Twitter chat Storify: What does it mean to lead, in a networked enterprise?

I published a Storify of the May 20 Twitter chat What does it mean to lead, in a networked enterprise? that includes discussion (and resources) focused on the following questions:

Q1: Imagine we are in a business/organization that truly embraces enterprise social networks as key to success. As leaders in this organization are there things we should pay more attention to? Trust? Safety (safe to ask questions, for example)?

Q2: Now think about “leaders” at multiple levels – individual, middle, and top level executives. Do we need to develop any NEW leadership capabilities? Or do certain leadership capabilities become more important?

Q3: How should we think about our own online presence/voice when we take on formal leadership roles? What changes? What doesn’t?

Q4: Any final thoughts about today’s topic? New insights? New Ideas from tonight’s chat?

May 20 Twitter Chat: What does it mean to lead, in a networked enterprise? #msloc430

Coffee pie HiveLet’s assume we are enthusiasts for the organizational vision – and change – associated with the potential of embracing enterprise social networking as core to our enterprise.

We get it. We get that it’s not just about the technology. That it’s about gaining real value from weak network ties, from serendipity, from diverse ideas and knowledge, from community and relationships. And we get that networks are both more adaptive and more resilient than hierarchies in the face of the complex world in which we live.

Let’s also assume that we all see ourselves as leaders of this change, and that we are working hard to further develop our capabilities as leaders. What, then, does it mean to:

  • Lead as an individual evangelist/change agent?
  • Lead from the middle – as a manager, team leader or other formal role where we have some control over resources and people’s activities?
  • Lead from the executive level?

At each of these levels, how do we lead? What new – or enhanced – capabilities do we need? What do we need to be aware of – in our role as leaders – that can make us more (or less) effective? How do we, as leaders, think about our online presence and identity – given the visibility we gain through enterprise social networking platforms?

Join me and 16 members of my graduate course (MSLOC 430 Creating and Sharing Knowledge) as we explore these questions in an hour-long Twitter chat beginning at 8 pm CT (U.S.) on Tuesday, May 20. Hashtag is #msloc430.

See results and insight from a previous chat on adoption strategies for enterprise social networking. I’ll post a similar summary here.

You can also see more about MSLOC 430 bloggers, Twitter chats and open discussions that have been a part of the MSLOC 430 class experience during the past couple of years.


Let the dinosaurs die and the lurkers lurk. Insights on seeding adoption of enterprise social networks.

MSLOC 430 tweet chat

Learning & Organizational Change graduate students in the thick of a class sponsored Twitter chat.

On Thursday, Feb. 27, my class of graduate students from the Master of Science in Learning & Organizational Change program at Northwestern University organized a Twitter chat to explore the following: What tactics have proved effective in seeding the adoption of social collaboration technology, considering the variety of organizational and work contexts out there?

The intent was to pursue something more than generalized “best practices” – which are often a fiction, or which have been filtered to such a watery form as to become almost meaningless (i.e., “engage leadership support”). The class was trying to get closer to tactics and strategies that have more flavor, that get closer to the tacit know-how of practitioners who have lived through the process of social technology adoption and have come out with some success.

This line of inquiry led us to organize the Twitter chat. To prompt the discussion we focused on three general questions:

  • What roles (formal or informal) are important in seeding adoption?
  • Are there specific activities that users could be nudged to do – that start the momentum?
  • What are the trade-offs of “going big” vs. focusing on energetic early adopters?

The Twitter chat was an explicit effort to “thin the walls” of the classroom (to borrow a phrase from my ed tech network) – make them a bit more permeable by connecting students and practitioners directly, using common social media tools like Twitter. The result was a wide-ranging give-and-take with almost 40 participants (13 in the class). A cohort of experts from Change Agents Worldwide joined in, as did a number of practitioners and thought leaders from our close and extended network. The discussion covered many angles in answering these questions. Participants also shared links to a variety of great resources and thought leadership – all of which is recapped in the Storify of the event.

I’ve tried to synthesize some of the themes and interesting points below. But the full transcript is a gift that goes far beyond my recap.

Roles. Community manager roles (for “lift off”), champions, savvy social network tool users, and the support of leadership roles (for funding if nothing else) were noted. But more interesting were the informal “momentum builder” roles that emerge from people who are willing to experiment – the first followers.

The tweet from Bryce Williams drew an immediate reaction and, for me, pointed to a theme about the traits required in both the formal and informal roles: Part rebel, part trusted peer. Someone with social skills that bridge the online environment and the context of the workplace in which they are embedded.

The  Harold Jarche “let dinosaurs die a natural death” comment also drew commentary. I’ve heard this kind of thinking in the context of enterprise social networking from others as well – and have probably said it in class a few times. The more I reflect on it, the more I sense the push-back when people hear this is rooted in the knee-jerk approach to implementing change – i.e., that we control it from the top down or some central point outward and we must cascade our communications, activities etc. to make sure all are “changed.” That’s a delusion at best. Of course it is keenly important to pay attention to the edges – who lives at the margins, that we should be engaging? – but that’s a different issue than trying to convert the nonconvertible.

