15 December 2011

From the Humanize chat

Wow, the #ASAETech chat on Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's new book, Humanize, was almost two weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to sharing my thoughts. Hey, #Tech11 had us ALL booked solid last week, right?

For those who aren't yet familiar, the book is about transforming our organizations from a mechanized paradigm to a human paradigm by being open, generative, trustworthy, and courageous. I'm reading the book now and will likely have more to write about it as I progress, but for now, a few things struck me during the December 2 chat.

Lindy Dreyer made a great observation during the chat: being open is something most of us aren't allowed to practice at lower levels, so when we move up in organizations, we've never worked that way before. I think she's right, and it applies to the other key elements of being human in the workplace as well. Why do the bad systems perpetuate themselves? Because more experienced workers train newer workers and pass down "we have always done it (or not done it) that way." This may present an opportunity, as un-mentored Gen-Xers move into leadership positions as the Boomers start retiring (some day). (That's assuming any of us resist the lure of starting our own gigs long enough to be available for those leadership positions, of course.) We haven't been as fully inculcated to being closed and opaque, so there might be a chance to break out of this pattern.

Maddie Grant observed that perhaps the reason there's so much discomfort with social media in workplace is because it lights our passions, and we're not comfortable with passion and emotion in the workplace. Of course, this immediately made me think of Joe Gerstandt's work, and his fantastic "Fly Your Freak Flag"session at the ASAE Annual Meeting in August. The upside of forcing people to keep their passions out of the workplace is, obviously, things run more smoothly if everyone's dispassionate. But there's a downside, too:  you will NEVER get people's best efforts if all your incentives point to smooth efficiency. Passion is messy, but it's also where the juice for good ideas lives.

Jamie Notter provided my new favorite saying: "Proceed until apprehended." It expresses the old "ask forgiveness, not permission" idea, but far more succinctly and elegantly. LOVE!

Finally, the closing keynoter at #Tech11 was one of the authors of the seminal 1999 work The Cluetrain Manifesto. As a result, I popped over to their website and re-read the 95 Theses (scroll down to get to them). Working my way through Humanize now, I realized: we've been saying the same damn thing for 10+ years.

Is anyone listening?


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