Sunday, 27 April 2014

Luis Suarez, agent of change

At Social Now Europe I found myself talking with one of the world's most popular social business enthusiasts. Luis Suarez (pictured below) was Social Business Evangelist at IBM until a couple of months ago, helping 400,000 employees embracing the new way of working socially. He is a dedicated member of Change Agents Worldwide with the vision of helping to shape the future of work, one human at a time.

In this exclusive interview, Luis shares important moments in his career from IBM to Solo Change Agent and why social business has to become an imperative. Plus, what he believes the future of work is going to be.

GL: After 17 years of working at IBM, why did you decide to leave the company and go freelance?

LS: Plenty of people think that I left IBM as a result of bad experiences. That was not the case, by far. During those 17 years I was privileged to have worked in six different business units. I was very passionate about all of them right from the beginning. In 2007, my role became that one of a full time Social Business Evangelist along with my long term background of doing knowledge management, collaboration and community building. To me that role has always been for someone who understands that at one point in time your job will become obsolete. Last year I felt it was my turn; my work was basically pretty much done. I had to move on and do other things.


GL: How can you say that your job was done? What made you think that way?

LS: Two facts were telling me this. A few days after announcing that I was leaving, the CEO published the letter to the investors describing how 300,000 employees were actively using the company's enterprise social network (ESN) IBM Connections. When you have 300,000 employees engaged on the platform, your job as Evangelist is done!

The other thing relates to what most people have known me for: in 2008, I decided to create the movement about not using emails at work. Six years later, the VP of Enterprise Transformation started a campaign called #Getsimple to simplify the company's processes and to make the business more agile. One of the main initiatives was reducing the amount of email traffic. So, what started as a crazy idea from one man challenging 400,000 people to work differently, 6 years later became mainstream. This again was confirming to me that it was time for me to move on.

GL: How did you manage to get rid of emails? What's the main benefit?

LS: Before joining this movement I used to spend two to three hours every day cleaning out my inbox probably just like anyone else out there. I realised that there was a big business problem impacting on my own productivity. So I decided to tell all the colleagues on the ESN that I was not going to send any more emails. All my documents would be available on the personal file sharing space, which was open to everyone. As a result of this, since the last 6 years I have saved two to three hours every day to do something more productive (e.g. talking with customers or sharing my knowledge with colleagues more openly). Can you imagine the huge savings when you multiply this by 400,000 employees inside the organisation?


GL: I suppose it was not as easy as it sounds. Today, many people lament the abuse of emails and prefer social communications instead. Yet, in 2008 the scenario was completely different. You must have been strong enough to overcome internal challenges.

LS: It’s true. You need to persevere, be resilient and patient. If you really believe that there is a better way of collaborating, then your job and your responsibility as an Evangelist, is to show others how social business works by doing, not just by talking.

To overcome people's inertia and resistance to change you need to have commitment as well as to offer alternatives. It is then when people start listening to you. When I was at IBM I crowdsourced 44 use cases of how people where using email daily (e.g. to share files, ask questions, send newsletters, project status reports, find jobs, out of office, etc). For each of them I showed with a practical example how the job could be done on a social networking tool more effectively. The message was: "This is how you are working now. This is how you can work on the ESN. These are the benefits of the transition." When people can see from themselves how easy it is, they start getting exposure to these new habits more confidently.

GL: Today, you are a team member of Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW), an innovative network of progressive professionals who assist businesses in dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century. Could you tell us how the organisation works, and why it's important?

LS: CAWW works as a cooperative. It is an employee-owned organisation. Each of us, is either an Enterprise Change Agent - someone working inside a large company helping their workforce in the social business transformation - or a Solo Change Agent - someone like me being an independent freelancer. We help companies and individuals with any type of social business challenge. Depending on time allowance, interests and speciality, each Change Agent can decide on which particular project to work on. He/she gets paid and a percentage of that payment goes back to the organisation. In terms of skills and expertise we cover the entire social business spectrum: from social network analysis, to management and leadership, social learning, change, technology development, etc.

GL: What kind of working relationships does the organisation support? How do you usually communicate with other members?

LS: We get work done and communicate informally everyday through our own Socialcast-based ESN. We don't have any hierarchy, we don't have any boss, we are all exactly at the same level with the same role whatever the role is. We highly trust and help each other understanding that if your network is successful you will be successful as a result of it. While we reject the idea of competition, we embrace the concept of co-operation: we co-operate to compete together. We strongly believe that the future of work will be based more and more on this type of network effect, what we call wirearchy.




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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate