How we Handle Change Based on Culture

Catching up on some interviews I bookmarked for later reading, I came across this bit by Amy O'Leary about her tenure at the Times#:

Having the opportunity to speak outside the Times to speak to journalists and students was a remarkable way for me to almost make recommendations for the future, which, within the Times, I was hesitant to do absent of broad collaboration.

When I’m talking at a conference, I can be more speculative and creative and talk about what I think might happen in two or three years. That’s where I feel I’ve been able to do some of my most interesting thinking.

It is something I have also experienced, whether working in house at a brand or at an agency. One of the most frequently asked questions I get when speaking at events — and I've been doing it for a good fifteen years — is not how I manage to get the gig (by now everyone knows where to submit abstracts for talks, etc.). How I reconcile the job with the speaking is the object of greater curiosity.

Not why I do it — I love to share what I know — but how I get permission to do it. The answer is simple — I give myself permission by doing the extra work it takes to inform, potentially entertain, and hopefully instigate people to action.

I remember a while back we had one of those conversations about reconciling personal brand and company brand. The work comes first, no doubt about it. That means sharing and connecting in support of the company's business/brands. There is an exception to that: when the company chooses not to support you.

Do you pick yourself then? Many do, hence side projects and potentially one day a business out of them.

At a time like today when many organizations do not offer training or development opportunities, it is interesting to note how they handle people with a strong desire to learn, teach, and collaborate across divisions or group silos. Hard to generalize, because it depends on people — individual managers and how they operate within the complex system we call culture — I found brands to be more open to personal initiative with learning and collaborating.

Much of what I learned is possible online I learned from experimenting, building sites for conferences, hosting conversations and live panels, introducing the element of surprise in community management, writing at this blog, and guest posting at Fast Company, MarketingProfs Daily Fix, Social Media Today, The Blog Herald — all my initiative, on my own time.

It's worth doing the extra work to gain perspective, test new ideas, cross-pollinate, know what it takes. Then integrate those learnings into your work. Win-win with the side benefit of a life-long habit of learning.

In 1999 Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and so many of the tools for audience development we have today did not exist. There is a part of me that thinks it made things easier not having them; the part of me who has been studying how information spreads in networks appreciates their usefulness.

O'Leary says:

I think the culture and the process are one and the same. I think the process, which is the way we do our work, is intrinsically intertwined with the culture of who we are.

Is it easier to talk about the industry and what is happening inside your organization or outside? How about bringing in a new way of doing things? Testing new ideas? Where are you learning through experimenting?

Worth thinking about where your organization is on these questions; that's where people with talent are going. This is not just about tech — though you will find a more rapid response to it in people involved in digital (and also the broadest range of backgrounds due to how many got into it early on by investing personal time.)

The whole interview# is worth a read, because O'Leary had so many opportunities to look at the business from different angles during her career at the Times. That is becoming rare.