Our greatest defect: crossing the chasm.

“Cros­sing the chasm bet­ween “Idea” and “Exe­cu­tion”. That is where the bodies pile up” ~Hugh macleod

Ok, maybe it’s not “The” greatest defect but it sure is one of the most significant and handicapping ones. I see this everyday and I’m sure you do too. Hundreds if not thousands of ideas that thrived throughout the ideation process but never survived the dreaded period of execution. Dozens of people who seem to have a sizzling motivation, a good vision, a cutting edge idea but never succeeded to concretize it in the real world. I fall for the same trap as well. More often than I like to. When I tried to understand why, I found out that our defect was in our little understanding of the two networks in play: the idea network and the execution network.

Network of ideas: Reaching outside the bubble

In the words of Thomas Alva Edison “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”  So in order to really succeed in making ideas happen you need to be inspired first. That’s what networks of ideas are here for: Causing the sparks that could lead to the ultimate breakthrough innovation. However, most of the great inventions in History emerged from a cross-pollination of ideas. Which means that only a diversified network could render innovative ideas. And since diversity comes from bridging the white spaces between disciplines, fields, cultures etc., this translates into the following rule: Leveraging weak ties and avoiding flocking with similar people is your passport to better ideas.

Mistake number 1: Cocooning in your bubble and waiting for the spark to come your way

Network of execution: It’s about collaboration      

There was a nice equation in belsky’s book, that I think summarizes the whole issue promptly. Making ideas happen = Ideas (we covered that) + Organization + Communal forces + Leadership capability. 

Organization is a rather intrinsic aspect. A skill that everyone needs to acquire in order to get things done. I really think it belongs to our circle of control, which means that if we are motivated enough to attain in, we certainly will.

Communal forces and leadership capabilities are the trickiest. In the network of execution, we solemnly work alone. Collaborating with others is often the stepping stone to cross the chasm between vision and reality. Collaboration leverages communal forces and needs great leadership to occur.  It often requires stronger ties that those of the network of ideas, and a common vision with all entities involved. If 10% is for inspiration, 90% of the effort needs to be devoted to building a strong community with a common goal. Needless to say, this is a daunting task. Most communities are fragmented chunks and subgroups that come together because of the energy a new exciting idea brings about. If not under the right leadership, the energy fades and the network doesn’t stand the test of times.

Mistake number 2: Deluding one’s self that the energy of the idea network will fuel the execution network forever

The network of ideas and the network of execution are very different and sometimes contradictory. While one is built on weak ties, the other needs strong foundations to thrive. While one can be transient the other requires medium to long term vision. While one’s texture is built on barely connected subsets, the other needs constant stitching to make a solid construct. Making ideas happen equals getting the best out of each network and leveraging both at the right time with the right people.

Sunday musing: The future is ours

This is one of the videos that I like to play from time to time because it gives me enough motivation to face difficult days. So many things are wrong with the world we’re living in, but that shouldn’t stop us from marvelling at all those amazing things happening around us. 

The future is ours to shape, Let’s make the best out of it!


A touch of the not invented here syndrome?

Eugene Eric Kim did a great job mapping the different relationships among collaboration-related skills.  


What I discovered very early on was that there was an awful lot of great knowledge about how to collaborate effectively. The problem was that this knowledge was largely locked in silos. Ironically, the people who best understood collaboration were not collaborating with each other.


I was disappointed, but not surprised, that “collaboration” as a skill was mostly lumped with technology skills. Folks in the Enterprise 2.0 space, for example, have almost no overlap with organizational development professionals. It’s a troubling trend. Although people are fond of saying, “It’s not about technology, it’s about people,” there’s not much practice validating that mantra.


On the flip side, it’s disappointing that organizational development professionals have stayed removed from some of the amazing trends in the technology sector.

Social Business / Enterprise 2.0 are all about tearing down knowledge silos. Ironically, practitioners of these fields seem to be stuck in their own bubble. The future  lies in effectively spanning the white spaces.

Understanding Brokerage in Organizations


Source: A. Mrvar: Network Analysis using Pajek

I stumbled upon this article by two Harvard Business School researchers who were looking at Employee-suggestion systems from a different angle. While process improvement isn’t my field of expertise, this passage really caught my eyes:

Tucker also explains this finding in terms of “boundary spanning.” Nurses are at the far end of an internal supply chain. Even if they discover a gap between what the supply chain is providing and what the patient needs, they usually don’t have the authority or knowledge to go back to those supply departments and fix the problem; a higher-level person needs to be involved.
“This finding tells us that process improvement in hospitals will require people to work across departmental boundaries, where the problems happen, rather than within a particular department,” Tucker says.

