Cloud Culture: Level up – You win the game by failing successfully [Collaborative Series 6/8]

Translation: Learn by playing, fail fast, and embrace risk.

This post is #6 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

It's good to failDigital Natives have been trained to learn the rules of the game by just leaping in and trying. They seek out mentors, learn the politics at each

Early failure is the expected process for mastery.

You don’t believe that games lead to better decision making in real life? In a January 2010 article,  magazine reported that observations of the new generation of football players showed they had adapted tactics learned in Madden NFL to the field. It is not just the number of virtual downs played; these players have gained a strategic field-level perspective on the game that was before limited only to coaches. Their experience playing video games has shattered the on-field hierarchy.

For your amusement…Here is a video about L33T versus N00B culture From College Humor “L33Ts don’t date N00Bs.”  Youtu.be/JVfVqfIN8_c

Digital Natives embrace iterations and risk as a normal part of the life.

Risk is also a trait we see in entrepreneurial startups. Changing the way we did things before requires you to push the boundaries, try something new, and consistently discard what doesn’t work. In Lean Startup Lessons Learned, Eric Ries built his entire business model around the try-learn-adjust process. He’s shown that iterations don’t just work, they consistently out innovate the competition.

The entire reason Dell grew from a dorm to a multinational company is due to this type of fast-paced, customer-driven interactive learning. You are either creating something revolutionary or you will be quickly phased out of the Information Age. No one stays at the top just because he or she is cash rich anymore. Today’s Information Age company needs to be willing to reinvent itself consistently … and systematically.

Why do you think larger corporations that embrace entrepreneurship within their walls seem to survive through the worst of times and prosper like crazy during the good times?

Gamer have learned that Risk that has purpose will earn you rewards.

Cloud Culture: Online Games, the real job training for Digital Natives [Collaborative Series 5/8]

Translation: Why do Digital Natives value collaboration over authority?

Kids Today

This post is #5 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

Before we start, we already know that some of you are cynical about what we are suggesting—Video games? Are you serious? But we’re not talking about Ms. Pac-Man. We are talking about deeply complex, rich storytelling, and task-driven games that rely on multiple missions, worldwide player communities, working together on a singular mission.

Leaders in the Cloud Generation not just know this environment, they excel in it.

The next generation of technology decision makers is made up of self-selected masters of the games. They enjoy the flow of learning and solving problems; however, they don’t expect to solve them alone or a single way. Today’s games are not about getting blocks to fall into lines; they are complex and nuanced. Winning is not about reflexes and reaction times; winning is about being adaptive and resourceful.

In these environments, it can look like chaos. Digital workspaces and processes are not random; they are leveraging new-generation skills. In the book Different, Youngme Moon explains how innovations looks crazy when they are first revealed. How is the work getting done? What is the goal here? These are called “results only work environments,” and studies have shown they increase productivity significantly.

Digital Natives reject top-down hierarchy.

These college educated self-starters are not rebels; they just understand that success is about process and dealing with complexity. They don’t need someone to spoon feed them instructions.

Studies at MIT and The London School of Economics have revealed that when high-end results are needed, giving people self-direction, the ability to master complex tasks, and the ability to serve a larger mission outside of themselves will garnish groundbreaking results.

Gaming does not create mind-addled Mountain Dew-addicted unhygienic drone workers. Digital Natives raised on video games are smart, computer savvy, educated, and, believe it or not, resourceful independent thinkers.

Thomas Edison said:

“I didn’t fail 3,000 times. I found 3,000 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

Being comfortable with making mistakes thousands of times ’til mastery sounds counter-intuitive until you realize that is how some of the greatest breakthroughs in science and physics were discovered.  Thomas Edison made 3,000 failed iterations in creating the light bulb.

Level up: You win the game by failing successfully.

Translation: Learn by playing, fail fast, and embrace risk.

Digital Natives have been trained to learn the rules of the game by just leaping in and trying. They seek out mentors, learn the politics at each level, and fail as many times as possible in order to learn how NOT to do something. Think about it this way: You gain more experience when you try and fail quickly then carefully planning every step of your journey. As long as you are willing to make adjustments to your plans, experience always trumps prediction.Just like in life and business, games no longer come with an instruction manual.

In Wii Sports, users learn the basic in-game and figure out the subtlety of the game as they level up. Tom Bissel, in Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, explains that the in-game learning model is core to the evolution of video games. Game design involves interactive learning through the game experience; consequently, we’ve trained Digital Natives that success comes from overcoming failure.

Cloud Culture: No spacesuits, Authority comes from doing, not altitude [Collaborative Series 4/8]

Subtitle: Why flattening org charts boosts your credibility

This post is #4 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

Unlike other generations, Digital Natives believe that expertise comes directly from doing, not from position or education. This is not hubris; it’s a reflection both their computer experience and dramatic improvements in technology usability.

AstronautIf you follow Joel Spolsky’s blog, “Joel on Software,” you know about a term he uses when describing information architects obsessed with the abstract and not the details; Architecture Astronauts—so high up above the problem that they might as well be in space. “They’re astronauts because they are above the oxygen level, I don’t know how they’re breathing.”

For example, a Digital Native is much better positioned to fly a military attack drone than a Digital Immigrant. According to New Scientist, March 27, 2008, the military is using game controllers for drones and robots because they are “far more intuitive.” Beyond the fact that the interfaces are intuitive to them, Digital Natives have likely logged hundreds of hours flying simulated jets under trying battle conditions. Finally, they rightly expect that they can access all the operational parameters and technical notes about the plane with a Google search.

Our new workforce is ready to perform like none other in history.

Being able to perform is just the tip of the iceberg; having the right information is the more critical asset. A Digital Native knows information (and technology) is very fast moving and fluid. It also comes from all directions … after all it’s The Information Age. This is a radical paradigm shift. Harvard Researcher David Weinberger highlights in his book Too Big to Know that people are not looking up difficult technical problems in a book or even relying on their own experiences; they query their social networks and discover multiple valid solutions. The diversity of their sources is important to them, and an established hierarchy limits their visibility; inversely, they see leaders who build strict organizational hierarchies as cutting off their access to information and diversity.

Today’s thought worker is on the front lines of the technological revolution. They see all the newness, data, and interaction with a peer-to-peer network. Remember all that code on the screen in the movie The Matrix? You get the picture.

To a Digital Native, the vice presidents of most organizations are business astronauts floating too high above the world to see what’s really going on but feeling like they have perfect clarity. Who really knows the truth? Mission Control or Major Tom? This is especially true with the acceleration of business that we are experiencing. While the Astronaut in Chief is busy ordering the VPs to move the mountains out of the way, the engineers at ground control have already collaborated on a solution to leverage an existing coal mine and sell coal as a byproduct.

The business hierarchy of yesterday worked for a specific reason: workers needed to just follow rules, keep their mouth shut, and obey. Input, no matter how small, was seen as intrusive and insubordinate … and could get one fired. Henry Ford wanted an obedient worker to mass manufacture goods. The digital age requires a smarter worker because, in today’s world, we make very sophisticated stuff that does not conform to simple rules. Responsibility, troubleshooting, and decision-making has moved to the frontlines. This requires open-source style communication.

Do not confuse the Astronaut problem as a lack of respect for authority.

Digital Natives respect informational authority, not positional. For Digital Natives, authority is flexible. They have experience forming and dissolving teams to accomplish a mission. The mission leader is the one with the right knowledge and skills for the situation, not the most senior or highest scoring. In Liquid Leadership, Brad explains that Digital Natives are not expecting managers to solve team problems; they are looking to their leadership to help build, manage, and empower their teams to do it themselves.

So why not encourage more collaboration with a singular mission in mind: develop a better end product? In a world that is expanding at such mercurial speed, a great idea can come from anywhere! Even from a customer! So why not remember to include customers in the process?

Who is Leroy Jenkins?

This viral video is about a spectacular team failure from one individual (Leroy Jenkins) who goes rogue during a team massively multi-player game.  This is a Digital Natives’ version of the ant and grasshopper parable: “Don’t pull a Leroy Jenkins on us—we need to plan this out.”  Youtu.be/LkCNJRfSZBU

Think about it like this: Working as a team is like joining a quest.

