Tag Archives: Social Knowledge Media

Lead As If We’re All Connected….Because We Are

As the tools of social media migrate into the business community, we are all reading a lot about the power of connectivity in the workplace.  In a study published by the McKinsey Quarterly last November, their analysts identified the application of social platforms could unlock $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in untapped value in just four industrial sectors representing 20% of total global output.  Without a doubt, unprecedented opportunities are emerging that will transform the face of business in the years to come.  However, before a firm can unlock this potential through the application of technology, they must first address a cultural artifact that represents a very real impediment; employee disengagement.  Gallup has consistently reported that upwards of 73% of employees are disengaged or, at best, only partially engaged with their employer.  The question that immediately comes to mind is how much value can emerge through the virtual connectivity of a disengaged workforce?

In order to reverse the endemic, employee engagement crisis, leaders may wish to consider a single, scientifically substantiated concept;  we’re already, all of us, connected.  Not just to one another, but to everything throughout the universe.  Before you dismiss this concept as some sort of woo woo, new age precept, please allow me to share some eye-opening research, specifically, research demonstrating the non-locality of consciousness from the field of quantum physics.

In 2003, physicists J. Wackermann, C. Seiter and K. Holger published a research study entitled, “Correlation Between Brain Electrical Activities Of Two Spatially Separated Human Subjects”, in the scientific journal, Neuroscience Letters.  In this experiment two people began meditating together with the intention of being connected.  While sustaining their meditative states, they were separated  and placed in isolation chambers incapable of receiving any signal, electronic or otherwise.  Once isolated, the scientists attached electroencephalography devices (an EEG measures and maps electrical activity in the brain) onto the two subjects.  After a few moments, the scientists flashed a series of colored lights at one of the subjects.  The EEG recorded the subject’s brain’s response.  The second subject was not exposed to the lights, yet both subject’s brains responded instantaneously in nearly identical ways.  No signal existed between the subjects, yet their brain’s shared the experience.  They were still connected.  This experiment has been reproduced by other scientists around the world.

Another example of the non-locality of consciousness was recently revealed when the Chinese government conducted an experiment with spinning electrons.  The scientists isolated two electrons that shared the same orbital spin.  They then separated the electrons by a distance of approximately 400 miles.  When they changed the spin of one electron, the other reacted immediately and in the same direction.  This occurred instantaneously, faster than the speed of light.  The purpose of this experiment is the development of communications systems that cannot be decoded because there is no signal carrying the information.  No signal, no intercept.

Perhaps you saw the headlines a few weeks ago about a study from Australia that was published in the journal, BioMed Central.  “Our results show that plants are able to positively influence growth of seeds by some, as yet, unknown mechanism,” said study author Monica Gagliano of the University of Western Australia. “Bad neighbors, such as fennel, prevent chili seed germination in the same way. We believe that the answer may involve acoustic signals generated using nanomechanical oscillations from inside the cell which allow rapid communication between nearby plants.”  Plants may actually be communicating with one another better than people do in many organizations.

Moving from plant science to molecular biology, another study, “Quantum Correlations in Biomolecules”, authored by Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford in the U.K., explored quantum signally between biomolecules.  This correlates to things I’ve witnessed firsthand.  Back in 2004, I was the lead strategist in the commercial launch of the first human stem cell (multi-lineage progenitor cells, discovered by Dr. Dan Collins of BioE, Inc.) derived from human umbilical cord blood (this is not an embryonic stem cell, but a naturally occurring cell harvested from post-birth, medical waste).  Dr. Collins was able to differentiate these rare cells into many forms of human tissue and cells.  I had the privilege of standing in the laboratory with Dr. Collins, and looking through a microscope, witnessed a single, myocardial cell twitching in heart rhythm.  I witnessed oligodendrocytes (a type of brain cell), set apart on a slide, extending dendrites towards one another to create new, neural networks.  These single cells, native to the human body, exhibited a form of consciousness in and of themselves.  They knew what to do, even outside of their host organism.

In 2009, working on another strategic project, I had the remarkable opportunity of visiting the Horn Telescope at the old Bell Labs in New Jersey.  The telescope that provided the first proof of the Big Bang, back in the 1930s.  Everything in our observable, and unobservable universe, emerged from this event.  As Carl Sagan said back in the 1970s, we’re all made up of this star-stuff that emerged in a sudden burst of creation, billions and billions of years ago.  Every atom in our bodies, every element, is from that single source.

When leaders begin to shed their conditioned blinders and entertain a slight shift in perspective to include these insights, a remarkably different world begins to emerge.  One of authentic presence, insight and engagement that sheds the us versus them orientation.  If we choose to embrace these scientific findings, and view our world through this new lens of real connectivity, opportunities for growth, innovation and productivity breakthroughs appear all around us.  With a little bit of practice, we might even begin communicating as clearly as plants!

