Month: June 2011

Text of my E2Conf Keynote and intro to Tyler Knowlton of DFAIT

My first big-stage keynote address was this week at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. I had the enormous pleasure to introduce Tyler Knowlton and his story about how purpose helped him and his team change how the G20 prepared and organized their summit meetings.

It was an intimidating but thrilling experience that was made wonderful by Steve and Paige at the E20 conference, several of the other speakers, including Ross Mayfield – who is very warm and imaginative in person – many of my twitter friends with their kind tweets and comments, and especially by the kind, humble, and very wise Tyler Knowlton.

Of my co-workers, only Kim Edwards actually made it in person. So for the rest, I am posting the text of my remarks.

……………….

“People are our greatest asset”. For decades right-thinking executives have repeated this phrase with varying levels of sincerity.

In the last couple of years, however, we’ve learned that this “people first” concept is not exactly true.

We are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift from a mechanistic ideal of organizations to a humanistic one.

From the traditional notion of the ideal company as a well-oiled machine, controlled by a CEO, to one where the ideal company is a synthesis of minds that is constantly and continually learning, improving and producing.

We’re not all at the same point along the path of this transition – and even within organizations, some people are further along than others. You guys here are in the lead, of course.

And, in the midst of this new-found humanism it is tempting to embrace the “its our people” mantra ever more tightly.

That’s because we’ve discovered that we have vast untapped human potential hiding within our organizations, and the pressure to figure out how to engage it is skyrocketing. You’ll hear a lot about how to engage people here this week, and with good reason.

But we’ve been out there for a couple of years or so building and selling an enterprise social app that supports team collaboration, and our research and, even more, our customers and also many of you, have taught us a lot.  We’ve learned that we can predict with close to 100% accuracy which of our clients will fail and which will succeed.

There is a single criterion that we can use to predict this and it is a sense of purpose. Without a strong sense of purpose, even the most talented collection of people will founder.

With a sense of purpose you will get the best work out of whatever crew you have assembled.  With purpose, people strive.

Without purpose, personal interests, infighting, and worse, apathy, takes the place of vision, and becomes the dominant force in decision-making. With Purpose, people strive.

Their iron cores align to a common  magnetic north. This alignment unlocks their collaborative, collective potential.

Personal politics – though still there – takes a back seat.

We have been so inspired by the people we’ve met and what they have taught us, that we thought the best thing we could do to serve our purpose (which is to help you pursue yours) was to expand access to some of this great thinking and work beyond our team and even this community.

We think you’ll soon agree with us – with me – that it is in fact your purpose that is your greatest asset.

A couple of weeks ago we announced a speaker series dedicated to the exploration of organizational purpose – what is it, how to get it, what to do with it. It features superstars like Simon Sinek, John Seely Brown and Andrew McAfee, along with some less famous, but not less intriguing people we’ve met. – in other words some of our intellectual heroes – these will be small events around the country designed to encourage discussion, please do come if you can make it. we’ll record and post them for those who can’t

Today I’m adding this: In celebration of the 2.0 release of social workplace,  we are sponsoring a prize for the organization that has shown dedication and innovation to the pursuit and achievement of purpose. The prize will consist of $10K to the charity of the winner’s choice. The winner to be judged by the speakers in our series. Come find me, my teammates, our booth, or our website. Tell us your stories about the role that purpose plays in your organization.

So. We’re going to kickoff this speaker series right here and now.

Allow me to introduce one of those clients who taught us a lot.

Tyler Knowlton is the Chief Strategy Officer in the Office of innovation at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

He was one of the guys behind the Virtual G20 – which was designed to reduce the frustration and increase the impact of some people doing a difficult job. I think you’ll find his story very interesting for its simplicity and its power. It all started because the Canadian delegate got frustrated with his email….

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The Pursuit of (Organizational) Purpose.

[tweetmeme source= “deb_lavoy” only_single=false]In the last few years, we have all accepted as desirable cultural traits the ideas of “collaboration” and “engagement”. Many people have talked about why these values are, uh, valued. The Shift Index, from the venerable Hagel and Seely Brown duo at Deloitte, discusses these things, as does Steven Dennings Radical Management. These two are just a couple of the noteworthy recent references on the topic. There are dozens more.

But do we just decide to be more engaging and collaborative? Does wishing it make it so? What really get’s people’s juices flowing? What makes a team, an organization click? Why are some organizations endlessly political and others brim over with enthusiasm and esprit de corp? Is it the people? The “culture”? the industry?