Activities. Much of the dialogue was around simple nudges. Get people to ask questions. And others to answer. Solve simple problems. Fill out profiles and share photos. Make the initial engagement authentic – rather than trying to force interaction.

There was also a good bit of dialogue around the theme of “lurkers’ being a positive role. “Lurking” – or just reading in an online community without responding – is actually seen as a very engaged activity; it is the heart of online social learning.

“Go big” vs. focus on energetic adopters. I commented during the chat that it seemed to be a blowout – no one thought “going big” was a good idea. But upon reading the full chat again, there are some nuances to the issue. You certainly have to think big. Or it may be a matter of timing – when to go big vs. “if.” But the chat did bring up a wide range of downsides that make going-big either wrong-headed at worst or risky at best.

In the end, the chat clearly pointed to the challenges of “implementing” – which all of its top-down, hierarchical implications – a change in work patterns and technology use that deliver value by being emergent and organic. Like all of the practitioners who participated in the chat, the key seems to be in understanding emergence and embracing it. Let the lurkers lurk. And the dinosaurs drift into history.

For more on the full chat experience, see two MSLOC 430 student blog posts reflecting on both the experience and the content of the chat:

Stanley FongEntering a brave new (knowledge) world | simpler ideas for a better life

Aditya Singh ChauhanEngagement Space: What drives engagement on Social Networking platforms?

Thanks to Aditya, as well, for the photo in this post.

How do you seed adoption of Enterprise 2.0/social business? #msloc430 Twitter Chat Feb. 27 8 pm CT

Coffee pie HiveThe course I am teaching this quarter (and next) for the Masters Program in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University uses Enterprise 2.0/social business as a way to understand the role that technology plays in sharing and creating knowledge within organizations.

As we look at a variety of organizational cultures, business challenges and domains of work practice (e.g., marketing and sales, engineering, management functions, etc.) we find ourselves continuously scanning the work of thought leaders, bloggers and experienced practitioners to find clues to the following:

What tactics have proved effective in seeding the adoption of social collaboration technology, considering the variety of organizational and work contexts out there?

This is a slightly different approach than pursuing generalized “best practices” – which are often a fiction, or which have been filtered to such a watery form as to become almost meaningless (i.e., “engage leadership support”). We’re trying to get closer to tactics and strategies that have more flavor, that get closer to the tacit know-how of practitioners who have lived through the process of social technology adoption and have come out with some success.

Do you have stories to share in this area? Experiences? Insights? Recommended resources (bloggers, white papers, research, Twitter)? Share them with us. Comment here, or connect with us via the course Twitter hashtag: #msloc430.

And join us for an hour-long Twitter chat exploring this topic on Thursday, Feb. 27 from 8-9 PM Central Time (US). Hashtag: #msloc430

Teaching uncertainly #rhizo14


The topic for this past week in #rhizo14 was embracing uncertainty. A familiar topic in my work context. Kimberly Scott, the Director of the Master’s Program in Learning & Organizational Change (my professional home), openly tells graduate students to get used to playing in the ambiguity sandbox. We joke about adding a course to the curriculum: “Dealing with Ambiguity.” Not sure when it meets, or where. Deal with it.

So I thought I would address the topic by sharing more about activity – what I do, and have done – and less about thinking out loud. I am a big advocate of prototyping and experimenting – putting something out there to see what response it creates from the network, community, or organization. Prototypes are one way I deal with uncertainty.

Questions are another.

Refining my questions

The question I came to #rhizo14 with is this: What is teaching presence – when your instructional goal is to shift power?

I am refining that a bit. I am thinking about teaching presence in the context of open courses – or if not fully open, certainly more permeable. Courses where the traditionally defined “student” also engages actively with a larger network or community, and vice versa.

So now I have several related questions, starting with the assumption that teaching presence does make a positive contribution to learning in a course. And I see the course container as simply a contract among participants involving time and topic. I am starting with the Community of Inquiry (CoI) definition and elements of teaching presence as a scaffold for this investigation:

Teaching presence is ‘the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcome.’ Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. Taylor & Francis.

Garrison el al. also define three elements that contribute to the practice of establishing teaching presence: Instructional design and organization; facilitation; and direct instruction.

My revised questions:

  • Does the definition hold for open/permeable courses?
  • Do the three elements hold? If so, in what ways do the practices involved in each element need to change as you push further toward open-ness?

At the end of #rhizo14, I’ll synthesize some thoughts in a final blog post. The idea is to craft some ideas for new experiments in future courses or formal learning events.

In my experience: Teaching uncertainly

I have two sets of experiences in experimenting to share here: The course I teach for MSLOC and Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations (#xplrpln) the open learning event we held this past fall.

