Summary Written by Alyssa Burkus
"It is ironic that a significant advance in technology . . . would shine a light on our need to have more human organizations, but that’s exactly what’s happening."

- Humanize, page 91

The Big Idea

Command and Control is Over

"Social media . . . was born out of a culture that was almost diametrically opposed from command and control. Its basis of power is the distributed end user, [not] the centralized author of the software."- Humanize, page 71

With distributed power in the hands of all users, interactions become one-to-one, not one-to-many. The same is true in organizations who want to thrive in the social media world – creating environments which are open and based on trust means not every tweet requires approval, and employees have much greater say in how their work is defined and implemented. The authors are careful to say that this isn’t a free-for-all – targets and metrics are still required – but the days of annual strategy meetings and power from the top need to be set aside in favour of dynamic organizational structures, perpetual planning and greater involvement from employees in defining how work is done.

“We need to create organizations that people are eager to join . . . where people will invest the same kind of energy, time and passion, quite frankly, that they put into interacting through social media.”

So where do we begin? How do we tackle this daunting prospect of completely revolutionizing the way we work?

Insight #1

Allow Leaders to Be Human

"Social media is teaching us that building relationships means sharing some of our true selves."- Humanize, page 112

Past models of leadership encourage leaders to be inspirational, but many have interpreted this as a need to convey almost unrealistic images of power, strength and invincibility. Organizations would be far better off being able to openly talk about failure and how to recover from it, than trying to maintain a perfect front.

Social leadership requires a willingness to be vulnerable, because taking risks involves failure, and learning from those failures can only happen if we openly acknowledge and discuss what happened.

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Insight #2

Be Open, Trustworthy, Generative, and Courageous

"Organizations need candour the way the heart needs oxygen."- Warren Bennis, quoted in Humanize, page 167

Being open, trustworthy, generative (or capable for perpetual production) and courageous – these elements are chosen by the authors as critical components for social leaders because they believe they are the highest aspirational components of what it means to be human, as well as being “at the heart of the unbelievable growth of social media.”

These four tenants are further defined by the authors in their “Trellis for Humanizing

Organizations”, which are then applied across culture, process and organizational behaviours.

The four elements translate into specific changes within organizations. For example, the authors talk about increasing access to information through data sharing and strategic conversations at all levels, as well as moving to dynamic, perpetual planning cycles, with processes that have broader employee input. The authors encourage us to be transparent in how these ideas are developed and incorporated into project plans for implementation. Employees don’t expect every idea to be implemented, but want to understand and influence how those decisions are made.

The book also discusses the importance of building true learning organizations – where personal growth and development is expected and nurtured, again where failure is acknowledged and openly discussed, both in terms of encouraging risk taking as well as making iterative changes to enhance the organization and its outcomes.

There are so many ideas from this book, and it would be impossible to summarize all of them here. The book is packed with examples of organizations and leaders who already “get it”, as well as links to checklists and referrals to other great books recommended by the authors.

Read the book

Get Humanize on Amazon.

Jamie Notter

Jamie Notter started his career in the field of international conflict resolution. He spent six years designing and delivering training programs in areas of ethnic conflict (if you get a chance, ask him about the awesome people on the island of Cyprus). Jamie then moved into working with organizations, initially as a diversity trainer and consultant, and later commanding his private management consulting practice, working extensively with trade associations and professional societies. In 2008 Jamie merged his company with MSP (an association management company) to create the consulting division. Jamie carries a master’s degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University, and a Certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown. An avid writer, he has authored dozens of published articles to go along with a 2007 e-book Generational Diversity in the Workplace and in 2006 published We Have Always Done It That Way: 101 Things About Associations We Must Change. Jamie is a Vice President at Management Solutions Plus, where he leads the consulting division.

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