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The Human Revolution

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This chapter is from the book

How This Book Is Structured

In the next three chapters, we set the scene and describe the big picture of the situation we're in now. Chapter 5 lays out the framework for taking action to become more human in our organizations, and Chapters 6 through 9 describe the four human elements we have identified as the most important and the ways they play out in three levels of organizational culture, processes and systems, and individual behavior. Most chapters include three "must read" resources for deeper learning on the topics we discuss. We also have developed four worksheets, one each to accompany Chapters 6 through 9, that help you assess your organization and figure out how to get started, no matter where in the system you are. The worksheets can be downloaded at www.humanizebook.com.

In Chapter 2, "We Can't Go Back," we take a big-picture snapshot of social media and how it is changing our popular culture, industry, and business. All this should be familiar to you already—you're living it just like we are. But if you have any lingering doubts about the power of social media, or still think it might be just a fad, we provide a practitioner's-eye-view of the deep cultural changes that are happening around us, backed up by some of the smart people who've paved the way in terms of our collective understanding of those changes.

Then in Chapter 3, "We're Not Moving Forward," we contrast the social media revolution with the relative stagnation in change and innovation in our organizations. We explain how a series of key assumptions and models for how organizations work have been breaking down over the past few decades—yet we seem unable to come up with viable alternatives. Our "systems," which have worked perfectly well in the past, are becoming ecosystems where things work differently, organically. But our management practices are not built to allow for that, and they're not adapting fast enough.

Chapters 2 and 3 ultimately present an intersection that sets the stage for an inevitable collision: Social media is changing the world around us radically, yet our organizations are not changing to accommodate this new reality. Chapter 4, "Challenges to Socializing Business," describes the challenges we face at this intersection. We have been hearing the cries of frustration from people who are trying to implement social media in our mechanistic organizations for some time now. In this chapter we break the challenges down at three different levels: organizational culture, internal process, and individual behavior.

All this sets the stage for Chapter 5, "Social Organizations Are More Human." We lay out a framework for actually addressing the conflicts and contradictions we are experiencing as mechanical organizations in a more social world. It's not a step-by-step model that you can copy into your organization. It's a framework that helps draw your attention to the areas that need work, inspiring you to come up with the answers that will help you create more people-centric organizations. The framework is organized around four key elements of being human—being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous—that will help you create more people-centric organizations by making changes at the culture, process, and behavior levels.

Chapter 6, "How to Be Open"; Chapter 7, "How to Be Trustworthy"; Chapter 8, "How to Be Generative"; and Chapter 9, "How to Be Courageous," explore these human elements in greater detail. Each human element presents its own unique challenges and opportunities as you seek to change the way your organization operates. The framework we present is fleshed out as each chapter talks more specifically about the implications of being a more human organization in culture, process, and behavior:

  • Being open translates to decentralization at the culture level, systems thinking at the process level, and ownership at the individual behavior level.
  • Being trustworthy translates to transparency at the culture level, truth at the process level, and authenticity at the individual behavior level.
  • Being generative translates to inclusion at the culture level, collaboration at the process level, and relationship building at the individual behavior level.
  • Being courageous translates to learning at the culture level, experimentation at the process level, and personal development at the individual behavior level.

Our goal with this book is to facilitate action, so we provide guidance about making changes in all these contexts. Our discussion of culture in each chapter, for example, is broken down in terms of the "walk, talk, and thought" of culture creation and change.

  • Walk. What organizations need to be actively doing to build a culture that is more open, trustworthy, generative, or courageous
  • Talk. How organizations should actively communicate about their culture and what they are doing to change it
  • Thought. How to address cultural assumptions that underlie "the way things are"

Similarly, at the level of organizational processes and systems, we look at the different challenges for each human element in addressing process at the structural, internal, and external levels:

  • Structural. How to build capacity for being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous by adjusting structure and the way work is organized
  • Internal. Where certain internal processes and systems are getting in the way of being human
  • External. What the human elements look like when the outside community or network is let in to participate

At the behavior level we explore the categories of knowledge and skills:

  • Knowledge. What information any employee at any level should have access to, to be able to act in a more human way
  • Skills. What interpersonal skills are specifically relevant to each human element

We present our four human elements in this way to enable you to find something, somewhere, you can hook into to get started doing the work of pushing your organization to be more human. There's a lot of meaty stuff in here, and you can't do it all at once. But in one or several of these subsections, you'll think, "OK. This is where I can find a chink in the armor. This is something I can talk to colleagues about. This is something I can look into today." The downloadable worksheets are designed the same way. They help you analyze and assess your organization and start comparing notes with other colleagues to develop an action plan for change. Wherever you are in the organization, you can take steps toward creating a more human organization right away.

And of course, there is a certain amount of overlap between the chapters, too. Humans are not merely a collection of component parts. We are a rather magical combination of deep and complex layers of biology that somehow work together in such a way that we can walk around upright and sentient. Our human elements are the same—once you start honing in and thinking about one, you'll find areas of the others that connect. It makes sense to read this book with a notebook handy for making those connections and then revisiting them while reading later chapters. We have a logic for presenting the chapters in the order we do; though of course we have to practice what we preach and let go of control, knowing you'll read them in whatever order you want. Besides, the worksheets can be completed in any order, because we know that you may want to focus on one particular element that you already know your organization is ready to hone in on. Conversations are going on all over the social web about these four elements. Your customers or stakeholders may already be forcing you to pay attention to one or more of these areas, and this book will help to parse out what needs to be done.

We assume you're keen to start reading and to get to the meat. This brings us to an important point.

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