Social calendar

I found this great blogpost on what ‘Social Business’ is. Read it its worth it.

What prompted me to actually search for it was that I lay in bed yesterday checking my calendar for this weekend realizing it was empty and that I was happy with two days of no obligations and appointments. It made me very aware of the fact that for the last year or so I’ve been really busy. With work, with friends, with running but mostly with being ‘social’.

True, I’ve always been somewhat of a workaholic, checking my mail day and night, happily responding to messages at all hours of the day. But as most people (unlike me) shut their mail down when they go home around five it meant that the number of messages outside of office hours was limited.
That changed however when I became more socially active. The difference is that unlike mail, social micro blogging isn’t confined to work only. People micro blog about everything from work to hobbies to kids to personal challenges. Not just during office hours but at all hours of the day. Offering an inside glimps to who they are, but more importantly: Humanizing them. And that is a real revolution.
I now sometimes meet customers and relations I’ve never seen or talked to before but that feel like old acquaintances simply because I’ve interacted with them in chats and on social platforms far before they even got to be of interest business wise. And because it’s two way you are more familiar to them too, taking away normal barriers that are put up in business relations. Yes, you make yourself vulnerable but what you gain is trust and a deeper relation and that to me is totally worth it.

I immediately hear the ‘but….‘ coming from all corners here. Because how does this improve your business?!? and How do you make socializing cost effective??

Well read that blogpost I mentioned at the start, I’m not going to repeat what was said in there but two of the poignant things that really hit home for me were:

“The historical […] separation between the inside and the outside environments of a company is loosing importance”

The ultimate reason of existence for the [social] corporation is no longer to generate value for its traditional stakeholders but to maximize the exchanged value between the company and the entire ecosystem“. 

 Hello world! Its no longer about just making big bucks and putting up a nice facade to the outside world its about really working together at a personal level. Putting the individuals in the center of the process, not just the mechanism of work. Respecting that we all are part of the process and that each of us, whether you are a customer, contractor, relation or supplier, has a personal as well as corporate gain. And that by realizing and utilizing that we ALL stand to win.

Why? Well because when you see and respect that everyone involved has more to offer than just what was said on their job description, you suddenly end up getting much more value for your money. Suddenly you find that people are more than just output machines but that they are human beings with creativity, ingenuity, knowledge and intuition. Some of which might not even be related to work at all. But that by bringing all that together you end up getting something that is much more valuable and stronger than what any individual, even ‘Guru’ could realize. It’s no longer internal vs external, contractor vs client its teamwork.

So how does that make it cost effective? Well sometimes you have to ‘give a little to get a little’ but in general working together like this enhances the products, improves employee involvement and builds stronger business relations making the difference in getting future projects. And that to me is making my work a real joy. I’m a people person. I love to connect to people. And for the first time I’m seeing that that part of me is not just something I do because I like it but something that is actually becoming an integral part of my job and can help drive revenue.
 
And it’s not just my work that is changing because of this. It’s my personal life too. As stated above I’ve always spend lots of time on my work and people have accused me of having no personal life at all. Maybe they were right for a while there…. I’ve always been good at my job, but although I’m ambitious I never saw myself as a ‘guru’ and for years that made me feeling insignificant and holding back. I had trouble defining who I was and what I had to offer.
What changed is that I started realizing that I didn’t have to be a ‘guru’ to contribute and that just being me in all it’s uniqueness as a human being was more then enough as that made me a valuable part of the process and of the teams that I operate in. Both personal as well as professionally.

Wisdom of the crowds‘ already described how crowds know so much more then individuals but its the Social revolution that is giving a platform to those crowds to actually leverage that wisdom. So bring it on! I love this new era in business. It’s daunting and challenging and we are destined to make mistakes but as long as we do it together I’m sure we are on the right track.

And in the mean time I’m going to enjoy my busy calendar and Social activities and live life to the fullest. Because for the first time in my live I can truly say that my work is my hobby and NOT feel insecure about it.

7 Hills run 15km of dying…. and surviving!

People who know me know I’ve always struggled with my weight. I still do. A couple of years back I lost a lot of weight and started running. I was terrible at it but at the same time loved doing it. I pushed myself to achieve things I never thought possible. Like running a half marathon which I did twice. Since then however I slacked of, gained some weight again and stopped running.

I hated that but finding time and motivation to start running again was really hard. So for the past 3 years I had to decline when colleagues asked me to join the company running team for the 15km Seven Hills run in Nijmegen. Ironic as I was kind of the one that got the team started.
But today I finally joined and ran that 15km. It was REALLY hard and my time is not exactly a world record but I’m proud of it nonetheless. I did something that was totally out of my comfort zone and managed to succeed.

A perfect end to a perfect week!

So when you see me smiling like a mad man with a medal around my neck then know that I fought for that thing and died a thousands times doing it…..

I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD RIGHT NOW!!!

21-11-2011: One day later and fully suffering all the muscle ache it’s time to put things into perspective. My time (1:59:49) gave me the 25934th place out of 25964 finishers. Which means I didn’t come in dead last but came pretty close to it. 
Still… considering 31000 people registered I at least managed to finish!

Early Adopter

I got a baby card in the mail this weekend from a good friend that just had his first son. Nothing special there, it listed the obvious details as name, date of birth, weight and length as well as the normal visiting hours for baby & mum.

What was surprising though was the design of the card (as if it was the personal Facebook page of the newborn) and the addition of the baby’s Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and personal website addresses. This is what I would call a early adopter! This kid isn’t just launched into the world, it’s launched into cyberspace (with a little help and moderation of his parents of course).

