Making things up

So today, I contributed in some small way to the development of an Enterprise 2.0 capability maturity model. We’ll put it on the Web as soon as Aaron and Bernie have figured out how to phrase things.

This is interesting for me because it’s not the kind of thing I would’ve thought I had anything to contribute to. Who, me? I’m new to consulting. I haven’t seen enough companies to be able to talk about maturity models for organizations.

Looking up Maturity? In fact, I usually talk about the ground-level view: how can a Gen Y (and probably entry-level) employee make the most of Web 2.0 at work, how can new employees contribute to big strategic visions like a smarter planet, how can _you_ get professional benefit from blogging. I primarily influence people on an individual level. Here’s how you can network more effectively. Here’s how you can get immediate personal benefit from wikis, even when no one else wants to add stuff. Here’s how you can connect with others. Sometimes I talk to teams and communities, and sometimes I talk about meta stuff – patterns I see across teams and communities.

But I don’t have that 50,000-feet view. I don’t have the deep and broad experience that lets me really get in there and be a thought-leader.

I’m an experience-leader. I do weird stuff like sharing as much of what I’m learning as I can. Then I find out afterwards that _that’s_ weird. Then we have a great discussion about what’s different about it, and whether that’s the direction we want to go in the future, and what can we do to help other people explore it. That’s why I’m more of an experience-leader rather than a thought-leader. This isn’t bad. It’s like Julius Caesar leading from the front. But I don’t yet have the perspective and vocabulary needed to recognize and articulate patterns.

Bernie and Aaron do, which is why it’s great that my team isn’t made up of just Generation Y. I’m really glad I work with savvy, experienced consultants, and that I’ve got this big network of people to ping whenever something like this comes my way.

But no one I asked had a client-ready Enterprise 2.0 maturity model slide deck, and lots of people were interested in it. So I decided to put something together because a first draft is a first draft. Once the draft is out there, it’ll be like a piece of sand in an oyster. Someone else is going to come along and make something better from it, and eventually we’ll get to pearls of wisdom that may or may not resemble my first shaky draft.

So watching Bernie and Aaron take my rough hand-waving characterization (based on the groups I’ve been watching or helping) and do good things with it was a great learning experience. Bernie three-quarters-jokingly ribbed me about delegating to him. I winced, because one shouldn’t get into the habit of delegating work to mentors. It’s good to have mentors who can joke with you about that, and then turn around and teach you about the things you didn’t know you could learn.

Someday, I’m going to learn how to see all these common patterns and talk about them in ways that make other people go Aha!. I’m not there yet. I’m good at talking about the small stuff, the concrete stuff that people can work on, the little next actions they can do, the immediate personal benefit that they can get. Someday, I’ll also be good at showing people the big picture. The cool thing I found out today is that I can learn how to do this by making something up and asking other people to help me validate it – figure out where things don’t make sense and figure out where things do.

If, like me, you’re also intimidated by the idea of understanding strategy but you want to learn, give it a try. Make something up and ask a mentor (or two). You’ll probably learn tons in the process. =)

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  • Your enthusiasm for your work and your employer come across loud and clear in your writing. It’s refreshing.

    Beyond that, though, I enjoyed this part of the post in particular: “So I decided to put something together because a first draft is a first draft.”

    The act of just getting something started is powerful, and doing that as a part of a team, planting that bit of sand that will one day become the pearl is even more so.

    Found your site through your comment on the Widman interview on Ryan Stephens’s blog. Enjoyed reading. :) @cwestbrook

  • As happens sometimes, you and I seem to be thinking about the same things at almost the same time. :) I just grabbed a bunch of books to dive into strategy and systems thinking – which is interesting almost as a historical look at how people have typically thought about how to manage organizations and orchestrate them towards their goals; but I can also see how it precludes a lot of the serendipity that makes social networking and connection so enjoyable. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but there may be some translation required.

    This idea of being an “experience” leader is interesting too – the idea that you do it because it pays off for your in very demonstrable ways, and that you started not necessarily because it’s strategic, but it also does have that dimension. I admit to not working quite the same way, but I also do one tenth of what you do! Looking forward to seeing what else you learn! :)

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