Boundaries are often the equivalent of information flow and collaboration breakdowns in organizations. They arise for different reasons. The most common boundaries, as identified by Kate Ehrlich are:

  • Functional: Breakdowns between divisions (e.g., marketing and finance)
  • Geographic: Breakdowns between geographically separated locations (e.g., US and European offices, East Coast and West Coast offices)
  • Tenure: Breakdowns between long time employees and new employees
  • Organizational: Breakdowns because of M&A scenarios, or among leadership networks

So, if boundaries are obstacles to information flow for most networks, spanning or bridging them is a goal organizations seek to attain (as it’s the case of the hospitals in the HBS’s study). Employees who span these “Structural holes” and tie together otherwise disconnected people and information/knowledge entities, are referred to as brokers.  In order to understand the role of these employees, I’ll refer to Mrvar’s classification of the different types of brokers:

  • Coordinators are those who mediate between the members of the same group
  • When twomembers of a group use amediator fromoutside, this mediator is called an itinerant broker
  • representative is someone who regulates the flow of information and goods from his own group
  • Gatekeepers regulate the flow of information and goods to his own group
  • And finally liaisons are those that mediate between two groups while not belonging to either of them

Due to their unique position, brokers gain enough Social Capital to make them as much indispensable for the network as they are dangerous. Their bridging role translates into Control of the flow from one part of the network to another. They can thus be great change agents. Yet, the negative spin suggests that brokers can play a “Tertius” Strategy where they induce competition or conflict between neighbors who are not linked directly. This could render information retention problems, more conflicts and hence structural holes (which were supposed to be spanned in the first place).

For this reason, it is very important to identify and recognize your spanners early on. This is challenging because, as these employees sit in the white spaces between network pockets, they are not highly visible  and are frequently not in a position of formal authority. Cross and Thomas state that leaders can only recognize 30% of their key brokers which shows how much potential is lost because we are not leveraging network players as we should.         

Are you aware of the brokers around you? What are you doing to turn their power to the advantage of the organization?

It takes a network!


“It’s a profound thought….How every person is a new door, opening up into other worlds.” ~Six Degrees of Separation


Networks are everywhere. Whether we acknowledge it or not our networks shape us to some extent. Making the best out of our networks is an enriching experience that can help us thrive as individuals, communities and societies. 

I pondered on this as I was preparing a talk for TEDxENSEM that tackled the theme: Dare to be different. It seemed to me that to be different, one has to leverage that web of networks he’s often unconsciously embedded in. Acknowledging this fabric of interwoven ties helps us unleash their power. In the era of interconnectedness that we are witnessing today, being a great network player boils down to being able to strategically weave various networks. And that’s what we should strive for. 
The video of the talk is yet to be available, until then, here are the slides of the presentation.

Social Media Day: Let’s contemplate, Together!

In case you missed it, and I doubt anyone did, this Saturday, 30th June, happens to be “Social Media Day”. #SMDay is a universal meetup organized locally in order to gather Social Media enthusiasts, professionals and activists outside the virtual realm and IRL. It’s a celebration of the way Social Media changed and is changing our everyday life.

As the day draws near, I can’t help but think how many things have changed since last year’s Edition. A lot have happened worldwide and in such rapid pace that it makes my head whirl just thinking about it. That is why, I really believe that this year’s Social Media Day is as much a day of celebration as it should be a day of contemplation. A day of asking the big questions that has been lurking in the background: How can I make my brand more human? How to Unleash the social power in the workplace? How do I manage my multiple virtual identities?… Though questions, right? But buckle up, you don’t have to do it alone! 🙂 Social Media Club Casablanca will do all the gathering and organizing for you. All you have to do is show up, have a good time and Discuss!

So On the 30th of June, come join us in one of the biggest celebrations of Social Media, at Mood café, Casablanca, where talks, discussions and enriching encounters will be on the menu.

Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/smdcasa

Event Sur Facebook : http://on.fb.me/LrHkEv

PS1: A Thank you is in place for our sponsors: Mobiblanc and Stagiares.ma

PS2: Don’t forget to check out our worldwide ranking here 🙂 http://bit.ly/O0whCL

Snippet: Creating new Vs Cultivating existing networks


“Given the powerful network effects exhibited by properties such as Facebook, and the walled garden inside which these platforms exist…, one thing companies should be quick to recognize is that if they are investing any more money than $0 in building their own version of Facebook or LinkedIn, they’re making a terrible, terrible mistake. Instead, firms should focus on extending their own applications to benefit from existing networks that their employees, contemporaries and clients have already spent time cultivating.” 


The “I don’t know” Manifesto

 In our culture, not to know is to be at fault socially… People pretend to know lots of things they don’t know. Because the worst thing to do is appear to be uninformed about something, to not have an opinion… We should know the limits of our knowledge and understand what we don’t know, and be wiling to explore things we don’t know without feeling embarrassed of not knowing about them.

~ Sir Ken Robinson

“I don’t know” must be one of the most stigmatized sentences in the history of languages. Yet, these simple words are the gate to mind expansion, discovery and thereby growth. Embracing the possibility of not knowing is the first step into exploring and eventually knowing. I couldn’t put it any better than Wislawa Szymborska, 1996 Nobel prize in literature when he says:

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job.

That is why I decided to create an “I don’t know” manifesto, so we can all remember that it’s ok Not to know, we just have to adopt the right attitude about it.

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“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, “I don’t know.””

Mark Twain