It’s true that social media has greatly impacted the way organizations do business from a marketing and communications perspective. But what’s perhaps even more important – and likely overlooked – is the potential impact social media can have on how we lead and manage our organizations.
Maddie Grant, co-author of Humanize and When Millennials Take Over, is a digital strategist and thought leader who is an expert at helping organizations use social media to transform organizational culture and become more human-centric. She is also well known for her work on organizational culture at WorkXO, as well as for her role as editor of the SocialFish blog.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast Celisa talks with Maddie about the implications of social media on associations, how it has led to organizations becoming more human-centric (including the impact millenials are having on this), and the important role of learning in organizational culture.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:52] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews digital strategist, consultant, and author, Maddie Grant.
[02:37] – Introduction to Maddie and some background information about who she is and what she does.
[04:17] – You’re very active on social media and have been for years, and yet what you emphasize in your book Humanize is that the rise of social media in and of itself is not particularly important. So what is important and what’s the story behind the growth of social media? Maddie explains there are big philosophical trends shaping the digital world around the democratization of information and that institutions/associations aren’t really needed anymore in order to obtain information. People are now able to build their own networks/channels to create content and build community without traditional institutions getting in the way.
[06:03] – What’s the implication of social media on associations, which have historically hung their hat on being that connector, that facilitator of like minds coming together? Maddie says part of the big lesson of social media is that it’s constantly in evolution and constantly changing. In the context of associations, initially there was a huge fear of what the impact of social media would be. Over the past several years, associations have had to scramble to make sure they are providing value. However, now the social media field is more mature so there is a lot of new information/content/skills/tactics related to marketing and communications. Associations can now serve the important role of acting as a filter in channeling all of this new, free-flowing information because it has created information overload for people.
[08:58] – You offer a framework for helping organizations to become more human-centric. Will you talk a little about that framework and how that plays out within an organization? Maddie shares that in 2011, she and Jamie Notter wrote their first book, Humanize. In it, they explored how social media was changing management and leadership, not just marketing and communications. Essentially, social media began shining a light on changes happening where organizations needed to become more open, trustworthy, decentralized, experimental, authentic, and collaborative—basically a lot of things that are actually not about communications and social media, but rather internal structures and organizational culture. The book also explores how we exist in a traditional, mechanical system of management that’s been in existence for a hundred years but social media has been forcing the system to break apart and become more “human” and more of an ecosystem, rather than a system.
[10:36] – Maddie continues to discuss how/why organizations are becoming more human-centric. In 2015, she and Jamie wrote When Millennials Take Over and the impetus for that was many of these same ideas were still happening but a huge catalyst for it is due to the fact that millennials are starting to come into management positions—and many of the changes they are implementing are more culture-focused. In the book, they identified 4 key capacities (digital, clear, fluid, and fast), which are ways of working that make sense to millennials based on the context in which they grew up. They are also ways that organizations that have been around for a while can shift to try and be more aligned with the future of work.
[11:58] – There’s been a lot of talk about millennials so what do you see as the inherent benefits and dangers of talking about a whole generation, broadly? Maddie points out that generational theory is about trends across millions of people, never about individuals—you are either like your generation or not. There are certain identifiers that describe a particular generation based on cultural events as they were coming of age. Those attributes can help to understand how they think about certain things, specifically the workplace. Maddie explains how and why it’s important to understand some of the generational context to unlock the value of all working together.
[15:00] – Maddie defines organizational culture as the words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clearly define what is valued in an organization. She further clarifies that words are what you say about your culture/workplace, actions are what you see when you walk into an office, thoughts are assumptions around that, and stuff is everything tangible or everything else (i.e. dress code, office space, hours, etc.). The most important part of the definition is regarding what’s valued—Maddie emphasizes it’s not just the values that might be written on the wall (i.e. collaboration, excellence), as they can be very different than what you see.
[17:50] – What are your thoughts about the role that learning plays in organizational culture? Maddie explains that learning is very much a part of many of the different cultural markers they measure in what they call the “workplace genome”, their cultural assessment. For example, she says you can’t have innovation without an openness, curiosity, and process for bringing in new ideas. Another marker they use is growth (which is related to personal development) and of course, learning is very directly involved in that. She adds that learning is connects to the idea of being able to continuously improve, part of the digital mindset, because one of the things that comes out of being digital is continuous improvement – just like software is always being updated. In an organization having a learning culture is also part of that digital mindset where you are continuously improving and evolving your processes, structures, and tools in order to be agile and keep up with your market.
[20:17] – Would learning be part of how an organization could go about shifting or changing it’s culture – or can you talk about how organizational culture can change over time? Maddie says they often think about how to shift, adjust, or embed processes and structures that help with evolution and learning. In order to change, you need processes in place that ensure it’s normal to be learning and changing all the time rather than as part of one huge change management process. What they have found in their research is that the most futurist organizations are those that have learning embedded into everything (i.e. staff meetings, opportunities to experiment with different projects, professional development, relationships with customers/customer communities, performance management and the ability to have your own professional path tied to the growth and culture of the organization).
[22:43] – What’s your approach to your own learning? How do you keep learning and growing your knowledge and skills? Maddie reveals that she is a constant learner and she attends conferences, online courses, and reads a ton. She admits she has an insatiable need for continuous learning and says as a social media person, it’s important to always be evolving because the field is always changing and evolving.
[24:25] – How to connect with Maddie:
[24:56] – Wrap-Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring of this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
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[26:27]- Sign off