Now this got me thinking about my own baby card. My parents intended it to depict a silhouette picture of a baby walking, supported by one leg. The printer however got it wrong, printing the picture upside down. It didn’t look as if the baby was supported, it looked as if the baby was unceremoniously hanging by one leg. Not the idyllic image my parents had in mind and it meant my parents had to do some explaining there, not in the least to me when I saw it in my birth photo book a couple of years later.

I wonder what the explanation will be to this kid in about ten to twelve years when he sees his baby card and starts asking: “Dad what is Facebook?!?

My babycard…. 35yrs ago, no Facebook in sight then!

Holiday – Letting Go

So for the first time in years I managed to take a holiday. Not just a few days or week or two around christmas but a regular couple of weeks in July. I can’t remember when I did that last.

Now it’s not as if I couldn’t take a normal holiday. Heck, my boss even told me during my evaluations more than once that he was worried I didn’t take enough ‘down time’ for myself. So this year, after quite a hectic period I decided it was time.

The problem is that if I don’t plan something to do during my holiday I tend to end up behind my laptop again. So to prevent myself from taking time off, only to use it on work again, I followed the advice of a colleague, and on a spur of a moment, decided to go to Spain to walk part of the Santiago de Compostella route or Way of St James. A pilgrims route that people have been walking since the middle ages. Not that I’m Catholic but as I needed to really wind down and de-stress, I figured it would be a great lesson in ‘letting go’. And it was.

First step in learning to let go was that I didn’t plan. I just bought a ticket to Bilbao and a a small guide book, packed a backpack with some essentials and got on the plane. Now normally ‘essentials’  would incorporate my Blackberry, my laptop and my iPad. But as I was going to hike up to 25km a day carrying everything in my backpack and wanted ‘to let go’ I left the iPad and laptop behind. Ok, best would have been to leave the BB as well but that just was one step to far for this trip.

And so I started. 

The Santiago de Compostella route or Camino (as it is usually named) isn’t just one route. You can start on routes all over Europe. Most (not all) confer at the Spanish border and continues as the Route de Frances running from St Jean Pied de Port (French side of the Pyrenees) to Santiago (North-East of Spain). About 800km of hiking. Untrained as I was I was not going to manage to walk all of that in just two weeks (the validity of my ticket). So I decided to start in Burgos and see where I’d end up before having to return to Bilbao for my flight.

Now this route is walked by hundreds of thousands of people a year and traditionally these people need to sleep somewhere so everywhere along the route there are so called ‘Albergues’. Cheap hostels where the ‘pellegrinos’ (pilgrims) can rest for the night. They open around noon, offer a bed (in a mixed dormitory with up to 80 other people in bunk beds crammed together), a shower (usually cold), and sometimes a kitchen where you can cook some dinner. Check-out time is usually between 05:00 and 08:30 the next day, costs is between €4-€8 a night and you learn to sleep with people snoring around you. Dinner is either what you cook yourself or a simple pilgrims menu in the local bar. Very basic, very primitive but in fact everything you need.

Now I know for most people getting up before dawn, walking between 20-25km a day in the blazing heat of Spain in July, sleeping in dormitories, sharing bathing facilities, eating microwaved macaroni and having to hand wash your socks daily as you only carry two pair anyway isn’t exactly the ideal holiday but for me it was. Right from the start all stress just evaporated. All I needed to do was put one foot in front of the other to get to that next town, that next bed and meeting lots of people along the way. Because that’s another fact of the Camino, you’re never alone for long and the beauty of a shared experience is that it creates in instant bond. You all suffer muscle aches and blisters, you share food and water and you talk.

I had conversations on everything from global politics, the American gun policy, gay marriage, religion and the best type of ice creams (that last conversation was during a really hot and barren stretch of Spanish Meseta). One moment you’re talking to a guy from South Africa or a girl from the US, the next you’re practicing your German on a couple from Austria.

I loved it. For me it felt like a warm bath. Even the sleeping in dormitories had a strangely relaxing effect on me. It forced me to live by the day and be relaxed and open to people and the situations you get into. Something I wish I could practice in my work more often.

It felt really strange when after 9 days and approximately 200km of walking I had to stop my Camino and return back because of public transport facilities.
I still had a few days before my return flight and spent those as a regular ‘tourist’, but not being on the Camino really felt strange. The drive of getting up early to start walking in the silence of the morning dawn, the heartfelt ‘Buen Camino!’ wishes from locals and fellow pellegrinos and the camaraderie that you shared….
This was definitely a holiday to remember, and who knows, maybe in the future I’ll make time to do more of this. But I’m not going to fall back in my old pattern and start planning it all.

‘Letting go’  was the adagio, so who knows what happens next year, all that matters is that this experience was great!!

 For more pictures of the trip check out my Picasaweb album

Valentine

I received a message last weekend with the subject “Er is iemand die van je houdt” (‘There is someone that loves you’). Of course I was curious, it was valentines day so who wouldn’t!

Unfortunatly for me, it wasn’t what I was hoping for:

A marketing ploy, yes…., but in this case, a nice one. A group of 25 Dutch Business Partners has come together to start their own marketing campaign for creating a positive vibe around Lotus products. “Is that really necessary?” Well frankly, yes. Marketing unfortunatly isn’t one of IBM focus points here in the Netherlands so it could do with some extra support.

Thus came they idea of doing a campaign, supported by IBM but led by the Bussiness Partner community. I love it! Not only because of the very strong theme “Lotus Loves People”

but mostly as it shows how the Lotus community here in The Netherlands is really committed to the Lotus brand and that by working together they can really accomplish something.

So ok, it wasn’t the Valentine I hoped for but still I found it a really nice gesture to get. Let’s hope it does the same for all those executives and decision makers out there that are thinking of buying Lotus products!