MSLOC 430. As I note in a #msloc430 class bloggers: Exploring networks, communities and knowledge, between January and June of each year I teach a course in which we explore technology and people and knowledge. The course is actually taught twice during that time period ( we are on 10-week quarters).  Every year I attempt to find ways in which the two class sessions can learn from each other, and from a growing network of alumni and practitioners who know us and this course.

This year I redesigned a blogging assignment. Students work with each other and with me to define a question (or two) on a topic of professional or academic interest that can draw, in part, from content or concepts we cover in the course. But the question must tap into their interests; not mine, or what they think is mine. They map out their own blogging path to explore the question (there is a minimum number of 4 posts required to meet the assignment) and they are encouraged to use the course hashtag on Twitter (#msloc430)

I had no idea where this was going to go. I still do not. But some early outcomes intrigue me.

Andee Weinfurter’s initial post exploring trust and relationships in online communities was grabbed – via Twitter – by Mariana Funes and integrated into a wonderful Storify: The interpersonal contract in cMOOCs. The Storify explores the interpersonal “contract” in both #rhizo14 and Cathy Davidson’s MOOC #FutureEd. Mariana writes this about Andee’s questions:

She asks wonderful ‘non-googlable’ questions as she sets out to blog for her course this semester. One of them speaks to this story as she wonders ‘How do individuals develop trust over technological platforms?’ A question I still ask myself over a year after the start of my own experiment in being an open educator and learner. [emphasis mine]

“A question I still ask myself…” is exactly where I am with many of the questions posed by bloggers in MSLOC 430. As well, the remainder of the Storify explores topics of deep interest to me.  Neither Andee nor I knew Mariana before this connection (I now follow her on Twitter – so yes, the rhizomes are spreading). Andee, I know, is finding value in these and other connections made through her blog post. But so am I. In this scenario, where is the teacher presence and where the learner? Or is this an example of a power-shift moment, when the roles of teacher/learner converge?

Andee’s is one example. We are only two weeks into it, with some students blogging out in the open on the web while others are blogging “semi-open” within our private online learning community of about 200 students and faculty (the setup we use is a cloud instance of Jive software ). I am inspired by the connections and random positive events that are beginning to occur.

Where will this lead? I honestly cannot predict. But I am treating the assignment as a prototype – as something that you put out into a user community, based on researching and observing and trying to understand latent needs. And when you put it out there, you need to watch and learn. That’s where I am at today.

Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#xplrpln). Earlier this year, Kimberly Scott and I facilitated a 5-week open, online seminar focusing on personal learning networks (PLNs). The question we asked to set the context for the course has no clear answer: Is it possible for PLNs to be fostered within organizations for mutual benefit – for both the individual and the organization?

This is the type of fuzzy-problem organizational question we use often in our graduate program. The experiment for us was to see how some of the problem-based-learning strategies we use in our courses translated into an open, connectivist-inspired event looking at this type of question. We also experimented by using only a Google+ Community, blogs, Twitter (including Twitter chats) and a virtual classroom tool for occasional video broadcasts.

We ended up with about 130 participants who signed on; between 40 and 50 were actively engaged throughout the 5 weeks. Much of the resulting participant content is curated on

But if you also look at #xplrpln as a prototype or experiment, much of what we learned is captured in Helen Crump’s excellent blog post and comments deconstructing the event design and her experience in it: My footprint of emergent learning in exploring personal learning networks. In one of her comments, Helen writes:

…the learning experience was very powerful because at heart it posed a seemingly innocuous question, or ‘problem’, that could transcend a number of organizations/contexts. However, what transpired was a genuine realization amongst the participants that what we were actually discussing was an emerging phenomena and a very complex one at that, one that was essentially about the changing power dynamics between the individual and the organization. This was the unsettling /extremely emergent aspect of the seminar…

The “seemingly innocuous question” was a scenario we posed to the participants. Your chief executive has heard about PLNs and is excited about the potential advantage it might provide your organization. But the chief exec really knows very little about them, or what it might mean for the organization. You are invited to provide guidance in a one-hour meeting. What would you advise?

In our experience with #xplrpln, this scenario actually influenced the learning dynamic more than we anticipated (in a positive way). It was one of the more interesting bits we learned as designers and facilitators.

Kimberly and I also reflected a great deal on what would be the “right” amount of content to provide, without falling into the trap of having participants trying to figure out what is the hidden meaning behind things we might post (where there IS no hidden meaning). We debated and rewrote questions continuously before our weekly Twitter chats. We worked at trying to share our own authentic voices – in video, in blog posts and commentary – and our different points-of-view and interests.

But I am beginning to think the most important lesson I learned is that we both very honestly engaged in the entire event with this attitude: We have no idea how to best answer the questions we were posing.

photo credit: robonline via photopin cc