Falling…

“Controlled Falling”.  An odd name for a blog that’s mostly about Collaboration, Innovation and Risk Management.   I spent a lot of time thinking about this and believe it’s a good fit. Consider…

It is often said that “walking is controlled falling.”   You’ve seen a toddler learning to take those first steps.  They have a clear objective and incredible determination but they spend a lot of time with their bottom on the floor.  Fortunately for them they don’t have far to fall and have a bit of natural resiliency.  There are some rough tumbles though, and some tears.  It’s important that someone create a good environment without sharp edges, hard surfaces or tripping hazards.  And they get better with practice.   Soon, with each step, their foot seems to catch them just in time.  The whole body begins to align – arms and head for balance, eyes for threats, hands to catch (just in case).   

So it is with recent attempts to enhance Collaboration and Innovation in the enterprise.  So far there seems to be a lot of falling.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Like the toddler, we wouldn’t achieve our objective without a few setbacks.  Given time, we’ll start to put one foot in front of the other and gain a little control. Of course, we want to minimize the damage (aka Risk Management).  There are a number of things we should do to reduce those “sharp edges, hard surfaces and tripping hazards”. Basic things like focusing on business objectives instead of technology; starting with a strategy and an architecture; and implementing a user adoption program.

But there’s a problem with this perspective. Successful organizations cannot be content with being a toddler. We all see that the rules have changed. A common mantra in business journals is “innovate or die”. Collaboration is an imperative for the savvy executive – whether they be IT or business. Novel technologies are emerging faster than we can grasp them. One directory lists 2830 Web 2.0 applications in 175 categories! Organizations cannot afford to toddle in this new environment. Real success amidst this rapid change requires that we become more like a stunt-person than a toddler.

Really? A stunt-person?

Think about it. I’m not talking about a daredevil who takes foolish chances. I’m talking about the professionals. Stunt-people practice. They learn to fall gracefully. They take chances – sometimes big chances – but these are based on knowledge, experience, and a careful understanding of their environment, capabilities and goals. They have a plan. They manage the risks. And the smart ones know when to walk away.

Our organizations must develop these skills. We begin by creating collaboration and innovation ecosystems. These are environments where the occasional fall is acceptable and sometimes planned. We must nurture the staff who have the proper knowledge and experience and sheer intestinal fortitude. We acknowledge our limitations and reach outside to the experts when we don’t have them in-house. Finally, like the professional stunt-person, we control our environment and manage the risks by implementing a comprehensive governance program around our collaboration and innovation initiatives.

We are falling headlong into an uncertain future. It’s obvious to me that enhancing collaboration, facilitating innovation and managing the associated risks are critical activities for our survival and success. So the trick is to control that fall – to do it with grace and skill. If we work at it, then someday it will be as natural as walking.

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Fear of (Blog) Commitment

I’m finally taking the next step in the relationship.

My relationship with Social Networking, that is.  This next big step is starting my own blog.  I have an intimate understanding of the commitment required for tools like Facebook, Twitter and Yammer and enjoy those casual encounters.  But blogging?  Sure, it looks easy and everyone seems to be doing it, but I’ve been very deliberately putting it off for years.  It’s obvious to me that I shouldn’t start blogging unless I’m truly committed to putting fingers to keyboard every week or so at a minimum – willing to string together thoughts of more than 140 characters.  This is certainly the advice I give to others.  Even when I’ve built and managed blogging tools, I have coached senior executives NOT to start a blog because they aren’t passionate about it.   I explain that if they start and don’t keep at it, then they will lose credibility with their staff, many of whom have their own blogs and DO find the time to write about things they know on a regular basis.

That’s the trick though isn’t it.  Writing what you know.   Writing about your passions.  Mine?  To name a few – Collaboration, Innovation, Risk Management, Environment, Home Renovation – all of which are hot topics right now (ever heard of HGTV?).   It’s easy to think there’s nothing new I could offer.  After all, even if I read all day, everyday, I wouldn’t be able to consume all of the information that’s being posted about these topics.

But friends and colleagues keep asking me for the web address to my mental musings.  They want to know what I think about things.  It is good that those who know me well also trust my insights and opinions.  They want to know what I  find relevant and what I feel about this opinion or that commentary.  In some cases they want me to be their filter – to help them sort through the masses of information or offer a shortcut solution to their problem.  It can be a bit daunting.  I wouldn’t want to let them down.

BSA Project SOAR patch from 1971Fortunately for me there’s a lot of history to draw upon.  I’ve been developing collaborative solutions since before the term “intranet” was coined; working closely with a firm specializing in innovation; managing risk before Enron; working for environmental change since Project SOAR in 1971; and remodeling houses before HGTV aired its first show. 

The fact is we all have something to offer.  Perhaps a wealth of experience.  Or some new or different way of seeing things.  Maybe the ability to listen and assess when others are busy talking.  There are times when something that seems incredibly obvious to you will be the “Eureka!” moment for someone else.   So here I go, starting my blog.  Finally taking that big step.  Making the commitment after years of flirting.   It feels right.

Take a minute to consider your own situation.  I assure you that you have something to offer.  Start collecting a list of topics.   Pick a good blogging tool (most are free, and easy).  Experiment a bit.  Then, when the time is right and you are comfortable with the situation, take the step – hit the publish button.