Knitting a Community SCARF for the 4th Industrial Revolution #35 #cong19


The 4th Industrial Revolution promises to change how we work and live. The very act of transformation can threaten our sense of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness (SCARF). Being part of a great community can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with this changing world.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1.   David Rock’s SCARF model shows how our perceptions of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness can impede rational thought.
  2. Digital Transformations often fail because of gaps in skills and capabilities and people not ready for change.
  3. Individuals perceiving threats to their SCARF will be less successful in learning and transitioning to new ways of work.
  4. Great communities  can increase our sense of SCARF to help us deal with change.

About Clare Dillon:

Clare is an independent Technical Evangelist helping organisations capitalise on emerging tech and related business trends. She also help organisations spread their ideas.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.


By Clare Dillon

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communities, and how they can be leveraged to address some of today’s work challenges. Communities popped into my head again when I was recently reminded of David Rock’s SCARF model – which looks at five domains of human social experiences and how they impact collaboration:

  1. Status – our relative importance to others.
  2. Certainty – our ability to predict the future.
  3. Autonomy – our sense of control over events.
  4. Relatedness – how safe we feel with others, are they friend or foe?
  5. Fairness – how fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.

David Rock’s paper on the topic describes how we, as social beings, respond to threats and rewards in these areas as much as we do to threats and rewards to our physical safety or survival. Threats in these areas trigger our “lizard brain” and “flight, fight or freeze” response and literally make us incapable of rational thought. Looking at how the 4th Industrial Revolution is leading to many changes in how we work and live, it seems particularly relevant at present.

Today, almost every organisation is examining how they are going to digitally transform. Those that don’t risk becoming irrelevant. However, McKinsey says 70% of digital transformations fail, and common pitfalls often list a gap in skills and capabilities as the reason for failure. Gartner reports that “in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers”. Most analysts are expecting organisations to invest significant efforts in retraining and/or replacing staff to ready themselves for the future.

Let’s now think now about these trends frame digital transformation projects in organisations. Significant changes to individuals’ roles, activities being automated, previous expertise becoming irrelevant, and potential project failure are now the norm. These trends can easily be perceived as threats to existing status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and feelings of fairness. Digital transformation seems almost designed to be a SCARF threat trigger for individuals within organisations. Is it any wonder there is a rise in workplace anxiety and stress? We need more tools in our toolbox to deal with these challenges. With this amount of change on the horizon – I believe communities can play a role in increasing our sense of SCARF.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many great technical community and user groups throughout my life. It’s always amazing to me what groups of passionate volunteers can achieve when they come together with a common cause. Members of these communities are often inspired by the kind of intrinsic motivation corporate leaders dream about after reading Daniel Pink.

The best communities positively influence their members sense of SCARF:

  1. Status – rewarding and celebrating achievements that perhaps only other community members can recognise.
  2. Certainty – helping level set status of technical trends, learn best practices and how to avoid pitfalls.
  3. Autonomy – members can shape conversations and agendas by investing their time, effort and passion.
  4. Relatedness – communities are places where deep friendships are formed that persist through different roles and organisations.
  5. Fairness – the best communities are safe spaces where informal or (more recently) formal codes of conduct ensure every member is treated with fairness and respect.

I have also been extremely lucky to have worked in some amazing teams throughout my life. I used to say the best of them felt like family, in terms of the supportive environment they provided. But the more I think about it, we were probably more like a great little community than a family. After all, we weren’t related by blood and didn’t spend Christmas together – but we did share certain values, attributes, interests and identity as well as a sense of a common place (whether physical or virtual). That sense of community has lasted long after I left those jobs, and I have learned to associate it with some of the best work experiences of my life.

So as we face the challenge of transitioning through the 4th Industrial Revolution, I think we need to start thinking about how communities can help us thrive: treating our teams as little communities of their own, building communities of practice across silos in organisations and joining communities outside our organisations to provide additional support. There is nothing like a big cosy scarf to make me feel warm and happy, safe from the wind and rain – now is the time to start knitting together a community SCARF to help us feel exactly the same way as we are buffeted by the winds of change.


