Keeping Your Business Going in an Emergency

EPICC is a nonprofit government endorsed society supported by and for the benefit of business and institutions throughout British Columbia, to influence and help businesses prepare for emergencies and disasters.

The organization holds annual conferences to help businesses understand the best way for them to maintain continuity during unplanned emergencies. I’ve been invited to speak this year to share ideas about how social media and online community can complement and support this work and help businesses respond to critical and disruptive disaster. I’ll post slides just prior to the event.

Here is the session description:

Resilient businesses and governments are organizations that engage in business continuity planning, conversation and relationship building. Strong communication and relationships are the hallmark of all well-functioning organizations both in the real world and especially online. Social media and online resources can ease these kind of planning, conversations and relationship building interactions.

These tools are increasingly being used to foster, build and maintain these connections and we’ll explore some of the strategies and tactics of how this happens. We’ll also explore the new and interesting ways that social media is being used to manage business continuity, emergency and resilience communication.

For more information visit the Emergency Preparedness for Industry and Commerce Council site (EPICC).

Thirty Strangers in a Circle: ‘Coming Alive’ at the Haven

This year started out differently, very differently. At the suggestion of a friend, he and I and a couple of other friends registered with The Haven for a personal and professional development program called Come Alive. We had been wondering about new ways to explore some old patterns that were keeping us from consistently living with passion in our personal and professional lives. The program was designed to help participants experience life more fully by exploring the role communication, relationship and self-responsibility have in our well being and the way we engage in this world.

Deep Inhalations, Deep Exhalations

The Come Alive experience sits on a foundation of a few key understandings. One of them is breathing. Yes, breathing. If you don’t like to breathe, don’t take this program. You might breathe more than you ever have and you’ll do it with other people, often. On your own, in big groups, in small groups, one-on-one, you will breathe. You will explore the relationship breathing has with your energy and how it influences and sometimes determines your well being. You will breathe slowly, intentionally, fast and hard and you may as I did, be reminded about the importance of breathing in helping to connect with you energy of your life.

Great, I learned to breathe. Now what…?

Now that you’ve started breathing, you learn to communicate all over again. That is, you’ll learn one of the communication models the Haven has developed over its 25 year history to help people be more in relationship with themselves and each other. You’ll experiment speaking in a strange tongue of “I feel….”, “My intention is…..”, “I want…” all structured to help you build awareness about the impact language has with how we relate to others and ourselves. You’ll sound funny to yourself and others, but it begins to unlock some of our language habits that help keep us from more meaningfully connecting with others.

And…. keep Breathing

Okay, we’re breathing and talking. Great. Thanks for that. What’s next? Over the next 5 days of large group work, small groups and individual time exploring how breathing, communication and blocked energy in the body and mind build up over years of lives keep us living fully. Facilitators lead extraordinary sessions using body work, gestalt, psychodrama and Chinese energy to help participants break open, old, blocked experiences so that we might be more present in our lives and with others. Five days of many intense sessions, mixed with relaxed and joyful times of personal reflection and social time with others.

In these sessions, one of the more powerful parts of the experience comes from sharing and being present with others as they spend time in the circle exploring these blocked parts of their lives. The experience the facilitators call resonance. The experience you experience when being present with someone else’s experience. This for me could likely have been the most powerful part of the program. One in which you, while deeply breathing of course, bear witness to and in some cases, participate in helping to create a trusted space for someone to go deeply into old trauma and memories. The goal of which is often varied and complex, but for me appeared to be an opportunity to try and be more in relationship and awareness with these memories, rather than at their mercy.

Would I recommend this program to you?

Attending a program of this kind is a very personal decision. I couldn’t tell you after having been if it would be appropriate or not. I spent most of time there thinking that I shouldn’t have been there. That all of the personal work I had done in my life had actually prepared me well and I was being reminded while I was there just how well. But, I would say that if you have worked hard at trying to understand your experience in this life and your relationships with others you may feel like you are covering similar ground, at least in the early stages of this program, but it does pick up pace and deepen as the days progress and there are, even for the well practiced, opportunities for deeper self-learning and understanding.

Did I come alive? Will you?

