Crossing Into the Postnormal

“We’re no longer living in the old economy, based on industrial-era principles. That’s over. We’ve crossed into the Postnormal, and most leaders are either unaware of that transition, or are seeing only disconnected parts of it.”–Stowe Boyd

Digital and social media create a new infrastructure to build relationships, create products and services, and share resources in a fundamentally different way than before. There is literally a gaping chasm between the industrial mindset and the digital/social one.

“The most critical attributes of leaders today will not look like those we associate with leadership of even a few years ago. The patience to let things develop, the ability to operate in ambiguity. And lastly, the courage to try things that make you uncomfortable.”–Stowe Boyd

How does a leader know for certain that they have crossed into the postnormal? When they understand at a heart level that power and control are an illusion, and spend the majority of their time facilitating connections, identifying emerging trends, and co-creating the direction of their department or organization with employees, customers, and interested stakeholders.

Complex systems evolve from simple ones, not the other way around.

Complex systems evolve from simple ones, not the other way around.

Tim O’Reilly, Lessons from the Industrial Internet

Digital media, mobile devices and cloud technology are tools that completely change an existing systems function. Adding any of these onto an existing strategy without considering the fundamental changes they bring may bring little to no improvement.

Cloud technology moves the power of information from the organization to the employee and customer. Information can now be accessed from a variety of places (smartphone, tablet, laptop) at any time.

Moving information to the cloud without improving access to end-users and customers will save money, but not improve the customer experience or information sharing among employees.

When deploying digital solutions it’s imperative for all decision makers to understand what systems level changes they cause as well as what cultural changes must occur for the benefits to be realized.

Trends for Non-Profit Leaders to Consider When Leading Change

From Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog:

Crowdsourced Philanthropy: Check out Givkwik to see an emerging version of this at work.


Digital Action Campaigns: By “liking” an organization on Facebook you unlock a donation. See John Haydon’s post on 4 Types of Cause Marketing. 


Issue Awareness Campaigns: UNICEF recently ran a campaign on their Facebook page to raise awareness for their cause by tagging people who deserved a medal for their efforts.

Data Only Becomes Powerful in Decision Making When…

Decision makers use it to change the current distribution of the resources on hand.

Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer wrote 9 Principles of Innovation, naming ‘Data Is Apolitical’ as one of them.

“Some companies think of design as an art. We think of design as a science. It doesn’t matter who is the favorite or how much you like this aesthetic versus that aesthetic. It all comes down to data.”–Mayer

The “We” she mentions cannot be the same hypothetical “We” that most organizations have–as in “we believe we are only truly innovative ____ today.” She means the key decision makers who set the organizational culture.

Important to leading with data is avoiding using “vanity metrics” to drive decisions.

“Numbers that give the illusion of progress but often mask the true relationship between cause and effect.”–source

The first step in leveraging data is to find a current project that is being driven by political opinions, conduct research to determine the amount of resources being invested into the project, as well as it’s current outcomes. Demonstrating the ability to improve results and help those involved with this project achieve outcomes that they want is more important than convincing them of the idea of using data.

To read more about Vanity Metrics I would recommend Eric Ries’ post Why Vanity Metrics Are Dangerous. 

3 Sentences on Simple and Powerful Design

“Good design is invisible. Minimum input, maximum output, with minimal conscious thought is what screen designers focus on. We do not try to find the perfect solution but the best compromise.”–Yves Behar

Good Design Quote

Leading Change Today Starts with Empathy

Social media continues to get noisier, but within that noise are individual voices and collective passions that your organization can listen to and optimize around in order to maximize effectiveness.

Leading change today does not start with shouting loudly. When the voices and audiences were few, shouting worked. Now that the voices are many and audience members can have more “Klout” than the speaker,  an organization will thrive by it’s ability to relate as a kindred spirit rather than a commander in chief.

Effective organizations are using social media to listen before they send a Tweet. They friend and follow only the people that share their interests. They share, comment and reply as much as they promote.

What Channel Do THEY Tune Into?

The people you want to reach do not want to work hard to find you. Generation C assumes that if you do not show up you must not be important to them.

The easiest way to organize your digital communications is by what makes most sense to you–this is often why some organizations have five different Facebook Pages for the same or variances of the same audience. Although the audience might organize around organizational lines when they give money or volunteer, they do not prefer to consume and interact with your organization in that same manner.

antique tv

It’s fatiguing and confusing for those outside of your organization to follow more than one account on Facebook and Twitter. Outside of your organization the amount of fans or followers plus the consistency and breadth of content matter more than the department from which that account is managed.

Before you create another online account to match a sub-department of your larger organization consider whether those whom you are seeking to influence would see a significant difference between that account and the account of the larger organization, and whether or not you have the resources to keep this new account updated with fresh content that’s significantly different than the larger organization’s account.

Otherwise you will face significant resistance in gaining new followers (since they will not understand why they need to follow another account), and dilute the identity of your organization in the minds of your audience (especially if the content, tone, and frequency vary significantly from one account to the next).

Social media allows the audience unprecedented access and influence on your organization’s online presence. It’s time to let them determine how each account is organized and managed.

When Change Becomes the Strategy

The assumptions with organizations is that they are created to last forever. The reality is that most for and non-profits last less than forever, and often not long at all.

Digital/social media accelerates growth (Instagram sold for $1 Billion after less than 2 years of existence) as well as decline (Borders Book Stores). Value and effectiveness are easier to spot, and there have never been more options for spending/giving money. These forces create almost a baseline of change.

Effective change requires a willingness to listen and empathize with opportunities or problems in which you might not believe. Preferences has never been more of a liability than they are today. Your preferences might literally put you out of business (Kodak).

Effective change is also incredibly rewarding on a personal level. My wife wrote a blog post that she would not have even considered writing just a few years ago. Her experiences as a mom have changed the way she looks at life. She has changed for the better, and it’s deep, lasting, and incredibly meaningful. This is within the reach of employees, when empowerment, trust, and accountability are integrated into day to day operations.

Organizations that change will succeed = Cliche

Organizations that listen, empathize, and empower people to efficiently and effectively live out their mission will achieve radical business outcomes and transform the lives of their employees = Reality

Virus or Vaccination? A Critical Diagnosis for Leading Change

Change opportunities can be seen as a virus or a vaccination.

As a Virus–head over to Mucinex’s website to see this in action. 

Resources are applied to neutralize and destroy the change. “Mucinex In, Mucous Out.”

The change itself takes the person or organization by surprise, eliciting fear. “Fight congestion, tame your cough”

The response plan is reactionary: Take 1 or 2 tablets every 12 hours AFTER YOU GET THE COLD!

As a Vaccination: “The administration of antigenic material (a vaccine) to stimulate the immune system of an individual to develop adaptive immunity to a disease.”–wikipedia

Resources are applied to stimulate and encourage adaption.

The change and associated fear is calculated.

“In general, vaccination is considered to be the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases.”–wikipedia

It’s natural to see change as a threat but for those changes that impact your organization there must be a plan and resources dedicated that treat them as a vaccine.

Those that lead change must see themselves as a vaccine even if they are treated as a virus.

From Institutional Education to Scalable Experiences

Generation C will move from investing primarily in institutional education towards scalable experiences as a path to the career of their dreams.

I recently participated in my first hackathon focused on re-inventing business. It was a blast.

It provided an amazing scalable experience–what I learned and who I met transcended my current role, amplified my passions, and connected me with a cross disciplinary group of people of whom I would have never met apart from an event such as this. 

Hackathons aren’t springing up around the country because they are cool, but because they are scalable and a meaningful (albeit indirect) route to a meaningful career.

The value of education has been called into question by billionaire Mark Cuban. 

“College wasn’t originally designed to merely be a continuation of high school (but with more binge drinking). In many places, though, that’s what it has become. The data I’m seeing shows that a degree (from one of those famous schools, with or without a football team) doesn’t translate into significantly better career opportunities, a better job or more happiness than a degree from a cheaper institution.”

You do not have to have technological expertise to lead or participate in a hackathon, or design a conference, retreat, or training time with the same elements and goals.

We are not far from a future where scalable experiences such as hackathons, side projects, and volunteer/service opportunities will be the primary driver of career advancement or change. The abundance of information and the ease in which people can find, mobilize, and collaborate with others has exponentially increased.

Those dependent on institutional learning modules and education to help them navigate this change might only find debt: either financial or in intellectual capital (your organization simply cannot innovate and learn at the speed of the those who effectively collaborate across organizations and disciplines.) You will be poor in knowledge relative to other organizations who leverage outside information.

“As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.”–Mark Cuban

If organizational lines have already blurred by digital media, collaborating across organizations and disciplines regularly is a serious threat to institutional education.