Let’s Rewire Rewards Systems


Technology Heart (1 color)

During a recent Twitter Chat with my MSLOC Community and other thought leaders from around the world, a question arose about the necessity of anchoring an Enterprise 2.0 system around a burning platform or a sense of urgency in order to engage employees. I struggled with this concept given how socially connected on social media platforms we are outside of the workplace when no burning platforms exist. We do not post photos to Instagram to solve big problems but rather for the sense of community, the creative outlet and also, selfishly, for recognition from our individual networks.  Small, attainable and ongoing reinforcements are influential drivers in our daily lives.    

We count the number of likes we receive on Facebook, track our Klout scores and revel in high Twitter traffic. So what are these technologies validating? Our worth? Our popularity? Our photography skills?  I think this question is actually irrelevant. What is important is that these technologies create constant personal small wins that reiterate an individual’s importance –  and this is something that millions of people find wildly addictive.  

Recent developments show how far we will go in our plugged in society to receive this  validation for a small win, myself included.  Wearable fitness devices like Fitbit or the Nike Fuel band have built their model on our innate drive for personal success by having owners set a daily goal or limit to meet.  I have friends who will engage in what seemingly looks like completely irrational behaviors (stepping away from drinks on a Friday night to get a couple laps walking around the block in) in order to meet their daily goal. So how can these reinforcements be introduced into the workplace? And is it necessarily a good thing?

With gamification methods integrated into organizations’ enterprise systems, employees can be motivated to make goals and maintain productivity. Gamification provides meaning to the meaningless, enabling employees to adapt an alternative perspective of their work. An unbearable task can now be reframed as part of a game rather than a waste of time. Employees don’t have to rely on their superiors for positive feedback, but instead can receive it directly from the game, thus making employees more willing to engage.  

However, at the core of this question is a bigger issue.  What has happened to leadership teams that make employees feel deprived of recognition?  Enterprise 2.0 is a great mechanism for increasing engagement and connectivity among employees but it should not be used as a substitute for the relationships they have with their managers.  In our plugged in society, we need to pay more attention to the heart (of the issue and of one’s employees) and operate Enterprise 2.0 first and foremost under a Human to Human system. 


The Evolving Narrative



What happens when you offer up your narratives to virtual online communities? By narratives, I am not referring to your life stories or the highlights of your weekends. Instead, I am referring to the evolution of a thought pattern; an ongoing series of thoughts you might engage in on any certain topic, whether it be celebrity gossip or economic game theory. Virtual communities ask us to take a stand, to declare something as interesting and expose our half baked ideas aloud. They welcome us to visibly and obviously struggle with the “validity” of our own opinions. Online communities ask us to be vulnerable – and that is inherently threatening.

When we throw these ideas out beyond the safety of our own computer screens or controlled audiences, they become free to others to tweet at, blog about, contradict and champion. Like the Free Box in Telluride, Colorado, which is one of the largest and more comprehensive community donation spaces I have ever seen, our written artifacts become open to the creative interpretation of others. The Free Box has been around since the 1970s serving as a place for people to offer up artifacts of their past, pieces of their own identity, to the world at large. Once deposited, the original owner cannot control a coveted t-shirt of their favorite band being torn and sewn into a quilt or used by an youngster who doesn’t understand the significance and glory of the band for a Halloween costume. We offer our ideas for others to try on, mix and match and use as a means to anchor their next narrative. 


(Source: http://gazette.com/proposed-store-would-have-a-twist-everything-is-free/article/140162)

Julian Stod beautifully discussed on his blog the organic life cycle a narrative takes once released into the world.   

The narrative is important, the words that surround it less so. The meaning is what will persist if it is relevant and clear, so when we craft our stories, like posters on a wall, they need to be clear, but we have to recognise that they will move out of our control. And, eventually, they will weather and fade, becoming simply the foundations for the next chapter that is built upon them.”

Tanya Lau demonstrated that process as she wove together the ideas of many in the KM community and as a result quilted together a beautiful poem. Tanya’s offering, while perhaps grounded on some ideas of others, is pure and individualized, a unique and beautiful creation of it’s own that projects a voice, perspective and narrative into the blogosphere.  So yes, while there is the so called threat that your words can become part of another person’s narrative, that is where all the fun lies. And more importantly – it is where all the growth happens.  

