Impossible Things with David Terrar S1E11
DAVID TERRAR [00:00:39] Impossible things that David Terrar. And we love technology. We love technology that looks so great. It feels like impossible. So the line comes from. AC Clarke’s third law where any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic to everyone. And because we we love it when the queen in Alice in the Looking Glass talks about doing six impossible things before breakfast. Now, my impossible guest today is someone I met for a long time, and she’s been over to speak at “Orange Digital Summit London” before now. I’d love to introduce Celine Schillinger of We Need Social, Celine, welcome. Tell us a bit more and everyone about We Need Social please.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:01:21] David, thank you so much for having me.
DAVID TERRAR [00:01:23] It’s great.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:01:24] Yeah. So I’m I’m an engagement Leadership Practitioner. I have been working for like a long, long time in corporate environments. So learning in the field, you know, about engagement. I actually started my career in small to medium sized companies and then moved to a bigger one after a while. I worked in Asia Pacific. I worked in Europe. I worked in North America. And over my career in various business environments, I sort of realised that there was a an innate adequacy between what those organisations were trying to achieve and how people were engaged into that be there, you know, either customers or employees. And I developed the practise around engagement supported by technology. But I need to be very clear upfront for a technology passionate audience that I think technology is an amazing enabler for engagement, for performance, for collective intelligence. But it is not the solution. It’s not the end goal. I don’t think we can solve are of weaked problems with technology alone. Technology is an enabler of new ways of getting together, new interactions, new forms of leadership. And that’s what I’m trying to achieve. So basically, I did 30 years in the corporate environment and then 2 years ago I launched We Need Social my own one person company.
DAVID TERRAR [00:03:08] Very good. Now, the audience now knows that today’s show is going to be about things like the future of work and collaboration and community building and that kind of thing. But, let’s go back to when I first met you. Because at that corporate, big corporate was Sanofi Pasteur wasn’t it?tell us what we did there and the things “you did?”
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:03:28] I remember that very well. It was it was awesome to get out of the pharma industry and and learn from other industries, other companies, from more advanced individuals like you who were already playing with these all sorts of technologies, connection technologies mostly, and learning from you help me advance my causes further in Sanofi. So I joined in 2001 of being Business Operates, actually, I joined in H.R. then I worked two years in H.R. and then moved back to commercial operations because that’s the world I come from. And did a number of things and it was it was all good but then at some point I felt the company was not as diverse as the cost of the world it was serving. It was, it had the ambition to serve. And I launched a community to support a change in culture and support a more diverse culture in company. That community was hosted on Yammer. That was back in 2010. And for me, I was, Yammer had been pioneered in the company in a business division in the U.S. in 2008, and it had expanded like virally but at a low pace, I would say, in the company. And there I there is the time to in 2010, early 2011, where I discovered this thing. And I find it so intuitive and so useful and full of potential to reach out without an official infrastructure, without a communication department. I was just an average corporate citizen, you know, and with this platform, I was made able to reach out and connect a community of close to 3000 people that influenced that had a real impact on the company’s policy. Not enough in my taste, but at least it was a defining moment in empowering all those employees who participated in the movement. And that’s where I felt the liberating power of technology. It was, to me a real aha moment. And that’s where I start to look out for more. And I realised that there was the world of Twitter and then in the world of whatever other networks and through Twitter, I got in touch with amazing people who had like John Husband, for example, who had coined this… Exactly. And again, that was like, oh my God, this… Some people have been thinking about that for 20 years. And I am like trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s already there. And the depth in thinking around networks and the impact that networks have on how we work together, how we think, how we behave, etc., to me was a revelation. And through this network of people. I met you, I attended some conferences. The great enterprise “to adopt o”. A series of conferences that was awesome. And I also like tried myself new stuff. So that led me in 2012 to create a community engagement initiative. In support of the marketing department of the company. That time the company was trying to launch was have had the project to launch was not on the market yet. So it was it had a project to launch a new product, a new vaccine. And in complement of our very traditional marketing approach, I would say that that is very much a push approach. I suggested we do a not even a pool approach. I wouldn’t even call it that way, but a connective approach where we would identify. So I used Twitter a lot at that time. We would identify the existing conversations around the topic. And when we realised that it took very little time to realise there was an intense conversation, but it was scattered all over the place. There was no connection. There was no win for it. Exactly. So that was an opportunity. There was a there was a huge load of energy and we just needed to connect it so that we would be part of this energy. We would contribute and we would benefit from it. And we would learn about online conversations and we would connect activists who were already doing great stuff around this disease wherever they come from. And so the idea was to connect.