Having done a healthy amount of personal and professional development work in the past 10+ years, the outcome for me wasn’t as dramatic for some, at least not that I could tell, but I did come away from time there having significantly deepened my relationship the friends I traveled there with and also for a renewed appreciation for life and my relationships. I’m bringing more and more awareness of what I learned to how I communicate with those in my life and I’ve had a sustained improvement in sleeping and peaceful well being as I continue to enjoy many of the breathing techniques we learned. So, simply; Yes, I would say that I feel more alive today than I did when I went into the Haven. If you’re looking for this kind of experience, one in which you need to move through old habits, I would recommend this program to you, if the personal work you are doing in your life now doesn’t seem to be helping you in being fully present in your life. Come Alive just might help you connect with that person you know that you are.

Governance – The Cough Medicine of Great Digital Experiences

If you’re like me, the mere mention of the word governance has you wishing you surfed for a living rather than trying to lead your organization in building transformative digital experiences. Something like what cough medicine conjures. Something we all need once in a while, but don’t actually enjoy. I mean it sounds good, but oh, that aftertaste is wicked awful. If I don’t really have to do it, I’ll avoid it as long as I can.

But here is the secret; high performing organizations utilize smart governance to create great results. Results that also improve the working happiness of their organizations. It’s the secret sauce of great digital experiences and the organizational cultures that create them.

What does it take to create outstanding digital campaigns, communities and movements? Many organizations want movement building Internet experiences. We watch other organizations that create Internet experiences or campaigns that capture the imagination of their intended audiences, and we are ask ourselves how we could do it too?

This challenge of governance increasingly finds it way into our work and is a vital component of the success of smart Internet programs. When you experience a great digital campaign, site or program, it’s very likely that it is the result of the organization behind it having wrestled with the thorny and sometimes bitter tasting opportunity of governance; the structure of people, positions, authorities, roles, responsibilities, relationships and agreements that power the creation of many great user experiences.

This post was originally written for and published on Communicopia.com

Inspirations on Writing Well

This past year I had the opportunity to meet and learn about the work of Blair Enns. Blair, if you don’t know him, is a man of personal mastery. He is on a mission. His mission is to change the sales process for creative consulting firms. He wants to change the process so that the outcomes are both better for clients and better for the firms and people providing the service. In Blair’s world, he’s seen the influence of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process become the dominant way that clients procure work from agencies. Blair has seen what I know. The process is mostly broken and he is on a mission with his Win Without Pitching work to change the way this process works for the better for all involved. You can read more about Blair’s work by reading his manifesto or following his work at winwithoutpitching.com. You’ll see here too that I have written a short review of his work on Amazon. It was the least I could do for what I was given.

Thought Leadership

One of the key ways Blair advocates that this work can happen rests in the writing of the agencies providing the work; not just any part of their writing, it rests in their thought leadership. His position is that directing the sales process away from RFPs to conversations requires that the agencies working with this approach take a leadership position with their thinking. That their thinking and expertise becomes the demonstrable case for why the client should hire them, not the RFP process. That in many cases the RFP process can be circumvented when agencies can reassure clients through their thought leadership, process and expertise. The win for both parties becomes that the client and agency are both moving toward working with one another more quickly, more confidently and that they are better matched for each others needs.

On Writing Well

There are numerous ways we demonstrate thought leadership. The most obvious is our writing. Inspiration in this area for Blair came from the writings of William Zinsser and on recommendation from Blair I’ve read the most recent edition of Zinsser’s classic ‘On Writing Well’. Writing has always been a challenge for me. Conversations, ideas, creativity and collaboration. These are my strengths. If I could write like I’m able to engage with people, I might become a good writer. But my own experiences and inspirations around writing having been limited. It wasn’t until meeting Blair and reading Zinsser that I actually became inspired to put more intention into my writing. Don’t mis-understand. I’ve been writing for years and writing often, but the format has been limited to business communication, presentations and personal reflections. These are important forms of thought leadership, but you can also hide out in them. You can hide out in design and the visual nature of some of this communication. After having read Zinssers work, the first book I’ve ever read about writing, I’m working to put more focus on this deeply important craft.

In Bullets

While working my way through ‘On Writing Well’ came a series of bullet points. Simple inspirations distilling the big patterns and themes of Zinsser. Something I thought that I could read easily before I sat down to write any of my work. And I want to share it with you, but not before I too encourage you to go out and read Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’. My little list here is only that. The short list can’t replace the richness of the book. If you’re going to use this list for anything, use it to take action to get your own copy and read it. Really, it’s worth it. If you care about the written word, or have as I have been, challenged to write, it will more than help.