If comparing work to a game scenario sounds counterintuitive then let’s reframe the situation. We may have the same destination and goals, but we are from very different backgrounds. Some of us speak different languages, have different needs and wants. Some went to MIT, some to community college. Some came through Internet startups, others through competitors. Big, little, educated, and smart. Intense and humble. Outgoing and introverted.  Diversity of perspective creates stronger teams.

This also means that leadership roles rotate according to each mission.

This is the culture of the gaming universe. Missions and quests are equivalent to workplace tasks accomplished and point to benchmarks achieved. Each member excepts to earn a place through tasks and points. This is where Digital Natives’ experience becomes advantage. They expect to advance in experience and skills. When you adapt the workplace to these expectations the Digital Natives thrive.

Leaders need to come down to earth and remove the spacesuit.

A leader at the top needs to stay connected to that information and disruption. Start by removing your helmet. Breathe the same oxygen as the rest of us and give us solutions that can be used here on planet earth.

On Gamification

Jeff Attwood, founder of the community-based FAQ site Stack Overflow, has been very articulate about using game design to influence how he builds communities around sharing knowledge. We recommend reading his post about “Building Social Software for the Anti-Social” on his blog, CodingHorror.com.

Cloud Culture: Reality has become a video game [Collaborative Series 3/8]

This post is #3 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

DO VIDEO GAMES REALLY MATTER THAT MUCH TO DIGITAL NATIVES?

Yes. Video games are the formative computer user experience (a.k.a. UX) for nearly everyone born since 1977. Genealogists call these people Gen X, Gen Y, or Millennials, but we use the more general term “Digital Natives” because they were born into a world surrounded by interactive digital technology starting from their toys and learning devices.

Malcolm Gladwell explains, in his book Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop a core skill. In this case, video games have trained all generations since 1977 in a whole new way of thinking. It’s not worth debating if this is a common and ubiquitous experience; instead, we’re going to discuss the impact of this cultural tsunami.

Before we dive into impacts, it is critical for you to suspend your attitude about video games as a frivolous diversion. Brad explores this topic in Liquid Leadership, and Jane McGonnagle, in Reality is Broken, spends significant time exploring the incredibly valuable real world skills that Digital Natives hone playing games. When they are “gaming,” they are doing things that adults would classify as serious work:

  • Designing buildings and creating machines that work within their environment
  • Hosting communities and enforcing discipline within the group
  • Recruiting talent to collaborate on shared projects
  • Writing programs that improve their productivity
  • Solving challenging mental and physical problems under demanding time pressures
  • Learning to persevere through multiple trials and iterative learning
  • Memorizing complex sequences, facts, resource constraints, and situational rules.

Why focus on video gamers?

Because this series is about doing business with Digital Natives and video games are a core developmental experience.

The impact of Cloud Culture on technology has profound implications and is fertile ground for future collaboration between Rob and Brad.  However, we both felt that the challenge of selling to gamers crystallized the culture clash in a very practical and financially meaningful sense.  Culture can be a “soft” topic, but we’re putting a hard edge on it by bringing it home to business impacts.

Digital Natives play on a global scale and interact with each other in ways that Digital Immigrants cannot imagine. Brad tells it best with this story about his nephew:

Years ago, in a hurry to leave the house, we called out to our video game playing nephew to join us for dinner.

“Sebastian, we’re ready.” I was trying to be as gentle as possible without sounding Draconian. That was the parenting methods of my father’s generation. Structure. Discipline. Hierarchy. Fear. Instead, I wanted to be the Cool Uncle.

“I can’t,” he exclaimed as wooden drum sticks pounded out their high-pitched rhythm on the all too familiar color-coded plastic sensors of a Rock Band drum kit.

“What do you mean you can’t? Just stop the song, save your data, and let’s go.”

“You don’t understand. I’m in the middle of a song.” Tom Sawyer by RUSH to be exact. He was tackling Neil Peart. Not an easy task. I was impressed.

