships in which knowledge and discovery are shared so that learning is both fostered and accelerated. 
We tend to be comfortable with close connections to others who get  it, or  share  our  world view. The challenge is to reach out and remain connected to those whose views are very different. Often these are the relationships that push us to grow, develop, and be more effective leaders. 
One of  the most important characteristics of  high performers is their ability to generate energy and enthusiasm among those in their network. 



By Tom Kelley
People talk about racial and cultural diversity. Mental diversity can be just as important. we need individuals who celebrate different viewpoints
In the stream of innovation, many companies make the mistake of building dams instead of doing everything possible to increase the flow. But when the culture is devoted to searching for breakthrough ideas, it’s as if the river keeper has opened all the floodgates.
we all benefit by periodically cleaning out our organizational and mental attic, seeing if our thinking and processes need some spring cleaning.
Innovation and structure are like oil and water.
So go ahead and color outside the lines, but try your best to stay on the same page.

Ideas never get made unless everyone makes it their business to do so

After all, consensus-driven teams run the risk of settling on what offends no one and satisfies no one.

Leadership is about instilling a genuine desire in the hearts and minds of pthers to take ownership of their work on a project. Only then can we act together, motivated by a shared purpose

We should be wary that “best practices” -the tries and true ways of doing things- often become conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is often wrong

Please take yourself and your creative pursuits seriously. Your ideas must be treated with respexct beacue their importance truly does extend beyond your own interests. Every living person benefits froma world that is enriched with ideas made whole ideas that are made to happen through passion, commitment, self-awareness and informed pursuit



Sunday musing: The power of sharing

Can you actually mess with somebody's sense of reality, as a force for good? 

What makes an unusual, bizarre, absurd situation an awesome experience? Sharing. A point thoroughly made by Charlie Todd and his friends at Improv everywhere, who proudly define themselves as a prank collective that causes scenes.


I recently stumbled upon Charlie Todd's talk at Ted: The shared experience of absurdity (thanks Salah!). And it just made my day!

Have a great Sunday!