Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Power of Pull- Introduction

This is a cross-post from my blog on the Military Social Networking system milBook.

My previous post on The Power of Pull dealt mainly with the conditions around the concept of Pull in an overview of a specific report on the material. What follows is based on the Introduction in the book The Power of Pull by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davidson (Copyright 2010 by Deloitte Development LLC, published by Basic Books). 

The authors have created a map (Pull Framework) showing the three levels of pull (access, attract, and achieve); the three domains in which they apply (individual, institutional, and societal); and the three elements of the journey that follow toward pull (trajectory, leverage, and pace):

This diagram is located in a document on John's website that provides an excellent overview of the material. (John Seely Brown╩╝s Stanford Entrepreneur's Corner Talk of April 14 2010 and Thoughts on The Power of Pull by John Hagel, JSB and Lang Davison- © 2010 Cook Network Consultants)

This post will cover briefly the nine concepts in the Pull Framework.

The First Level of Pull: Access-The first level of pull is all about being able to flexibly find and get to people and resources as we need them. Another aspect of Access is the idea that knowledge flows, not knowledge stocks, are necessary to get better faster than the competition. This change from valuing knowledge flows over knowledge stocks is presenting severe challenges to our existing institutions (such as the education system) which were designed to protect valuable stocks of knowledge. Technology-enabled pull platforms (especially search engines) allow everyone to access these knowledge flows to enhance their understanding of any subject area wherever and whenever desired.

The Second Level of Pull: Attract- The central tenet of this level of pull is Serendipity. Success in finding new information and sources of inspiration depends on serendipity- the chance encounter with someone or something we didn't even know existed that proves to be incredibly relevant and helpful once we find it. The authors maintain that these serendipitous events are not totally chance, and that they can be shaped in various ways such as living in a certain area with a concentration of  particular people (spikes) or by being in online communities, such as those on Social Media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and many others. By being on the "edges" of our usual group of people we know and interact with, we can have these serendipitous encounters that add value to all parties concerned.

The Third Level of Pull: Achieve- While individuals can use access to find what they need and attraction to draw new people, ideas, and information to themselves (institutions can aid all of this) there is more to pull that just these ideas. In order to leverage pull to drive high performance, continuous improvement, and achievement "creation spaces" must be formed. These creation spaces involve large numbers of people across institutions that become ecosystems focused on testing and refining the practices required to master this level of pull. Knowledge flows are enabled and encouraged in creation spaces, as passionate individuals work in concert to enhance the achievement of all in the space.

Individual: Make Your Passion Your Profession- As change becomes more rapid (and stressful) it is important for individuals to be passionate about their profession. Passion in this context refers to a sustained, deep commitment to realizing our potential and increasing self-expression in a domain that engages us at a personal level. Being passionate allows us to handle change better and can also lead us to master all three levels of pull.

Institutional: Harness Your Ecosystems- Pursuing your passion naturally draws us toward situations and places where other passionate people are located. It will also lend itself to creating online social networks in order to increase serendipity. This enhances the edge of our social networks that allows us to generate the leverage that amplifies our own impact and the impact of others.

Societal/ Arena: Maximize Return on Attention- As the people and resources we can access through spikes and social networks proliferate, we need to adopt tools and services that can improve our return on attention- the value we get for the time and effort we invest in focusing on someone or something. Search tools can help increase the return on attention, but serendipity is actually more effective. These tools also work in both directions (like the reciprocity concept that is so important to pull) in that they help us maximize our return on attention and also bring us to the attention of others that can help us increase the value of our creations we generate.

Defining a Trajectory for Change- Institutions designed for push cannot easily accommodate pull. Instead of focusing on attracting and retaining talent, institutions must focus on accessing and developing talent. This may seem like a small change, but it re-frames the issue that changes the direction of the organization and creates a new trajectory. This new trajectory aligns the institution with the increased power that pull provides individuals, both as employees and customers. Unleashing the creative potential of individuals will become the basis of corporate profits, so it is incumbent on all organizations to make talent development their first priority.

Creating Leverage- Institutional leaders will not be able to successfully transform their organizations to this new environment with the help of passionate individuals both inside and outside the institution. It is important to connect these motivated individuals with the resources and encouragement in order to foster an environment where pull can happen. This will sometimes take the form of "reverse mentoring" where the leaders actually learn from more junior members of the organization, sometimes known as champions. The transformation that occurs is a result of these champions being able to overcome obstacles to change. 

Accelerating Pace- Passionate people supported by a committed institutional leader can have a lot of success, until the entrenched forces of push begin to resist the transformation. The technology platforms of pull, primarily collaboration or Social Media tools can create a pace of change that is harder to resist. Also, these platforms enable the connections with other passionate people outside the institution that can enhance pull. There are also other forms of accelerating pace that deal more with the people involved in the process, such as encouraging and rewarding individuals that display the desired characteristics of transformation and pull.   

The cumulative effect of these 9 concepts of the Pull Framework could transform the larger community in many fundamental ways. In some respects it seems like it is just too much to expect that big of a change to happen given some of the circumstances in the world today, but it also bears pointing out that a lot of the changes mentioned in the framework are already underway. The Big Shift seems to be happening. The text gives much better examples of this and points out how pull could change the world- in a positive way.

On a totally unrelated topic, there is an online community for Federal Wave (FedWave) located here. You must apply for membership first at I will approve all reasonable requests for group access.Thanks to those of you who have already joined. FedWave and Apache Wave may be another transformational technology that could enable knowledge flows and creation spaces.

The opinions expressed above are strictly mine. Thanks for reading, and please comment in the space below if you are so moved.

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