Its is not any of those things. People work together and collaborate well when they have a sense of what David Brooks calls “Limerence” those “moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away” and people experience a deep sense of intellectual intimacy. Daniel Pink shares his research into what motivates people in cognitive tasks – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Simon Sinek divides the world of organizations into the “whys” and the ‘whats” with the “whys” winning every time.

For the last couple of years I’ve been working in the enterprise 2.0/social collaboration market.  I’ve learned a couple of things out in this jungle.  We can accurately predict who will be successful with our collaboration tools. We can predict it with 100% accuracy. There’s only one criteria. A sense of mission and a sense of purpose.
Not a mission statement, crafted in the late 90’s and framed on the wall somewhere. I mean a deep, omnipresent, constantly pursued sense of what the organization is about. What its for.

People want to matter. They want to do great things. Nobody goes to work hoping to be dull. What holds them back? Sometimes management does. And sometimes lack of it. And sometimes its personal issues. But in a purpose driven organization, every conversation, every meeting is infused with “how do we get better at making this important difference”. The company is creating value faster than its taking it out of the market.

The purpose acts as the primary criteria for decision-making. Without a purpose, there is only the balance sheet and politics. There is no way to make durable, impactful decisions in the absence of purpose, so politics becomes the primary factor. People become  competitive, self-protective kingdom builders.  Power and talent is used for personal gain, not constructive, purposeful outcomes.

Or worse, they are just disaffected. Disengaged is the term used  in the invaluable Blessing White research. The net result is people going through the motions.

But when people have a shared purpose, a mission, an aspiration, politics recedes into the background and talent is engaged. People strive. To do the right thing, to do the best they can.

A long time ago I worked on such a team. It was awesome. We loved each other and our jobs and we did incredible things. Then things changed. The team was broken up. And the new team couldn’t do the same things. We couldn’t do the impossible. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to always find ways to restore the power and euphoria of  that first team again. To regain that heart-pumping feeling that we could do anything. Together. I’ve dedicated myself to understanding the difference for myself, and so that we could change the norms of how people work.

Then about a year ago, I found an fantastic opportunity to work on technology that  helps people to eliminate the barriers and complexities and banalities of teamwork – the impossible task of keeping in synch, understanding, seeing opportunities, building and leveraging on what’s been done before and on each person’s contributions. Of course you know that being collaborative is not a technology problem, but good, useful, simple, powerful tools certainly help.

I now enjoy the extraordinary privilege of working with some extraordinary people, including Anthony Gallo and Scott Bowen, Jason Varmazis and Dave Wormald, Ian, Mitro, Dawn, Greg, and many more. And yes, we’ve got a solid dose of that “team” magic.

As we set out, Anthony asked me “what is the essence of what this is for, what is the gestalt of it?” And so I tossed off some stuff. And we worked at the whiteboard. For months. I would send him one-liners. From my car. From my desk. From the playground. And he would say “yes, but….”.

And then finally we got it. Really got it. Our mission is to support the purpose-driven organization. To support your pursuit of it, your understanding of it, your spreading of it, but most importantly, your execution of it.

The Purpose-Driven company. Driven by purpose, powered by teams. Collaborative teams – in the deepest sense of the term. Scott  championed our approach throughout the company. We are a team – different personalities and talents that wanted to build something that mattered. To you.

And so – today it begins. We launched a new website that tries to convey our thinking about purpose. How our customers and research have taught and inspired us, and invites you to join on our ride here. (though if you’re  interested in learning about the product, we have that information in there too).

Our team at OpenText (Note the new one-word version of the name.  We need to put a dollar in the curse jar every time we screw it up.)  celebrating what we’ve learned. A nod to the organizations who’s greater purpose drives them to do great things. We are celebrating you, and your purpose. Our goal is to provide something of value to you.

We’re beginning with a series of lectures and discussions to help you explore the idea, the value and the experience of being  purpose-driven  mission and purpose, and how it can transform your organization and the world. Simon Sinek will be our first speaker in NYC at 9am on July 11 at the cool Ace Hotel. He’s fabulous – if you haven’t seen him in person, I really hope you can join us. He just hums with passion and intensity.  (you can register here or on that shiny new website)

Please tell us what does and doesn’t matter to you. The best is yet to come.