“What do you mean I don’t understand? Shut it off.” By now my impatience was noticeable. Wow, I lasted 10 seconds longer than my father if he had been in this same scenario. Progress I guess.

And then my 17-year-old nephew hit me with some cold hard facts without even knowing it… “You don’t understand… the guitar player is some guy in France, and the bass player is this girl in Japan.”

In my mind the aneurism that was forming just blew… “What did he just say?”

And there it was, sitting in my living room—a citizen of the digital age. He was connected to the world as if this was normal. Trained in virtualization, connected and involved in a world I was not even aware of!

My wife and I just looked at each other. This was the beginning of the work I do today. To get businesses to realize the world of the Digital Worker is a completely different world. This is a generation prepared to work in The Cloud Culture of the future.

A Quote from Liquid Leadership, Page 94, How Technology Influences Behavior…

In an article in the Atlantic magazine, writer Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) cites sociologist Daniel Bell as claiming the following: “Whenever we begin to use ‘intellectual technologies’ such as computers (or video games)—tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.

In other words, the technology we use changes our behavior!

There’s another important consideration about gamers and Digital Natives. As we stated in post 1, our focus for this series is not the average gamer; we are seeking the next generation of IT decision makers. Those people will be the true digital enthusiasts who have devoted even more energy to mastering the culture of gaming and understand intuitively how to win in the cloud.

“All your base belongs to us.”

Translation: If you’re not a gamer, can you work with Digital Natives?

Our goal for this series is to provide you with actionable insights that do not require rewriting how you work. We do not expect you to get a World of Warcraft subscription and try to catch up. If you already are one then we’ll help you cope with your Digital Immigrant coworkers.

In the next posts, we will explain four key culture differences between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives. For each, we explore the basis for this belief and discuss how to facilitate Digital Natives decision-making processes.

Cloud Culture Series TL;DR? Generation Cloud Cheat sheet [Collaborative Series 2/8]

SUBTITLE: Your series is TOO LONG, I DID NOT READ It!

This post is #2 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

Your attention is valuable to us! In this section, you will find the contents of this entire blog series distilled down into a flow chart and one-page table.  Our plan is to release one post each Wednesday at 1 pm ET.

Graphical table of contents

flow chartThe following flow chart is provided for readers who are looking to maximize the efficiency of their reading experience.

If you are unfamiliar with flow charts, simply enter at the top left oval. Diamonds are questions for you to choose between answers on the departing arrows. The curved bottom boxes are posts in the series.

Culture conflict table (the Red versus Blue game map)

Our fundamental challenge is that the cultures of Digital Immigrants and Natives are diametrically opposed.  The Culture Conflict Table, below, maps out the key concepts that we explore in depth during this blog series.

Digital Immigrants (N00Bs) Digital Natives (L33Ts)
Foundation: Each culture has different expectations in partners
  Obey Rules

They want us to prove we are worthy to achieve “trusted advisor” status.

They are seeking partners who fit within their existing business practices.

Test Boundaries

They want us to prove that we are innovative and flexible.

They are seeking partners who bring new ideas that improve their business.

  1. Organizational Hierarchy see No Spacesuits (Post 4)
  Permission Driven

Organizational Hierarchy is efficient

Feel important talking high in the org

Higher ranks can make commitments

Bosses make decisions (slowly)

Peer-to-Peer Driven

Organizational Hierarchy is limiting

Feel productive talking lower in the org

Lower ranks are more collaborative

Teams make decisions (quickly)

  1. Communication Patterns see MMOG as Job Training (Post 5)
  Formalized & Structured

Waits for Permission

Bounded & Linear

Requirements Focused

Questions are interruptions

Casual & Interrupting

Does NOT KNOW they need permission

Open Ended

Discovered & Listening

Questions show engagement

  1. Risks and Rewards see Level Up (Post 6)
  Obeys Rules

Avoid Risk—mistakes get you fired!

Wait and see

Fear of “looking foolish”

Breaks Rules

Embrace Risk—mistakes speed learning

Iterate to succeed

Risks get you “in the game”

  1. Building your Expertise see Becoming L33T (Post 7)
Knowledge is Concentrated

Expertise is hard to get (Diploma)

Keeps secrets (keys to success)

Quantitate—you can measure it

Knowledge is Distributed and Shared

Expertise is easy to get (Google)

Likes sharing to earn respect

Qualitative—trusts intuition

Hopefully, this condensed version got you thinking.  In the next post, we start to break this information down.

