Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do – Euan Semple

Once you figure out how to dip your “knowledge net” into the stream of search engines, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, the world just shows up at your doorstep (oops, I mean browser window).  Well, sort of.  It helps a lot to have great colleagues who keep pointing out where the gold nuggets are.

A couple of years ago, Mason White pointed me to Pinhawk Legal Technology Daily Digest. He explained that of all the resources that he has come across this daily email provided the best and quickest summary of what was important to read in the area of eDiscovery and Knowledge Management.  Over the last couple of years, this is one of the few daily emails that I read religiously.

While you could lose yourself for hours if you clicked through all of the resources, the editor does a great job of highlighting the three or four blog entries that drew his attention the previous day.  The amazing thing is that the quality of the blog has stayed high even through a change in editors.

I usually end up clicking through to one of the highlighted articles each day.  On January 30, 2012, the entry that caught my eye was “Jack Vinson talks about Euan Semple’s book Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do.” As I am in the process of trying to understand the role of Twitter in my online knowledge streams, the title caught my eye. In the first couple of paragraphs, I realized that I needed to get Semple’s book.

So I switched over to the Amazon Kindle iPad app and ordered the book.  Instant gratification is such a wonderful thing.

I felt right at home as I started into the book with its introduction by Andrew McAfee, whose book Race Against the Machine, I’d just finished. To my wonderful surprise, Semple frequently quotes David Weinberger who I’d recently reconnected with after reading his book Too Big to Know.

The more I read, the more I realized that Euan must have been living in my head the last ten years.  Rarely, do I come across a writer who not only has had similar experiences, but who is eloquently able to express those experiences in text. So many of my experiences and thoughts just stay jumbled up and never make it through my typing fingers to the keyboard.

Jack Vinson set expectations appropriately that this wasn’t a book about Twitter or technology:

“Funny enough for a book with this title, the book really isn’t about Twitter – or any other specific service.  Twitter simply serves as the most familiar vehicle to have a discussion around how we operate in the world of blogging and forums and Twitter and Facebook and all the other social services that are out there.  And how we need to operate has been changing for a while – it’s just that there have been too many people with a hierarchical or command-and-control mindset to be able to see it.”

The book was exactly what I was looking for to understand the organizational implications of social media and the impact on both individual contributors and management in the age of the blog.

Then I realized that I needed to understand who Jack Vinson was and tracked back to his biography and website.  Low and behold he has a strong background in knowledge management and Theory of Constraints.  I’d been writing a lot about both lately so I sent off an email and yet another conversation has started.  I can’t wait to make my spring trip back to Boston to meet with Jack and other colleagues from my invisible university.

One of the measures I used to determine what my top books from 2011 would be is how much I highlighted and made notes within the book.  It’s clear that Semple’s book will make the Top 10 as I made at least 116 highlights and 17 notes.  I made so many highlights that Amazon would only show me a portion of them because “for some books the publisher allows only a limited percentage of a book to be ‘clipped’ and stored separately from the main body of the book, as normally happens when you add a highlight. If you exceed this limit then you will see fewer highlights on this website than you actually marked on your Kindle.”

My favorite chapter in Semple’s book was “Writing Ourselves Into Existence.”  The book title comes from a quote of David Weinberger’s from The Cluetrain Manfiesto.  The phrase and the chapter captured exactly what I’ve been doing the last three months – finding my voice so I can write the layered digital media text I am working on. Euan summarizes the chapter:

“Developing your own skills and knowledge has never been easier. In fact it has never been more in our own interests to build skills and capabilities as the world of work becomes more unpredictable. The web gives us access to all sorts of wonderful resources for learning but it does more than this. It helps us understand ourselves and the world around us in context. It helps us make sense of things. It helps us ‘be’ more. There is something about the process of blogging that makes you more self-aware. You become more thoughtful about yourself and your place in the world. In the reactions of others to your writing you get a different perspective, possibly for the first time, on how others see you.”

Semple combines this insight with arguing that the Internet with emails, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter is exploding a renaissance of writing literacy back into society.  More people are writing AND publishing more than ever in history.

Being able to name what I am doing as “writing myself into existence every day” is so liberating.

The wonderful surprise at the end of the book is Semple’s impassioned plea for us to open our eyes to what the Internet and the web are enabling in today’s workplaces:

“Some time back David Weinberger wrote that the motivating force behind the internet was love. It was the basic human desire to connect that made it all hang together. At the time I admired his idealism and indeed bravery at being so open about something we have all been trained to dismiss as at best personal and at worst a sign of weakness.

“In contrast I have just finished reading Joel Bakan’s The Corporation in which he exposes the fact that corporations are legally bound to do just one thing – maximise shareholder value and that in fact to be motivated by higher ideals, or indeed love, could be considered detrimental to that overriding purpose if it impacts the bottom line in anything but a positive way.

“Where did all this come from, where did the idea that the most powerfully motivating force in the world had nothing to do with business? We spend most of our adult lives in the workplace and at work we bring about the most important and long lasting changes to our society and our planet – and yet we are not encouraged to talk in terms of love. OK we just about get away with “loving our job” or “loving success” but start talking about loving colleagues or loving customers and you’ll have people running for the door. And yet isn’t this what makes great people and great places tick? A deep sense of connection with each other, a depth of purpose beyond the everyday that sees customers as more than merely stepping stones on the way to returning that value to the shareholders? . . .

“Maybe love does have a place in business after all. Maybe more and more of us will start to have the courage to begin to talk about what really matters to us about work and our relationships with each other and to push back the sterile language of business that we have been trained to accept. Maybe we will realise that accepting love into the workplace reminds us of the original purpose of work – not to maximise shareholder value but to come together to do good things, to help each other and hopefully to make the world a better place. Maybe. …

“Oh and by the way if the above is too new age and namby pamby for you I reckon social computing is capable of taking 25% out of the running costs of most businesses – so there!”

What a way to end the book with the intertwining of workplace and love.  What a concept.

Would we have more great leaders working in great teams producing great results if we regularly wrote ourselves into existence with love in our hearts and minds? That is a super question for this Super Bowl weekend.

This entry was posted in Content with Context, Knowledge Management, Learning, organizing, Relationship Capital, social networking, User Experience. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do – Euan Semple

  1. Jack Vinson says:

    Hi Skip. It will indeed be interesting to learn more about each other. I’m hoping to attend a reading by David Weinberger tonight (assuming I can get my bike tire fixed in time).

    To your “writing myself into existence” theme above, you might want to look into the theme of “observable work” that people have been throwing around in the last year or two. And I often go back to “thinking out loud” or “thinking in public” as a comfortable phrase, thanks to Jim McGee.

  2. swaltersky says:

    Thanks Jack. I look forward to another topic to learn about. It may fit in nicely with a new venture several of us are potentially started. Make sure to give David a hard time. Ask him how he dealt with Daniel Cheifetz a long time ago.

    Thanks again for the pointers.

  3. Pingback: Visuals Speak to Me – Quite Loudly as it Turns Out | On the Way to Somewhere Else

  4. Pingback: Curating My Way Into Existence | On the Way to Somewhere Else

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