The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools. 

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:  
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

Professer, Professional or Playuh?

Determining whether someone is a Professor, Professional or just another Playuh is a tough task. Countless books, blogs and articles have been written about the topic in regards to Social Media, with a plethora of consultants professing expertise in the new social sciences. Yet, trained professionals in other fields are becoming increasingly skeptical of these ‘gurus’ easy answers and questionable value. The same doubt permeates other fields as well, like the ongoing debate about what makes a good analyst. So my question is this: what constitutes an expert from a practitioner in any field and how do you tell the posers from the real playuhs?

Recently, I attended a Social Media Breakfast event with 50-60 other people, many of whom list Marketing as their profession, and include social media as part of their job role. The speaker, Dave Fleet, VP of Edelman Digital, provided an insightful presentation on 20 Social Media Trends for 2011, and demonstrated his expertise well during the Q & A portion of the session. His knowledge value was not in question, but I was stunned to note how many of these professionals in the room scrambled to quickly write or type away when Dave defined ‘taxonomy’. Give me a break! How can these folks be successful in Social Media?

I immediately, (and unfairly), dumped the lot of them in the poser pile. But given a few days to percolate, it became clear that there is a big difference between a person’s profession, their occupation and perhaps even their vocation. While these folks may be accredited as marketing professionals, they may have to do social media as a new part of their growing job role, and it might not even be something they want to do.

As a successful PR and marketing professional, Dave Fleet rose to the status of Professor able to teach Social Media because he’d ‘lived to learn’, expanding his knowledge and skills in the new social sciences because communication is his passion. By contrast, some of the attendees are stuck in their fixed traditional marketing box, and have just ‘learned to live’ with the new tasks foisted upon them, but don’t study to up their a-game, as it isn’t where their true interests lie.

Just like any profession, you have those who live and breathe their work, others who are equally great and devoted to their craft but treat it like a job, and everything in between.

To understand how some people become high value professors and real players, we must first examine the classifications of profession, occupation and vocation. Simply put – your profession is what you know, your occupation is what you do as your job, and vocation is what you are meant to do – your calling.

  • A profession is usually designated by some sort of accreditation or certification that legitimizes one’s knowledge after extensive study. A professional is paid to share this domain knowledge and are expected to do so within a framework of standards, guidelines, statutes and ethics.
  • Persons engaged in an occupation are not paid for their knowledge, but what they produce as tangible outputs. Occupations may or may not require specialized knowledge and accreditation. Often, it is what you do to pay the bills, while you dream of doing what you’d really like to.
  • A vocation suggests a grand calling. Some driving passion or purpose that acts as a summons to perform with enthusiasm.

Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish the experts from the plodders and players is by studying how they apply their professional knowledge within an occupation, and maybe even as a vocation?  Let’s use Dr. Sanjay Gupta as an example.

Dr. Gupta’s profession is medicine, his occupations are neurosurgery and he holds down another job as the Senior Medical Correspondent for CNN, but what makes him a bit more unique than some of his colleagues is his calling to communicate and educate a broader audience. He’s leveraged his learned skills, using his voice to influence public support for the Haiti crisis, or adding practical insight to Health Care Reform studies. This makes Dr. Sanjay both a professor and a real player.

Pros and Playuhs follow a path of continual study with highly qualified teachers. It is through eliminating as many technical issues as possible, having unbiased critiques of your skills and values via debates and publications, as well as putting in an enormous amount of time and effort that elevates a certain few people with the requisite inherent ability to reach the heights of their profession.

When trying to discern the true professional advisors from rogues, scoundrels and plodders, beware these gotchas:

  1. Part Time Experts – they might have a vocation for whatever they’re pitching, but if their day job is in another field entirely, run for the hills.
  2. The Emporer Has No Clothes – if they can’t ‘show you’ versus ‘tell you’ what they’re trying to sell you, then they haven’t applied their professional knowledge in any tangible way deserving of your money. Leave them buck nekkid out in the cold while you look for professionals with current client references and frequent activity in their peer groups.
  3. Boardroom Table Chasers – most professionals at the top of their game haven’t done a cold call in years. If the professional is racing after you aggressively in desperation like dogs on a hunt, then they’re probably hungry for a reason.
  4. Bargain Basement Sales – you get what you pay for. True expertise doesn’t come cheaply.  Better to pay a higher rate for a 30 minute consultation for a professional who can provide solutions and answers than to pay $50 an hour for someone who will fake it until you realize they can’t make it.

There are some extremely talented individuals who offer quality professional services. Just vet them carefully with an understanding of their profession, their occupation and their vocation as described above and you should have a very good chance of avoiding the pain and costs associated with having an incompetent cut their teeth on your on your time with your dime.

