Humanize: a must-read book for any business becoming more social
Ever come across an organization that wants to “do social media”, but really just isn’t built to be social? Yeah, I thought not ; ] Humanize, the new book by Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, is the perfect prescription. In a sea of social media books, Humanize stands out by abounding with advice of real, actionable substance.
The premise behind Humanize is this: “Our organizations have for centuries been modeled after machines…as the Internet has become more central in our lives, we have begun to witness a revival of the importance of being human.” Social media taps into fundamentally human desires – connecting, belonging, sharing, creating – and many businesses are challenged with fitting these human practices into their existing corporate systems. Makes absolute sense, right? This explains why many of us feel like we are “hitting a wall” when trying to encourage an organization to adopt social practices…because we ARE hitting a wall. Hence, the brick marks on our collective foreheads.
Social media alone, as the authors explain, does not a social, human organization make. It requires a new kind of leadership, and not just in the sense of traditional, individual leaders, but “leadership that is accessible to everyone and that can develop the whole system’s capacity for growth. Leadership that leaves space for crowdsourced ideas, innovation, transparency…courage to admit failures, and diversity of thought and experience.” In an open system, that leadership can come from anywhere. This means YOU. And ME. And anyone else with the desire to make their company an incredible, human place to work.
To develop this type of leadership, the four traits which the authors suggest develop are being open, trustworthy, generative (capable of creating value for themselves and the system as they grow) and courageous. This makes me want to stand up and do a little cheer. (And I’m not exactly the cheerleader type; I tried out once and thank God that it was before the days of the FlipCam.)
The chapter on “How to Be More Open”, in particular, rocks one’s world, as it is a prerequisite for the rest. It discusses how to decentralize culture, implement systems thinking in processes and create ownership in individual behavior. “How to Be More Trustworthy” deals with creating a culture of transparency, processes that lead to truth and authentic individual behavior. “How to Be Generative” discusses building a culture of inclusion, collaborative process, and building individual relationships. And “How to Be Courageous” lends insights into fostering a culture of learning, processes that allow for experimentation, and individual personal development.
Humanize asks you to think about whether your organization “walks the walk”, and I think that’s central to the whole discussion. Who is encouraged to make decisions, to speak up in meetings, to post on the company blog? Do employees really have a voice? Do the “official” leaders demonstrate that the employees’ voices really matter, or just pay lip service?
The best part of this book is that it really makes you think deeply about whether you have the culture that you *think* you have (aka snap out of a state of denial). As the book points out, “Too many organizational leaders make up their minds about what culture they want and feel that they can somehow declare it into being.” Too true. So often, an organization thinks its employees know what it stands for, but it’s never been clearly and simply articulated, beyond a corporate-sounding mission statement slapped on the wall.
I absolutely love this retail/service marketing example of humanization, openness and courageousness that the authors share. For many years, they say, Nordstrom gave each new employee a single 5×8 card as its employee manual. It said:
Welcome to Nordstrom. We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgement at all times. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.
That’s it…the employee manual. It sounds human. It demonstrates the values of the company simply and powerfully. It walks the walk. It’s a rallying cry. Every service marketing company – EVERY company – including Jigsaw – needs this, whether it’s a 5×8 card, a commissioned work from Hugh McLeod (WANT one for Jigsaw please) or something in between.
There’s so much more juiciness in this book that I can’t begin to touch here. The inherent limitations of prescribed “best practices.” The need to give up control while inspiring commitment to lead in others. The importance of freely sharing information, ongoing/organic strategic planning, creating time to innovate, willingness to take risks and acceptance of failure. The need for a culture of learning, real relationship-building, facilitating full truth-telling and managing conflict instead of ignoring it. It’s all there. You’ve just got to read it. Well, and do it…and to make it even more doable, the Humanize website has downloadable worksheets that accompany it.
I thought I was reading Humanize to share with our clients. In the end, it also forced me to think long and hard about the Jigsaw culture. Anyone who knows me knows I love Jigsaw; I left and came back because the values of the culture here can’t be beat. That said, there’s always room for improvement, and things that happen in any organization at times that make people feel limited, constrained, uninspired. Which is the polar opposite of what we’re aiming for. I am really looking forward to having more candid, open, courageous conversations about our own culture and how we can make it even better.
How can YOUR company (take some ownership!) be more open, trustworthy, collaborative, decentralized, generative, courageous, truthful?