Li’s New Book May Not Be What You Think – Are All Systems Go?


Charlene Li’s new business best-seller, Open Leadership (San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass), is all about social technologies.  The major premise from her book is that leaders need to let go.  They must take the risk to expose their organizations to customers, suppliers, vendors, and competitors, or they will be left behind in the rapidly evolving marketplace.

Be warned that this is not a guide to using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or any other tool.   The focus of this book is on developing and creating systems that work for individuals and organizations. 

I was particularly fascinated with the “sandbox covenants.”  These are the rules, procedures, and disciplines that it takes to structure openness.   If that sounds contradictory to you – “structuring openness” – realize that without walls to keep the sand in, you do not have a system, and you have chaos.  Every executive, employee, vendor, or customer who interfaces with a social technology system offered by an organization must play by some rules, or the system collapses.

You may not be surprised that not everyone is cut out for this task.  One of the interesting features of the book is a self-assessment to determine where an individual stands concerning the mind-set, traits, and behaviors that it takes to succeed with social technologies.  The good news is that “where you are” is not necessarily “where you can be,” and practically every behavior and skill to succeed is trainable and learnable.

Li emphasizes patience with these systems.  She is correct.  Rome was not built in a day, and neither are any of these tools.  The key is to make them work for you – not you working for them.

I really believe that this book deserves a careful read by anyone who holds an interest in greater returns from social technologies.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!

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