New Book Report: The Power of Pull
SAP Community Network (SCN) has been SCN Praised as a Leader in Social Media this year, often being cited as a case study for our industry-leading approach to community building.
Recently, Ann All of IT Business Edge posted a series of articles highlighting SCN (Part One and Part Two, plus Online Community Dos and Don’ts). Charlene Li cites SAP EcoHub as an example in her new book, “Open Leadership,” which Open Leadership: Transform the Way You Lead. And in their latest book, “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion,” John Hagel III, John Seeley Brown, and Lang Davison of the Deloitte Center for the Edge use SAP extensively as an example, particularly SAP Developer’s Network (SDN).
“The Power of Pull” describes how to pull resources from our networks to access extended sources of knowledge, attract new resources when we need them, and achieve our potential in order to succeed – while hopefully pursuing our passions and changing the world. It’s a shift from the old “push” of resources based on forecasted needs, and standardized processes to ensure the right resources are available at the right time. Instead, in a quickly changing environment, we cultivate relationships that allow us to “pull” for specific needs.
ACCESS: What you need when you need it
With digital technology, we almost take for granted that we’re able to access information when we need it – like any one of the 1 million unique visitors who come to SCN each month seeking quick answers to their questions from our vast stores of information and experts. But access goes beyond searching for information, it supplements this activity by connecting people to help filter and find what you need when you need it. Part is simply knowing who to reach out to, and part is building your network so you’re able to access them at the right time. New technologies have allowed our personal networks to quickly scale, enabling us to pull from a wider pool of resources to access specialized knowledge and thus enhance our own store of knowledge. The authors refer to this as “knowledge stocks” and “knowledge flows” – sharing of information that occurs as we find, connect, innovate, and reflect using pull platforms.
Unlike push programs, pull platforms (like SCN) are modular, offering flexibility for the individual to use the platform to serve his or her specific needs. The individual needs can’t be anticipated in advance – this is a main differentiator between pull platforms and push programs. The authors note that “pull platforms are designed from the outset to handle exceptions, while push programs treat exceptions as indications of failure.”
By nature, pull platforms encourage diversity of usage and of opinion, becoming stronger as more participants join and add their voices. They allow participants to innovate as they recombine modules to serve new emerging needs. It’s easier to pull together experts and resources to solve unforeseen issues. And these activities can be done with lower risk because the modules are relatively self-contained. Sound familiar? All activities that we see happening on a daily basis in SAP Community Network. Our first community, SDN, is highlighted as an early example of a scalable platform:
“In one fell swoop, SAP went beyond the limitations of its own resources to access a broad network of talented and passionate participants who proved to be critical to the platform’s success…SDN was a success in no small part because it provided ample opportunity for nearly everybody involved to become more productive in what they do.”
ATTRACT: Orchestrating serendipity
The next stage in the Big Shift is around serendipitous interactions, which could be interpreted as fate or happenstance – but can really be orchestrated and shaped by actions, choices, and behaviors. Attraction is about pulling resources we didn’t realize we needed, allowing us to extract tacit knowledge from people by establishing trust-based relationships. At the time, it might just seem like a lucky coincidence – say at SAP TechEd, you run into one of your favorite SDN bloggers. Through a hallway conversation, you discover a new common interest, and begin sharing ways to help each other. Yet this wasn’t purely luck, you helped shape this interaction through your decisions and behaviors.
“Attraction is particularly powerful when it leads to serendipitous encounters with people on the edge – and then to long-term relationships with them.”
There are a number of environments that help facilitate serendipitous interactions, such as industry conferences (like SAP TechEd) or “connection platforms” (like SDN). Both bring together people with diverse backgrounds and varying levels of expertise, but who all share a mutual interest in the topic. Engaging in an environment that attracts like-minded individuals increases the chances of serendipitous encounters.
Just going to these places isn’t enough; once there, you need to consciously shape your behavior to encourage serendipitous interactions so you both help attract what you need, but are also prepared to capitalize on a situation. There’s no one formula, so the authors offer several practices that help attract people and ideas to you, like establishing a reputation of being helpful by resolving problems or offering insight, and sending out “beacons” making yourself/organization easy to find.
“Serendipity becomes much more than a one-time encounter or an end in itself: It becomes the crucial means of access to rich flows of tacit knowledge both now and in the future.”
ACHIEVE: Making it count
Leveraging these elements helps both individuals and organizations achieve their full potential in a fast-moving, pressure-filled, often stressful time. Connecting with people who have similar interests, and pulling knowledge from numerous sources can help amplify interests into passions. This is how stress can be transformed into excitement:
“Rather than prescribing what an individual needs, pull platforms respect the diversity and distinctive needs of each individual and seek to help individuals access and attract the most useful and relevant resources. This approach provides every individual with the degrees of freedom they need to engage in the problem solving, tinkering, and experimentation that drives innovation in all dimensions of activity.”
Pull platforms alone don’t support this third level of pull: Achieve. Rather, they need to become “creation spaces” – platforms that enable collaboration, development of trusted and long-term relationships, and rapid sharing of information and creating new knowledge stores and flows. Once again, SAP Community Network is mentioned as an example of a creation space, through SDN, BPX, SAP TechEd and DemoJam, and other communities.
“SAP realized that collaboration among participants was essential, and it designed these creation spaces to encourage peer-to peer interactions…The results have been impressive, not only in the scale of the creation space but in the learning and performance improvements it has produced.”
Using Pull to Change the World
These three levels of pull are only the beginning. As individuals at the bottom of an organization, at the top, or somewhere in between, we can begin individual transformations to harness the power of pull. It’s definitely not an easy journey, and we’re not all fortunate enough to have our passions merge with our professions.
But some people have jumped on the opportunity to help reshape the world – a few are profiled in this book. Shaping strategies think big – reshaping markets, industries, social arenas – so they leverage all three levels of pull. Pull doesn’t require big sweeping changes. As the subtitle states, it’s small moves, smartly made, that can accomplish great things.