In no particular order. My pre-writing inspiration list, inspired by William Zinsser:

    [dot] 

  • The most important line is the first line. Lead with a strong line to hook/encourage the reader
  • Precision. Look for a precision of words with colour and fact
  • Trust your material and don’t bury the lead
  • Write something unique. What is your unique insight about which you are writing?
  • Follow your affections and you will write well. Write about that which you enjoy
  • There is magic in harnessing the concerns and issues of the day
  • Employ your ideas so that they serve the people who are reading them
  • Give people something useful to use and something to put into service
  • Writing is a public trust. Handle what people say as a gift
  • Connect the reader to some element that touches his life
  • Be natural and clear. Avoid pretense that hides your thinking, or lack of it, from the reader
  • Bring humanity to your words
  • Bring humanity to your subject as a way to connect with the people for whom you are writing
  • A simple style does not reflect a simple mind
  • A simple style is a the result of hard work and hard thinking
  • Don’t be a victim of trying to sound important
  • The most powerful tool you possess are your words
  • People connect with people not abstract concepts
  • [/dot]

The last of Zinsser’s sage advice?. The second most important line is this next one. The one you leave the reader with; the last one.

Platform Roulette: Betting on WordPress

You face a fundamental decision – your organization needs a new website. Deciding what platform on which to build your site matters. It means the difference between being nimble and responsive, or perceived as stayed and static. It means the difference between intended organizational outcomes and head scratching disappointment. It is another one of the key decisions that will impact the long-term efficacy of your Internet program.

Staying Current

Assuming you understand the strategy of why you’re building a site, what outcomes you’re working towards, and how you’ll engage your audiences in realizing those outcomes, when you choose to use a platform like WordPress you’re placing a bet. You’re betting that the investment you make in time and resources to build your site, are done so on an actively supported and continuously improved platform. One that is improving over time and keeping up with enhancements and changes in the market. Enhancements that you need to be able to quickly respond with to stay current with your marketing, communications and sales work.

Build with Community

Build your site with a community behind you. That is the true power using WordPress and one of the core reasons it has become one the worlds best content publishing platforms. It’s the community. WordPress has its roots in the blogging community, but the developers stewarding the platform have their focus set clearly on expanding the capacity of the platform to be a more well rounded content management system. This is particularly important for business and organizations.

Community Matters

Within hours of Facebook adding the ‘Facebook Like’ button this past year, WordPress developers had launched multiple plugins to quickly integrate the feature across their sites. No custom coding required. Setup and install in less than 5 minutes. This is a hallmark of a vibrant community. One that quickly responds to new and emerging features. When your organization wants to take advantage of these new tactics. You want to do so in a low-cost and flexible way. Experimenting and testing the benefits for your marketing, sales and engagement programs. WordPress as a platform and as a community have been consistently delivering this kind of rapidly responding evolution that are vital to keeping your work in pace with the changing world of marketing and sales.

WordPress for Everything

Do we recommend WordPress for all sites? No. The work we do is technology agnostic. Meaning, we’re always looking for the best solutions to support the strategy, resources and capabilities of the organizations we’re working with. There are many platforms in the market to consider, but in the small to mid-size business and organization market, I’d ask why not WordPress first before looking first at other platforms. WordPress is a safe bet for now and years to come. The community is growing. The platform is improving. High quality theme design and design resources are becoming more ubiquitous.

Making it Easy Makes it Work

Simple. Powerful. Fast. Extensible. Getting better all the time. – These are all ways in which the community of worldwide users describe the capabilities of the content publishing platform WordPress. Part of the incredible success of the WordPress movement can be attributed to ease of use. WordPress, in the right hands, can deliver sophisticated levels of functionality, but with an ease of use keeps people involved. The focus of the open source developer community on this ease of use has translated into one of the world’s largest open source developer communities.

Here are 6 things you need to consider when selecting an open source platform like WordPress to build your site:

    • Community – Is it active and growing?
    • Ease of Use – Does it make it easy to do what we need it to do?
    • Resources – Can we easily get talented thinkers, designers , developers to work on it?
    • Extensible – Can the platform and features grow and change with us?
    • 3rd Party – Are other services you use like CRM, mailing lists, etc. easily integrated?
    • Future – Is there a good chance the community and platform will be thriving in the future?

In our work, we use many different platforms and services. Open source tools such as Drupal, BuddyPress, and Joomla. Software as a service platforms like Ning and KickApps. Enterprise platforms like Jive and SharePoint. But if you’re a small/mid-sized business or organization looking to take your site in new directions, consider WordPress first and see if all others match the quality of what you need. From what we see, right here and right now, WordPress is a very smart bet.