Friday, February 15, 2008

Misunderstood Web 2.0

It’s a common occurrence for people to get annoyed with overused, rarely-understood and highly overrated buzz words. The Trouble With Web 2.0 - Alexander Wilms - Boxes and Arrows
But to know what’s really entertaining, you should try taking a look at large “formal and hierarchical culture” corporations who desperately try to look hip and cool because they adopt “web 2.0” technologies in their existing web applications.

This very interesting article on “The Trouble With Web 2.0” elaborates on what seems to have become a strangely fascinating trend in enterprises. CIOs are talking about it, Senior management in a bunch of companies are trying to show small software services shops are touting it to every prospective client and even PR firms are trying to sell it as an “additional service”. The trouble is: most of these folks think that adding some audio clips, social bookmarks “Digg This! Add to! etc” to their boring, corporate, centralized content generated websites makes them Web 2.0.

The most important and most simple is that corporate behaviours and processes are not changed just by implementing a new IT service. Installing a blog in a formal and hierarchical corporate culture will not change the company in an open and informal community. Web 2.0 patterns will only work if the corporate and even national culture is already responsive to more collaboration and participation or if the implementation is accompanied by other measures to support cultural change.

The entire “collaborative content”, “decentralized knowledge creation” thing seems to be a little lost on monolithic corporations who’ve lived and thrived on an environment of “protect and hide all knowledge until absolutely necessary”. As for the ones that have evolved, they wonder why their brand spanking new Web 2.0 intranet just isn’t being used as much as the old intranet.

What attracts users to donate their time and energy to contribute to Web services like Wikipedia or Flickr while not doing so to corporate services? Psychology and economics teach us that there is no such thing as altruism – whatever people do will create a personal return of value for them. This personal value is measured by individual criteria.

Respect and prestige, personal reputation, political beliefs or desires, and of course monetary incentives influence the decision as to whether their contribution creates this value. People create an article in Wikipedia because they believe that the topic is interesting or important or because they want to see their name in print, and put pictures on Flickr because they want to share them with others, thereby influencing how they are perceived by others.

I agree, the answers on how to solve these issues aren’t here yet - Mindset changes along with the new technology is what’s needed, not just shiny new technology.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Leadership: Creating and leaving a Legacy

This quote from a recent article on Harvard Business Review pretty much sums up emotions that our entire team is feeling right now:

Great leaders -- whether they lead entire organizations or groups within them -- leave a legacy that transcends them and cements their contribution to the growth and transformation of their organization.

I’m not talking about being a mere manager here, but a leader. One your team looks up to for all kinds of advice, personal as well as professional. A leader who gently guides you, encourages you, corrects you, doesn’t force ideology on you, doesn’t coerce you to do your job to the best of your ability, but asks nicely. A leader sticks up for and takes responsibility for his/her team members in times of adversity, but passes on the compliments and gives credit where it is due as well. I read this on another blog: Leadership stems from self-knowledge and integrity.

Several friends I know are not very happy with their jobs - not because of the kind of work they’re doing, but because of the lack of leaders managing their teams. And there’s an interesting observation I made here: When non-ethical or petty behavior is displayed by the leaders of teams/organizations, that behavioral attitude is automatically adopted by team members as well. For example: one person I know got a new boss after being in an organization for a few months, and the boss happens to be a petty, finger-pointing slimeball. So suddenly, after months of relative calm and ease, others in the team become petty and indulged in finger-pointing as well! The same people who were happy, accountable professionals before the leadership change. Needless to say, this has destroyed any semblance of morale and made everyone in the team disgruntled cribbers.

From another HBR article:
As the Gallup Organizations says, people join organizations but leave their boss. In other words, a manager's key responsibility is to create mutual respect and trust with the people who report to them.

When managers lead and manage their people effectively, their people are much more likely to be engaged – and to achieve results for the organization.

In practice this involves walking the talk, being transparent, communicating effectively, treating people equally, teaching, leading subordinates to increasingly excellent performance – and responding to subordinates as mature individuals who are owed fairness, the truth and recognition of their achievements.

These are signs of a great leader. And yes, contrary to most people’s opinions, there are such leaders around in the corporate world. I’ve personally known and worked with only 2 in my life so far (out of 5 previous direct bosses), and regret not spending a lot more time absorbing gyaan on the art of leadership from them.

Having a good leader manage your team makes working a lot more fun – you look forward to your work day and you want to deliver and achieve more because of a sense of commitment. And that’s the legacy that’s left behind when he or she moves on – a strong sense of values, commitment to doing your best at your job and managing (leading) your team to the best of your abilities.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

So true.