DAVID TERRAR [00:08:48] So I know what the disease was but tell it your audience to…
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:08:50] But yeah, it was dengue.
DAVID TERRAR [00:08:52] Dengue fever.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:08:54] Dengue fever, yes. And you know, when you know, I mean, when you look at your product with a little bit of humility and you realise that your product is great or maybe great, but will not solve all the problems in the world. Then you realised quickly that if you’re really driven by the purpose of saving or helping people escape this disease, then the next step is to join forces with other companies, other products that are looking for the same thing that the aim at the same thing. Right. And that with this aim in mind, we created an alliance and we… So it was all about connections connecting, connecting, connecting, connecting companies with a similar purpose, connecting audiences. I mean, not just audiences, because the audience has a passive kind of meaning. And we wanted to support action. So connecting, for example, health care workers in one place with education professionals in another place with, you know, activists on another, etc.. So and to do that, we created a digital platform connected to a LinkedIn. Yeah, we had a LinkedIn. We had a Twitter channel, a Google Plus at that time channel. Yes. Actually, 2012 is the time we designed this whole thing. And 2013 is when we launched a Facebook page, obviously. And and we complemented the digital by… I wouldn’t say real life, but away from keyboard actions such as…
DAVID TERRAR [00:10:43] You’ve covered so many things “that recently”. I mean, but I mean, the thing that interests me, of course, is that this is the way social media has changed marketing. That’s it. You know, I’m a great believer in “The Cluetrain Manifesto” and that all markets conversations. And you are going to find where where the near the potential customers, where the community hangs out.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:11:07] Exactly.
DAVID TERRAR [00:11:08] Join the conversation. And that’s at the heart of everyone’s social media strategy. And it’s a good thing now….
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:11:15] And it wasn’t easier? It wasn’t easy to convince the company to take a step back from the product because you never create a community around a product. No, it doesn’t work.
DAVID TERRAR [00:11:28] But the thing there is I mean, that’s youu know, back in 2012. That’s far reaching and quite a culture change for an organisation like Sanofi Pasteur. What did you learn in terms of kind of community building and engagement during that time?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:11:44] I learnt that if your leadership is not convinced, if leadership doesn’t buy it, there’s little chance that I mean, it did work really well from an engagement standpoint. We got like 250,000 followers on Facebook in less than nine months. I mean, like, you know, you’d never seen that in the farming industry. It was a huge engagement success. But it was I think it was, too… the culture was not ready. The company culture was not ready. The company culture was all fit to work with silos, with gatekeepers, with a push of information rather than connecting. Being a catalyst for conversation status. This was really, really difficult. Maybe it would be easier now. I’m not even sure.
DAVID TERRAR [00:12:43] No, “I’m not really sure”. And I think that’s a common theme in what we’re both involved in terms of breaking down the silos. And you mentioned, “John Husband of Y-Rocky.” It’s all about the connections of people. People have got. And in today’s environment, more than ever, we need networked leadership. We need a different approach to leadership to get everyone working. I mean, I would be very keen on the team of team. I look forward to it. So, well, actually, before that, I’m going to embarrass you, when I went to your page. You got loads “of awards” tell us about some of the ones you’ve won.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:13:22] So precisely because it’s difficult. What are my strategies was to seek external recognition. It was. It was all part of a strategy. And that’s an advice I give to any change maker inside companies because it’s tough. And because they won’t let you do it, you know, easily and congratulate you. So for your self-esteem and strength and to get a bargaining power, I would say it’s you need to be able to to show that, yes, what you’re doing is recognised by professionals in the industry you’re in. So I run for like awards and sometimes I was surprised with others, like when I was made a night of the French National Order of Merit that was like totally unexpected.