Technology Evangelism – the discipline of spreading good ideas in a digital world. #17 #cong18


What is Technical Evangelism and why do we need more of it in today’s digital world!

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Some thoughts on how to define Technical Evangelism
  2. Key related competencies
  3. Why Technical Evangelism is important in today’s world.

About Clare Dillon

Clare is an independent Technical Evangelist helping organisations capitalise on emerging tech and related business trends. She also help organisations spread their ideas.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Clare Dillon

Ideas, ideas, ideas – I love ideas. Every time I have a good one, or hear a good one, I get a little burst of adrenaline. And yet, so many ideas end up being nothing more than a quick high unless something is done with them. I was thinking about this, when I realised it is exactly what I have been thinking about on a regular basis for the majority of my career.

For the past 15 years, I have officially had the words evangelism or evangelist in my job title. However, I have discovered that people often do not actually have a very clear idea about what technology evangelism is or what technology evangelists do. This article aims to discuss that and include some thoughts on why it is a skill we need more of today.

The word evangelist is perhaps best associated with the four evangelists in the Bible. However, evangelism originally stems from a Greek word meaning the reward given to a messenger for good news. For me, evangelism is all about ideas that are good news, how those ideas spread and how they have impact in the world.

To be fair, it’s not that surprising that people don’t know what evangelism is – as there are not too many people declaring themselves to be evangelists. Even in LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements section, “Technology Evangelism” is listed under “Other Skills – These skills do not fit under the available categories”.

Indeed, in my early years in Microsoft Ireland’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, I used to drop the “E” word entirely from the group name, for fear that it would conjure up awkward jokes about whether or not I was associated with any religious groups. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I felt comfortable using comfortable using the words “Technology Evangelist” as a title. The turning point for me was probably seeing some colleagues from the US confidently use the title here in Ireland, without anyone making the sign of the cross at them (that happened to me quite frequently in the early years when people read my business card!).

But despite my original reticence to use the word – I have always passionately believed in the power of evangelism as a discipline.

There are three main competencies in evangelism:

  1. How to craft a message or story that best embodies an idea.
  2. How to best spread those messages/stories through various communication channels and engagements.
  3. How to engage and support communities that keep those ideas alive and help them evolve and grow.

Essentially it’s all about how to use ideas to change what people think, feel and do… at scale.

In an evangelism team there may be different roles. For example, in our team we had: developer/architect evangelists, program managers, audience marketing managers and over time, business evangelists each of whom specialised in one or more of the areas above.

There are many similarities in the skills required for marketing or sales, for example utilising best practices in social or pipeline management. But there are also a good many key differences, including:

  • Evangelism teams often have a high ratio of subject matter experts who are skilled in passionate communication.
  • Evangelism success is often measured by rates of market adoption (sometimes of free technology) or sentiment rather than revenue/sales.
  • Most notably, there is a very high emphasis on community support and engagement.

Why is technology evangelism an important role today?

In my early years in Microsoft, we were all about spreading the news about technology platforms within the technical community. However in the latter years, and in particular with the rise of cloud computing, we had shifted to evangelising new business models that the technology enabled – or how technology should be applied in business contexts. With the recognition that successful technology transformation is as much about culture in organisations as the technology used, evangelism is a useful tool in accelerating culture change.

Technology is also evolving at such a speed that there is a growing gap of understanding between those who can build cutting edge solutions, and those for whom the solutions are being built. I spoke recently on a panel with Lisa Talia Mortti, who introduced me to the fascinating field of study around sociotechnical blindness, a name for the disconnected relationship that sometimes exists between technology and humanity. Lisa has a white paper that explains the idea here. I personally am concerned about the digital divide that is growing in society whereby only those who are sufficiently “connected” can access the benefits digitization is bringing.

When good ideas emerge about how to best use technology for the benefit of society – it’s important for those ideas to spread and stick. And not just within technology circles, but also within broader industry circles and in society. There is a job to be done to open all our eyes to the potential opportunities (and sometimes the risk) of how we use technology in business and our lives. Technology evangelism has its part to play in that!