Ultimately, we aim for our narratives to not only project our own identities, but more importantly identify with others. In the words of John Steinbeck, “A great lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”

The evolving online identity

I am

Identity is an issue users struggle with across all online communities. Perhaps one reason for this is because more often than not, online identities are a crafted attempt to attract others.  While not always the case, often an online identity is an attempt to create some form of community or personal learning network rather than stand as a individualistic expression of our own identities.  For example, Twitter allows us 140 characters to define ourselves and identify the community we are trying to reach. Those few characters, the avatar picture we choose and the tweets we send out are strong determinants not only of who we are, but also of how we hope others to see us.  However, they are identities that may or may not be completely representative of our “real life” selves.

We create online identities with a purpose, yet virtual online communities provide the inherent flexibility and space for these identities to evolve and change. In regards to the identities employees choose in corporate online communities (such as a company intranet) Brown & Dugiud (2001) present an interesting and forgiving insight. “Work identities . . . are less something mandated by structure or dictated through culture, and more something that participation actually helps create” (p. 202).  In other words, it’s the act of participating and engaging that actually verifies the integrity of an online identity, rather than the credibility of the 140 characters next to your photo.

In my first post, I wrote, “I love that I am a constant work of progress.” While online virtual communities make erasing the past impossible, they provide us with the flexibility to explore. We can change our minds, shift our focus and mingle with different networks, altering our identity with every interaction should we choose. We must acknowledge that identities are shaped by our present interactions more so than the documented accomplishments of the past.  We are supposed  to be changing, evolving – that’s how we move forward. In order for individuals to be willing to embrace the vulnerability of online communities and establish virtual identities, communities must present a psychologically safe space that recognizes that the integrity of one’s opinion first and foremost lies in the act of participating, rather than being “right”.

Discovering the link between your internet connection and your emotional connection

Mead 2

I have a picture framing the famous Margaret Mead quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world . . . Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” hanging in my apartment. This quote serves as a constant reminder of the influence each individual holds in shaping their environments. When we think of how movements have historically evolved over time, the enormous amount of energy dedicated to creating results is all too clear. Martin Luther King, being an obvious (and relevant) example, faced an undertaking that ultimately cost him his life. The process of collaboration and influence in our society can be extremely daunting as one contemplates the countless hierarchies, rules, resource planning, emotional energy and other implications that make action so difficult.  However, the first and foremost problem in inspiring action is finding the support, the first follower, the human support base, to even attempt to do so.

If you watch this video, you will see the transformation that takes place from one individual expressing himself (literally and physically) to recruiting his first follower to establishing a small social movement. What you will notice is that so much of this process is physical. It’s emotional. It spreads because of place and presence and face-to-face interaction. The leader and his followers have created an environment that is contagious, a space that is hard not to engage with.

It is fairly easy to identify the point in this video where this event almost instantly transforms from a couple of dance enthusiasts to a full out dance party (social movement).  Malcom Gladwell calls this the Tipping Point, or the critical turning point, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” wherein an idea, behavior, product or message effectively goes viral.  Gladwell even reiterates Mead’s message, “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.”

So how easy is it to find these exceptional individuals across technology channels? And furthermore . . . how do we begin to trust them without a shared physical space and face-to-face interaction to build off of?

At first, finding and connecting with people  across technology channels doesn’t seem to be so daunting. After all, we all have hundreds of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook connections that we interact with almost daily. In addition, there are online communities of practice for just about every hobby or interest imaginable.  However, what leads to the identification of an “exceptional” leader and the dedicated support or buy in from others – and ultimately real time team collaboration?  John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid comment on the complexity of identity and recognition in social environments. “Learning, in all, involves acquiring identities that reflect both how a learner sees the world and how the world sees the learner.” In other words, you are only a leader if other people decide to recognize you as one.

So how does this process take place?  Where is the emotion? How do individuals establish interpersonal relationships of trust through a computer screen?

My Creating and Sharing Knowledge course this term tasks me with diving deep into a specific element of knowledge management of my choosing to explore and blog about in depth throughout the term (which I will be conducting here over the next couple of weeks).  My curiosity lies in this concept of buy-in, or what triggers individuals to first of all participate in foreign technological communities (Twitter chats, discussion forums, Personal Learning Networks, corporate intranets) and more importantly, what fosters individuals to act on these experiences to develop actual professional and personal relationships? Specifically:

  • What is the tipping point that drives not just participation but also ongoing collaboration?