© 2013, Terry Murray.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health Care, Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Talent Management

Is it Time to Upgrade Your Human Software?

Emerging advances in social knowledge media and management software promise a future of remarkable connectivity, responsiveness and strategic flexibility for businesses.  The greatest limitation to these emerging capabilities, of communicating and collaborating in unprecedented ways across traditional business boundaries, may be the businesses themselves.  In particular, the individual operating systems that comprise the business; human beings.

Early in my corporate career I was taught an invaluable lesson.  It was during the mid-nineties when many companies were making the final migration away from business software operating systems that were developed in-house to enterprise software platforms from the likes of ORACLE and SAP.  The new, integrated platforms promised remarkable upside.  Promise that often came along with substantial disruption, especially during conversion, which could drag on for months (or sometimes years).  While many of the problems were purely technical, variable and unstable business processes were also contributing to the challenges at hand.

What I learned was you cannot improve process by simply applying technology.  Automating a questionable process only exacerbates questionable results.  Even worse, it often accelerates and amplifies those results.  Back in the 1970s software engineers had an acronym for this phenomena; GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

Now we’re on the precipice of another business software/process evolution; social media and social knowledge management.  The looming impact this next wave of technology will have on current business processes makes the old CRM conversions pale in comparison.  Open networks, strategy accelerators, social branding, on-demand customization, Design Thinking and spherical collaboration will alter many of the established, stabile business processes that have been optimized for hierarchically-organized companies.  The scope of change, and the speed at which it is taking place, is unprecedented.  I dare say social technology will effect commerce in the Ideas Age on a scale similar to how the assembly line impacted the Industrial Age.

While unstable or simply bad processes were brought to the surface as enterprise software gained traction, this new evolution will surface something more fundamental; misaligned thinking, outdated leadership and dysfunctional culture.  While the pace of change in the 1990s enabled organizations to muddle through their enterprise conversions, today’s environment will be much less forgiving.  This isn’t about fine-tuning yesterday’s processes to meet the new, adaptive challenges.  It’s about co-creating entirely new processes, and more importantly, embracing an organizational shift in perspective and orientation that will empower greater collaboration.  Companies will need to strategically navigate the journey from yesterday’s command-and-control thinking to tomorrow’s engage-and-inspire actions.

Structural Effects on Performance

Structural Effects on Associate Performance Orientation

Fortunately, we’re not navigating in the dark.  I wrote a blog last week about global advisory firm CEB’s Executive Guidance – 2013 report that identified the top ten competencies today’s high performers are demonstrating as they thrive in volatility.  A thematic thread runs through these imperative (and teachable) skills.  One of high emotional intelligence, an interpersonal orientation, psychological agility, and a sense of purpose greater than the individual self.  Notice that these skills are oriented around intrinsic goals and values (personal development, authentic relationships, purposefulness).  Goals and values that transcend the superficial differences that exists in multi-cultural, multi-generational workplaces.  The fact is, organizationally leveraging extrinsic goals and values (money, prestige, power) is no longer the go-to motivating factor it was in the past.  Deeper meaning must be imparted through mindful leadership and a highly engaging, inclusive culture in order to ignite breakthrough performance through the application of human capital.

The study went on to identify that, on average, only 5% of employees demonstrate competencies in these areas, so there’s enormous room for growth and performance improvement.  But a shift in perspective must first occur in order for these productivity gains to be realized.  Here’s a quote from the research that supports this insight:

“What skills and behaviors will differentiate the most productive employees?  Most managers and performance management models assume that strong business acumen, task and process mastery, and technical know-how explain the majority of an employee’s job performance.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of outdated assumptions about the most valuable skills and abilities leads to the misidentification (or under-identification) of the organization’s next generation of high performers.  Using existing methods, organizations will likely fail to identify 65% of their new high performers.”*

This points to a misalignment, or misunderstanding, of values…of what matters most in driving performance.  Adopting a social knowledge management software platform without first addressing the firm’s human software (the associates’ thinking, orientation and perspective) is akin to seeding a field without first tilling the sod.  These new insights into the skills necessary for high performance lead us to additional insights into the type of leaders we must be developing and the organizational culture required to foster these competencies and behaviors throughout the organization.

Social knowledge management offers remarkable promise for increases in productivity and performance.  A study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute and published in the November, 2012 McKinsey Quarterly®, demonstrated that improved communication and collaboration through social technologies can raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.  In analyzing just four key business sectors, the research goes on to suggest social platforms can unlock somewhere between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in value!  Just don’t forget to upgrade your human software first!

*CEB, CLC Human Resources High Performance Survey, 2012.

© 2013, Terry Murray

Leave a comment

Filed under Diversity & Inclusion, Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Team Building