Gray Matters – A rant about Ageism

gno grey matter tee

Cool tee from Gno Streetwear Says it all

 

I’m ticked off and stymied by some recent things I’ve seen as ageism towards GenX.  Age discrimination is often not taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination. 

Ageism can be combated through inclusive planning and design which reflects the circumstances of persons of all ages to the greatest extent possible. Age diversity that exists in society should be reflected in business  for policies, programs, services, facilities and so forth so that physical, attitudinal and systemic barriers are not created.  Where barriers already exist, those responsible should identify them and take steps to remove them.

Ageism, can have the same economic, social and psychological impact as any other form of discrimination. I can attest to that based on a recent experience with Company X.

I’m not your average bear when it comes to putting myself out there looking for a new position.  I’m very selective about where I want to work, and I approach the whole process like a job in itself. I’ll research a company for months, get to know their management and staff on line, and listen to their customers. Why? because I’m recruiting them as much as they’re recruiting me. And I’m picky.

Company X intrigued me. Product is similar to what I’m an expert in, but in a vertical channel that is growing as an industry.  Feels like something I could be very passionate about working with.  I’ve been dancing with them for months, including multiple interviews that seemed to go well. The feedback was certainly good, with one exception that’s been bugging me for weeks now.

A big goal they had in Professional Services was to put better business analysis processes in place. I won’t post my résumé here, but “Hello, this is what I DO. WELL. One quick look at LinkedIn recommendations would confirm that for ya.”

Most of the ‘not now’ feedback was stellar and made me feel like a million bucks, except for this part:

“… Although X feels that you have a great background that could transition over, our consulting services are aren’t as mature as we’d like at this point to be able to take best advantage of your skills. Although your interviewers were most impressed, they feel that we wouldn’t be able to offer you the right fit in Delivery, yet… ”

That’s been rattling around in my brain since August.  (Note I highlighted the word ‘mature’, because we’ll circle back around to that in a minute.) Many things flitted around in my grey matter as to what that meant, none sticky enough, or logical enough, to make me feel better about not getting a role with a company I want to work for and know I could help with continued growth & success.

Until today.  As another step in the dance, a VP invited me out for a coffee chat, just because we’ve met online in twitter and she wanted to put a human face to the persona that occasionally tweets about them.  So I met with a lovely Lady about my age (GenX), with an incredible sense of style and keen business savvy. One of my tribe.

She had no idea that I’d had any past exposure to the company via interviews, but I was quite candid about the high level of frustration others like myself must feel seeing those same jobs posted over and over each week on the local tech job board. Without saying it precisely this way, I was clearly stating, “WTH – that is nuts.”

I did twist my thinking around after hearing this response, “Let me add some context to that. Our company’s median age is in low-mid 20’s. That was great when we were a startup and needed that energy as a startup, but now we are realizing we need to get people in the door who don’t need to be taught their jobs, or how to manage a critical issue, but can hit the ground running to get things done.”

*bing – lightbulb goes on* Ah, so the previous interviewers really meant I was too mature in age for the department, and not in skill set. Oddly that made me feel a lot better.  I know I have the skillz, and dying the gray hair doesn’t affect my abilities to use my gray matter. In other words, this is their issue, not a weakness or failure on my part. We old folks can be intimidating, I guess. *rolling my eyes as I type that*

Another friend, who is one of the keenest consultants I’ve had the great fortune to work with, is contemplating a career move of his own. A recruiting specialist told him last week, “You might be too old to be employable in Enterprise these days.”  He’s 47 and runs 6 miles a day. huh?

Now I feel a rant about reverse ageism.  What is it with these younger managers, especially in successful startups that prevent them from understanding just how much gray matters? I’ll pit decades of success after deep-diving in any industry over a GenY holding a newly-minted college or university degree out as a reason to be higher up on the hiring pile.

And I guarantee that us old fogeys will be far more innovative and creative in approaching any business issue you can throw at us.

A common refrain heard too often from my contemporaries, “I know more about what this role really entails and requires than the person/s interviewing me.”

I’m sure it is a lot more fun to fill an office with like-minded people enjoying the same trendy amusements that appeal to youth entering the professional work force, but it’s not a very bright business management game plan for the long-term strategy. 

I’ll continue my dance with company X. I think they’ve got a product to be very proud of, and I’m certain of their success.  I’m also hoping that today’s conversation cast a little illumination on an internal issue that is more widespread than many realize.

Hiring managers: Upgrade Your Team’s Gray Matter, because Gray Matters and can bring you instant street credibility.

Have any workplace ageism stories?  How did you deal with it?