Last week I published this image on my social media accounts. I was surprised by the different reactions. A lot of likes but some of my followers were disappointed. "Is digitization the reason why you get up in the morning?" Christian De Neef asked me on Instagram. "The why should connect to heartfelt passion Isabel". Vijay Pandey told me on LinkedIn.
And then suddenly I got it. The use of why|how|what is immediately associated with Simon Sinek. His why is about serving a bigger purpose. And it goes without saying my purpose is not digitization.
So what is my personal why?
When starting up my business in April 2018 I wrote the following about my mission. You still find it on my homepage. Please take your time to read it carefully. Every word counts.
Imagine a workplace free of silos, where people are encouraged to share their knowledge with others. A place for intense connectedness of people and ideas, beyond all barriers – geographical and hierarchical.
Imagine the magic!
The magic of a healthy workplace where employees deploy their talent and expertise. Where employees have their own voice. Imagine the increased efficiency, co-creation with customers, innovation, speed and growth.
That is the magic I want to make, the workplace I want to help shape.
The more I work on the topic, the more I feel this is something I just have to do.
But: the Simon Sinek's why is not enough. Why?
The hype about Simon Sinek's why is that we might forget clients have problems to solve.
With the visual I shared, I clearly wanted to state the business why. Research by McKinsey shows social collaboration and an external view are prerequisites for a succesful digital transformation. Knowledge sharing across silo's and participation in internal and external online communities is not just a beautiful ideology. It's also a strong business need in the digital era. Social and digital are intertwined.
Knowledge sharing across silo's and participation in online communities is not just a beautiful ideology. It's also a strong business need in the digital era.
And what about the participants' why?
After Simon Sinek's why and the business why, there is even a third why: the participants' why.
Organizations buy my learning track connect|share|lead for different reasons.
They want to enhance employee advocacy so that stakeholders are even more attracted by their brand.
They want to be better prepared for the introduction of social Learning or Enterprise Social Networks.
They want to build up better relationships with their employees and freelancers.
All of these are organizational why's. Clear business why's.
But participants are not particularly charmed by the organizational why. Their heart does not start beating faster when the manager says "this learning track will enhance our sales".
How to convince people they should share their knowledge?
How to convince them they have nothing to loose while doing so?
How to convince them of the advantages of having a network?
Talking about the individual advantages of having a network is one thing. I spend a lot of time doing so. And I repeat the message throughout the track.
I also make them feel these advantages with concrete exercises. Participants should feel personally the speed of the network, their increased efficiency and the power of proactivity.
And still … The more I work on the topic, the more I think it goes much deeper.
Behaviour and skills are influenced by our values and beliefs. So this raises the question: what are the values underpinning knowledge sharing and social learning?
I think I already have found 4 of them:
It’s up to me as an individual to be in charge of my professional life.
Not being a lifelong learner makes me fragile.
All knowledge workers should take the time to reflect.
An isolated expert is a fragile expert.
If these are the beliefs of the participants, working on the skills of knowledge sharing is really fun for them. Participation in online communities is not seen as something to be done on top. But as part of their daily hygiene. "Oh Isabel I simply could not stop reading". And "I want to start writing a blog each 2 weeks because it sharpens my mind and feeds my proactivity". That is what participants tell me.
But what if people's values are different? What if participants think:
It's the organisation that has to take care of me.
I can go a long time with my actual expertise.
I am there to execute - my manager is there to think.
I can do my work on my own.
Am I allowed to change people's beliefs? Isn't that paternalistic?
I am really stuck there.
And also: helping people become lifelong learners, develop their growth mindset and proactivity, helping shape healthier workplaces, well that is something I simply have to do.
So back to Simon Sinek. :-)