DAVID TERRAR [00:14:23] Pretty special?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:14:24] Yeah pretty special. But others were really part of a deliberate strategy. So, for example, this dengue network I told you about. We got I applied for the Shorty Awards for the Best Use of Social Media in healthcare. And we got it. And that was great. Yeah. And so what you said about you spoke about transforming marketing and yes, it does absolutely have the potential to do that. The next initiative I mean, what I did afterwards was using the same kind of approach to transform quality. Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? So quality…
DAVID TERRAR [00:15:12] So that was like a community based approach to quality?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:15:15] Exactly. Exactly.
DAVID TERRAR [00:15:16] The quality circle online.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:15:17] Yes. And exactly. And doing even more than that because a quality circle discusses quality issues for sure. My intent was to transform deeply the culture and the way people relate to one another. Because I believe quality is a quality can be addressed as a goal, as an end goal. It has some limits. I think this approach has limits. I think if you work at a deeper level of creating a healthy culture where people want to work well together, care for one another, see themselves as part of a unique community, and to have accountability for what the rest of the community is doing because they want it, because they believe it. This is where as a consequence, you generate quality or great customer service or you name it. I mean, the possibilities are infinite. But it takes working at this level. And for that, I go back to networks and social and digital in particular. Networks are an enormous enabler of that kind of culture. Again, if leadership wants it and it is part of it.
DAVID TERRAR [00:16:43] You’ve mentioned leadership a few times now. So so what kind of leadership do you think works best? What should the leaders be aspiring to be doing?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:16:51] Yeah, I think leadership is engagement. So when I speak about engagement leadership, it’s actually an oxymoron. It’s the leadership is engagement is about community engagement, but not around one’s self. You know, the leader above everybody else and who knows better and who’s ahead of the pack. Now, I think this is totally old fashion is not even. I mean, who cares? But detrimental…
DAVID TERRAR [00:17:23] The best leaders kind of invert that completely, don’t they?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:17:26] Yes. But, you know, even with servant leadership, for example, they invert the pyramid, but there’s still a pyramid. And that’s what I think is detrimental. I think, thinking of ourselves as a community enabler from wherever we stand in the organisation is much more useful. And I’ve seen amazing leaders emerge from the front line, for example, thanks to tools like Yammer, because they it was the first time they were given a voice, a chair, a profile picture. They were able to post and and connect and comment and accelerate an exchange with colleagues. But for that, you need to create an environment that makes people want to do. Show them the power of purpose. Obviously, the power of role modelling contributing and a few techniques that I have developed and that are now my full time job, you see.
DAVID TERRAR [00:18:33] Excellent stuff.
DAVID TERRAR [00:18:37] Now, you and I and “John Husband” that you mentioned and few else like “Dawn Hinchcliffe and Catherine Shinners and Lewis and elsewhere Lou Suarez”, we’re all co-creating something. Tell us right now about this this manifesto document thing that we’re co-creating that’s around this topic.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:18:57] Yeah, it’s an amazing community of pioneers and people who’ve worked very a very long time in that kind of world…
DAVID TERRAR [00:19:11] Back to when we called it Web 2.0.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:19:12] Yeah, exactly. And like you said, you said 2012 was very much ahead of its time. And I felt by that time I was already very late in the game, you see. But when I when I talk with some companies today, I realised that, oh, my God, there is still a huge amount of knowledge to give to share. I know some people have no idea of the possibilities. So this is the ambition of this group. This group is, again, made of people who’ve been there for a very long time. Others who have joined more recently thinking of “Shwetha Kulkani”, for example. But if they get it, some people totally get it and want to contribute and want to help others understand. So that’s the that’s the kind of thing we do. We through webinars, through this manifesto. We’re trying to help share our practise our knowledge so that more people can jump on board. Because you see with the COVID catastrophe, what we have been preaching and that could be easily dismissed in the past is now obviously vital. And yet we will still face resistance because old habits don’t die easily and because you go into competition for power at the top of organisations favour and H.R. structure and policies, obviously they favour a certain type of behaviour that goes against what we’re trying to achieve, you know. This collaboration community feeling we’re all in that together.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:06] And we’re all kind of digital knowledge workers.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:21:09] Yes.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:09] You’re right that the crisis has kicked forward collaboration quite some distance.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:21:14] Yes.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:15] And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the lessons we’ve learnt in the past, in the 2000s and the early early 2010s get relearned by today’s workers.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:21:25] Yes.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:26] Now, I want to change slightly. I know that you’re doing something to help the British police force. Tell us about that.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:21:33] I’m so thrilled about that. It’s so it’s an amazing opportunity because this community is called which is called “Oscar Kilo for OK.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:42] Oscar Kilo?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:21:44] Yes. Oscar Kilo on Twitter. By the way, today they just passed the four thousand followers threshold, which is good. It’s very good. And so back in 2014, I was still an executive in a pharma company that was still working on dengue that we talked about earlier. And those gentlemen from the British police forces reached out to me for advice. And I was like, what? I’m a pharma? You know? French, manager and those people…
DAVID TERRAR [00:22:21] “So…” They gave you recognition outside as well as inside the company?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:22:25] They had found oh, I didn’t tell anyone in the company. And they reached out because they had found about my work on Twitter, I think? And I was blown away by the curiosity they displayed, you know? And this is something I would recommend, like widely. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do as well. I look for other look at what other industries are doing because it’s not in your own. A pharma learns from pharma alone. We’re all ending with the same recipes, you know, and it’s so poor and not efficient.