  • Are there specific technological environments that foster increased engagement  between a small group of individuals who share a passion to take the leap towards real time collaboration in a start-up?

  • What transforms a divided corporate culture into one that reaches out through technology to connect, share best practices and knowledge and invest in fellow employees?

  • How do individuals develop trust over technological platforms?

  • What causes two people to fall in love over an exchange of written messages having never interacted face-to-face?

In effect, what factors lead to the humanization of these technology portals?  More to come!

The Five Whys . . . Why Not.

Most of us are familiar with the three year old who can’t stop asking the question “why?” after everything we say. 
Why do I have to eat dinner?
“Because you’ll get hungry otherwise.”
“Because you need food to live.”
“Because your body needs nutrients that come from food”
And before you know it you are too deep down the rabbit hole and are explaining the differences between the evolution and creation theory of existence to a three year old.
As adults we look upon this “why phase” with a sigh and hope that it transpires quickly to a less irritating endeavor like Lego building or coloring books.  But alas, kids are once again wiser than their twinkling toes and button noses let on. It’s of course the kids who have got it all right.
As adults we stop asking questions. We find it takes too much effort. It requires talking to people we would rather not talk to and often we are so comfortable in our construed and altered bubbles of existence that we even prefer to not know more than we already do. We crave our own ignorance.
When I began my graduate program this past Fall, my leadership coach provided me with some invaluable advice. She called it “The 5 Whys”. In response to a statement or problem, you would ask five why questions, with each why question linked to the previous answer, until you ultimately arrive at the root of the problem.  My coach counseled that every time I’m in a discussion and feel that tugging urge to challenge someone’s idea (usually without thinking through my own reasoning first) I need to ask them “The Five Whys” in order to break down their argument and gather a robust picture of their line of thought. Once I have a full picture of where the other person is coming from, then and only then can I thoughtfully and empathetically respond.
In the same way that a kid questioning his parent about having to eat his dinner can lead to the very biology of our bodies and the concept of evolution, we can gain that much more knowledge about the environments others inhabit, whether they be organizations, households or other relationships, by taking a step away from our own judgements to truly understand the full extent of others’ thinking patterns and motives.
One of the greatest lessons from my personal and professional worlds thus far has been to never make assumptions. As someone who has a tendency to think that she’s right more than she’s wrong, you can imagine how dangerous it might be for me to act on my assumptions (Spoiler – they’re usually wrong). “The Five Whys” is the way I can keep myself in check, challenge my own assumptions and better understand the full extent of a person’s thought process and argument in work, life and everything in between.

Life in a list

“Reach for the moon, if you miss it, you will land among the stars”


As I look ahead to 2014, I can’t help but wonder where to devote my energy in the year ahead.  While I am not the biggest fan of the New Years hype and parties, I am an avid goal maker and tend to take my New Years resolutions obnoxiously seriously. I make sure my goals strictly adhere to the SMART goal requirements (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) and to the dismay of my friends and family, am often the first to point out that their goals do not in fact meet the appropriate standards to be successful. Mom – no matter what you say “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing” does not count as an appropriate year-end goal. 

However, if we break down our resolutions, year after year, what we’re really left with is one giant to-do list. At first this sounds really depressing, but in reality that is how we measure our own lives and those of others. In reflecting on why the life of Nelson Mandela is so remarkable we read off the to-do list of his life – the virtues to emit, accomplishments to overcome and words to influence others with.

According to philosopher Umberto Eco, that is exactly what life is. A to-do list. I came across this Fast Company Article a couple of weeks ago which quotes the philosopher on the power of list making:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists . . .” 

I love this quote because it attributes the simplistic act of list making to solving the grandiose task of understanding our realities and futures. Lists act as a means of creating order out of chaos. If we expand our definition of what constitutes a list, we will find that lists play an even larger role in providing direction in our lives. They come in the form of mind maps and diagrams, recipes and workouts, each form identifying small wins as a means of ultimately accomplishing what Jim Collins calls a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, whether it be a change initiative or mastering a crème brulee.

However, in the same way that you may forget an ingredient for the crème brulee if you don’t write it down before heading to the grocery store, the same is true with any item on a to do list or any goal on one’s life list. Let’s reframe our goals so that the fear of failure or the intimidation of the task ahead can be broken down into small harmless bullet points – itty bitty small wins, checked off by the day.

 Break it down. Write it down. Take it with you. Cross off your goal, one small win at a time.

