Behind The Firewall – Rogue Agents

RoguestarWe’ve talked about this before. Employees taking steps on their own to induce change into an organization, to better serve the customers they interact with. We’ve talked about this before, though probably from a corporate perspective rather than a personal one. Let’s make it personal.

Most agents of change have historically bent the rules. These people found new, simpler, or better ways of doing things.  They didn’t hesitate to take on the leadership role (taking initiative) to make things happen, often without asking for permission or direction ahead of time.

Taking risks and bringing new ideas or technology into an organization can not only be challenging, but can potentially put your job in jeopardy. Below I list 5 things you can do as an agent of change in your organization. Be aware, however, that doing some of these things may violate the specific policies in your company, and that these are simply examples of what has been done by other people in other situations where they acted as Rogue Agents.

1 – Build Your Own Brand

One of the most important things to do first is be aware of who you are and your passions. Sometimes it helps to have a brand or package to work with before you start working with someone else’s, and what better one to start with than your own? Build your personal brand, and establish who you are first.

2 – Gain Access to the Tools

In order to stay on top of industry news (your own and for the social media “industry” of ideas & tools), you need to be connected. Many companies have fairly open access to information on the Internet, and some have unfettered access to social media/networking sites. If this isn’t your situation, bring your own access! Use a 3G modem to connect to the Internet without pesky firewalls and policies in the way. Ultimately I’d suggest bringing in your own laptop to do this with. In any case, you do have a smart phone don’t you? Winking smile

3 – Experiment, Learn, Share

Try everything that looks useful! Most tools don’t fit the needs of your organization, or yourself for that matter. The lesson here is that learning what tools are good for what tasks is what’s important. That way, you can properly identify a tool/service/solution for a given need. Remember to share what you learn!

4 – Get Involved

Find something your passionate about or good at. Participate in the forums, groups, meetups, or online discussions. Let people hear your perspectives & ideas, and listen to what they’ve got to say (you’ll likely learn a lot). Let other folks in your organization in on some of the discussion & groups that are of value to your company’s product or brand. Share the knowledge, and make sure that you’re recognized in those groups as a thought leader.

5 – Become a Knowledge Expert

As you work on your personal brand, and learn the concepts and technologies that make up what social media is, you will start establishing yourself as a knowledge expert. Mostly this means that you’re sharing interesting ideas and knowledge that help other people succeed. This in turn is something that people will recognize about you, and that’s what the personal pay-off is going to be for all the time you invest in being a rogue agent. It’ll help you be a better you as your career unfolds, and you can bring your specialized, demonstrated skills to future clients.

It goes without saying that the items above are examples of what some people have done at different organizations in the past. What worked for them may not work for you or your organization. Be smart in what you’re trying to do – changing an organization to better itself for it’s customers is the right thing to do, changing an organization simply because you don’t like their policies isn’t.

Photo credit: Roguestar by Jeremy Brooks

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

'Balancing on the Invisible' by Dru! Lately I’ve been thinking about being comfortable, and how it leads one into complacency, into believing that everything is fine.  That the world is fine, it’s understandable and that we know our place within it.  I’ve been thinking this for a number of reasons and one of them is leading me to realize how hard it is for organizations to change.

As individuals, we know change is hard – we struggle every year to improve ourselves.  We go so far as to ask peers to give critical feedback in the desire to find something to improve on. Something to make us better than we are.  Seldom do we seek another path.

Often, another path is the dangerous choice, at least that’s how it appears. Its something we’re not comfortable with.  It’s filled with challenges that we believe we’re not equipped to deal with.  The chance for failure is higher.  Perceptions can change without realizing it’s happening – brand authenticity is challenged with little warning.

What does an organization do when they feel like they’ve lost control of the message?  What if they don’t understand that control is an illusion?  Can change occur without destroying some portion of the organization, the control structure, or at the very least perceptions of such things?

Of course these are simply questions of those in denial.

The reality is change.  Knowing what to look for, and recognizing it’s occurring is the opportunity.  Finding the courage to take the step forward and question if the message is still valid is not common in many organizations.  Taking action on such a realization is even harder.

It’s easier for an outsider to critique.  The ability to accept outside recommendations on direction accomplishes multiple things without everyone realizing what’s happening…at least not right away.  The organization gets a small glimpse of what it needs to do. It feels better about change.  Leadership doesn’t have to take a leadership role, and doesn’t have to discipline anyone for challenging or stepping outside the control structure.

The point in all of this is that it’s easy to see how we get caught up in how change can be bad, that it’s far easier to stay the course we think is right rather than taking a step away and looking at our goals from a fresh perspective.  To stop, listen, learn something we didn’t know (maybe many somethings), and then try something new.  Its not hard to try – and an entire organization doesn’t need to be involved at the start, but someone does need to take the initiative.

Will it be you? I hope so.

Photo courtesy of Dru!


One of the many things I’ve been working on lately is perspectives.  Both mine and others (I hope).  When you’re working on introducing ideas and concepts into an an environment that hasn’t had a lot of change, you get a lot of resistance.

That’s nothing groundbreaking, but I think it goes without saying that there are many perspectives and perceptions that people view their world and the things that make up their work.  Introducing new ideas is a challenge not because people are resistant to learning, but because the change that it brings is disruptive.

Social media is disruptive, of course, that way.  It’s not necessarily that there’s something new, but that it requires attention, time that many folks and businesses don’t feel they have.  Running the day to day of businesses, putting out “fires”, planning for the future, launching new product, finishing a tight-deadline project, these are the things that people are dealing with in businesses of all sizes.

So, it’s kind of hard to expect management and staff stuck in the middle layers of an organization to jump up and down and get all excited about having to deal with something new.  Yet, this layer of any organization needs to be included in change, they are the ones who can make the most of change. They’re the ones who understand their area of the business.  Consider them hundreds or thousands of SMEs that understand how that part of the business works and what it needs.

Understanding their perspectives on the organization, change, and the job at hand is another part of the puzzle needed to implement social media behind the firewall.

behind_the_firewall Behind The Firewall is an ongoing series of blog posts, Twitter chats and more. Created and lead by Arik Hanson and Rick Mahn, these discussions explore the world of the social web inside companies & organizations, “Behind The Firewall” if you will.

Changes & Opportunities

Rick MahnIt’s been a long time coming, but there are significant changes taking place here this week.  The first change being a new look* and updated layout here on the site.  The current design was done almost two years ago by Mykl Roventine, a great designer & creator of things ;-), and has served this blog well during that time.
The next evolution of this site, needs to support the evolving needs I have online and in working with clients and organizations.  More information on resources, ideas, offerings, services, and such are part of that plan, and I think the new design is going to fit those needs nicely.  In addition to that, it’s just time to freshen things up a bit to go along with that new direction.
The other portion of the refresh is around opportunities.  The growing Social Media Breakfast community here in Minneapolis & St. Paul is one part, but also the national organization is working together as it grows.  The education needs of our communities are growing, the number of businesses both large and small in need of advice & direction is expanding along with the opportunities to mentor folks who need it.  All these things are part of my thinking in this redesign and direction for the future.
So when you ask?  This week I say!  Much of  the new design is ready to go and I’ll be working into the wee hours here & there to bring it live, but it will be done by the end of the week.  Gotta go now though, still much to do, and still more to share later.
* New design now live, the old one looked like this.

Pin It on Pinterest