DAVID TERRAR [00:23:07] It comes back to your diversity of thinking.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:23:10] Exactly. Exactly.
DAVID TERRAR [00:23:11] Things have been a cross-functional, different views, different ideas, better outcomes.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:23:15] Yes, exactly. So that’s what. So based on our discussions, the and other inputs that they collected from other industries and professionals, I’m sure they created an awesome community dedicated to wellness, wellbeing for emergency forces. And what is great is that they fought hard to make it happen on the open Internet. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t easy, but they succeeded and they are now the official brand of the police wellbeing services, and they’ve expanded to other emergency services as well. And today they are even launching international collaborations with other police forces in other countries. And it’s really amazing. They want to offer connection, resources, et cetera, and possibilities to evolve the culture of an organisation where being strong or fearless is in the DNA…
DAVID TERRAR [00:24:25] “It can turn around the police folks here”.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:24:26] So what do you do when you when you suffer? When you’re not well, you know. Will you be rejected by your colleagues, by your hierarchy? They want to change that. I think it’s amazing and it’s amazing because these topics that are human based, you know, that are that take roots in human behaviours, human sense of values, and they have a enormous potential to change the culture of organisations if we do it well and if we do it digitally.
DAVID TERRAR [00:25:00] Excellent stuff. Now, you took digital engagement and we’re talking about the crisis we’re getting “in thoughts end” of the end of our time together. Give me some things that you think people should be thinking about for what happens next, because what most countries are kind of beginning to to release the restrictions and open up from lockdown. What should people be thinking about doing next?
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:25:23] So I think it depends, of course, from every each each and every context is different. Challenges are different, except so. I wouldn’t have general recommendations for everybody. Except maybe to pay attention to engagement. And engagement is created with ownership, with care, with reciprocity. You don’t just manipulate people into being engaged. No, it doesn’t work. It can be even extremely bad for people for your organisation. Well, I mean, performance and people well-being of course, I’ve been thinking these days because I’ve been asked to write a piece for the French army this time. Yeah. On engagement in in the French Army magazine. On engagement where word is there a tipping point beyond which it is we shouldn’t go. You know in terms of engagement, I think going too far is not the right question. I think there’s a it’s more a nature of the nature of engagement. Is it healthy? Is it unhealthy? That that matters. But that’s the first topic I would recommend. Pay attention to engagement, create ownership, create this reciprocity and so on. And the second topic is something I’m paying attention to these days because I am a bit worried. I’m a bit worried of toxic patterns that may flourish in this period and afterwards, toxic patterns like exclusion, like segmentation, like dehumanisation. So that’s something to keep in mind.
DAVID TERRAR [00:27:07] Excellent. Celine, I have 100 more questions, “…two hours but… fantastic”. Thank you very much for coming on the show and talking about all this with you.
CELINE SCHILLINGER [00:27:18] Thank you for having me, David. Thank you.
DAVID TERRAR [00:27:20] Great fun. Gonna get Celine back on the show again sometime soon. That was great. If you want more content like this, then come to @DT my Twitter handle. To @disruptiveLIVE who obviously supporting this and impossiblethings.fyi see you for Episode 12 next week. Thanks very much.