On being humbled.

“We are going to the moon – that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself”
~Anaïs Nin

In my last post, written just a wee couple of days before my first day of grad school, I wrote “I love that I am a constant work in progress.”  If only I had known seven weeks ago just how much of a work in progress I was to about to actually become.

I realize that to an outsider, yes, my life right now may look a little bit like a mess.

I relapsed HARD from my eight month sabbatical from coffee. After only two weeks into grad school, not only was I drinking half a french press every morning but even worse, I was taking the french press back into bed with me.

In addition, I’ve been using the classic “bad haircut” excuse to justify wearing my (usually un-showered) hair in a top knot every day.  I’m so off the grid, I didn’t know the World Series was going on until I received a New York Times alert on my phone to inform me of the winner.  I regressed from going to yoga everyday to struggling to make it once or twice a week, only to be in the most impressive class of yogi moms reconfiguring their limbs into poses I didn’t know even existed.  And then we move on to school, where my meager three years of work experience seems almost laughable when stacked up against some of my (extremely impressive) classmates.

But then I stop. And breathe. And okay maybe have a sip of coffee. And SEE the flip side. I am the luckiest girl in the world. There is nothing that so clearly shows just how much you are learning than the skillful art of being humbled day in and day out by the people you admire most.

But beyond being humbled, I am being shown my potential, what I have to look forward to.

No I can’t make the same leaps in problem solving that some of my classmates can at the moment, but their accomplishments only set the motivational carrot in place to keep me moving forward. I accept that it may take me longer to write a paper because this is the process that needs to take place to instill growth.  No I’m not on the third series of my Mysore yoga practice, but it doesn’t mean I won’t get there someday.  I look back to seven weeks ago in terms of my writing abilities and six months ago in terms of my yoga practice and it’s impossible not to see progress

I measure progress differently now. It’s a centimeter gained in a forward fold during yoga or in positive feedback from my project teams during class. It comes from learning a new technology or making a suggestion that’s liked by others. But really, the true mark of progress will come when I stop measuring it all together and instead learn, really learn, to just enjoy the ride.


And so it begins.

4d360a01ee9a2ca4345aca536c9de658Much has changed since I last put my voice out into the blogosphere three years ago. I have come to terms with the undeniable fact that I don’t think I ever really learned how to drive, despite ten years of practice. I know that Excel will always be my arch nemesis and that yes, sometimes I overlook important details (e.g. rent is due at the beginning of the month NOT the end) simply because I occasionally sincerely believe that I know the answer to everything. The inevitable signs of aging also began to show their cruel dark fangs. My best friend pulled out my first white hairs during a month of immense stress and to add to that, I think I’m growing bunions.

However, over the past couple of years I have made some substantial progress. I finally learned how to take care of MYSELF. I meditate and make my bed (almost) every single day. I KNOW that a morning stop at Starbucks to get a hot earl grey tea with a steam soy topper wholly and truly will make me a better person for the day. If I have to go to Starbucks twice in order to contribute to the world that day, so be it. I no longer leave my keys in the door overnight, and I can finally state with pride that I have only once in the past year left the stove on long after I had finished cooking dinner.

I’m not as naive as I was then, white eyed and fresh faced, straight out of college. I’ve grown into my voice – I no longer only have powerful thoughts but also powerful words – and for better or worse, much of my young timid nature has evolved into what some might call a bit of an attitude. I can only hope that this is the budding phase of some fabulous form of grace and wit to develop in the years to come.

I love that I am a constant work in progress.

That being said, I’m on a very different journey these days. I’m a curious (mid) twenty-something searching for connections. My head is back in the classroom, my feet are firmly planted on my yoga mat and my heart is out floating somewhere in between, trying to make sense of it all.

I’m seeking connections with my self, with what makes me tick, with what motivates me, with what lights that fire in my core. I’m looking for connections with others and what elements manifest bonds between us and to what extent are those bonds created and diminished?

A seeker of the unfamiliar with a constant yearning for growth and change, I’m looking forward to integrating the documented lessons of sociology, positive psychology, organizational change and human capital development with an ahem less academic (though nonetheless revealing and entertaining) series of personal development experiments.

I’ll be learning how to see myself and those around me through a fresh lens, enjoying the ups and downs along the way – all with a developed sense of grace and wit. Of course.

Stay tuned.

The curiosities of connecting with the self and others in work, life and everything in between