 

 

Cloud Culture: New IT leaders are transforming the way we create and purchase technology. [Collaborative Series 1/8]

Subtitle: Why L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs

Brad Szollose and I want to engage you in a discussion about how culture shapes technology [cross post link].  We connected over Brad’s best-selling book, Liquid Leadership, and we’ve been geeking about cultural impacts in tech since 2011.

Rob Hirschfeld

Rob

Brad

In these 8 posts, we explore what drives the next generation of IT decision makers starting from the framework of Millennials and Boomers.  Recently, we’ve seen that these “age based generations” are artificially limiting; however, they provide a workable context this series that we will revisit in the future.

Our target is leaders who were raised with computers as Digital Natives. They approach business decisions from a new perspective that has been honed by thousands of hours of interactive games, collaboration with global communities, and intuitive mastery of all things digital.

The members of this “Generation Cloud” are not just more comfortable with technology; they use it differently and interact with each other in highly connected communities. They function easily with minimal supervision, self-organize into diverse teams, dive into new situations, take risks easily, and adapt strategies fluidly. Using cloud technologies and computer games, they have become very effective winners.

In this series, we examine three key aspects of next-generation leaders and offer five points to get to the top of your game. Our goal is to find, nurture, and collaborate with them because they are rewriting the script for success.

We have seen that there is a technology-driven culture change that is reshaping how business is being practiced.  Let’s dig in!

What is Liquid Leadership?

“a fluid style of leadership that continuously sustains the flow of ideas in an organization in order to create opportunities in an ever-shifting marketplace.”

Forever Learning?

In his groundbreaking 1970s book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler pointed out that in the not too distant future, technology would inundate the human race with all its demands, overwhelming those not prepared for it. He compared this overwhelming feeling to culture shock.

Welcome to the future!

Part of the journey in discussing this topic is to embrace the digital lexicon. To help with translations we are offering numerous subtitles and sidebars. For example, the subtitle “L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs” translates to “Digital elites don’t buy from technical newcomers.”

Loosen your tie and relax; we’re going to have some fun together.  We’ve got 7 more posts in this cloud culture series.  

We’ve also included more background about the series and authors…

Continue reading

7 Open Source lessons from your English Composition class

We often act as if coding, and especially open source coding, is a unique activity and that’s hubris.   Most human activities follow common social patterns that should inform how we organize open source projects.  For example, research papers are very social and community connected activities.  Especially when published, written compositions are highly interconnected activities.  Even the most basic writing builds off other people’s work with due credit and tries create something worth being used by later authors.

Here are seven principles to good writing that translate directly to good open source development:

  1. Research before writing – take some time to understand the background and goals of the project otherwise you re-invent or draw bad conclusions.
  2. Give credit where due – your work has more credibility when you acknowledge and cross-reference the work you are building on. It also shows readers that you are not re-inventing.
  3. Follow the top authors – many topics have widely known authors who act as “super nodes” in the relationship graph. Recognizing these people will help guide your work, leads to better research and builds community.
  4. Find proof readers – All writers need someone with perspective to review their work before it’s finished. Since we all need reviewers, we all also need to do reviews.
  5. Rework to get clarity – Simplicity and clarity take extra effort but they pay huge dividends for your audience.
  6. Don’t surprise your reader – Readers expect patterns and are distracted when you don’t follow them.
  7. Socialize your ideas – the purpose of writing/code is to make ideas durable. If it’s worth writing then it’s worth sharing.  Your artifact does not announce itself – you need to invest time in explaining it to people and making it accessible.

Thanks to Sean Roberts (a Hidden Influences collaborator) for his contributions to this post.  At OSCON, Sean Roberts said “companies should count open source as research [and development investment]” and I thought he’s said “…as research [papers].”  The misunderstanding was quickly resolved and we were happy to discover that both interpretations were useful.