Tag Archives: E20

If You Want a Culture of Collaboration, You Need to Accept the LOLCats Too

January 5, 2012

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"Even with the sacred printing press, we got erotic novels 150 years before we got scientific journals."

– Clay Shirky at TED Cannes in June 2010

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people in the business, Clay Shirky. I particularly like it because it illustrates the period many organizations find themselves in when trying to integrate social media internally.  Before wikis were used by the Intelligence Community to develop reports on IEDs, people were creating user badges to show off their favorite NFL teams. Before my own company's Intranet won any awards, we had people talking about how they enjoy skinny dipping on their profile. Before our VPs starting using Yammer to communicate with the workforce, we had groups of Android geeks and fitness gurus.I'm telling you this because if you're implementing any type of social media behind your organizational firewall, you should prepare yourself, your colleagues, your bosses, your senior leadership for this one inexorable truth.

If you will freak out when you see this on your Intranet, you're probably not ready for a social intranetIf you want to create a vibrant culture of collaboration, you need to be OK with pictures of LOLCats, posts about the NFL playoffs, arguments about Apple and Android, and criticism of company policies.

Accept and embrace this fact now and your communities have a much better chance at succeeding. Or, continue thinking that things like this are a waste of a time and are unprofessional, and get ready to pay a lot of money for a system that ultimately no one uses unless they absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, "social" seems to have become almost a dirty word in the workplace, conjuring up images of employees whittling away their time on Facebook, talking to their boyfriend on the phone, or taking a three hour lunch break.  Let's all agree now to stop trying to take the social out of social media. "Social" interactions not only needs to be OK, they need to be encouraged and rewarded. Shirky explains why at the 5:33 mark of the below TED video:


Shirky says:

The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing. And someone who makes a LOLcat has already crossed over that gap. Now it’s tempting to want to get the Ushahidis without the LOLcats, right, to get the serious stuff without the throwaway stuff. But media abundance never works that way. Freedom to experiment means freedom to experiment with anything.

The same principle holds true when talking about social media and the business world. There's this tendency on the part of senior leadership to want to skip the blogs about company policy workarounds and the wiki pages detailing where to get the best burritos near the office and move right to co-creating methodologies with cross-functional teams and crowdsourcing initiatives that save millions of dollars. It doesn't work like that. Collaborative communities don't just start innovating because you build a website and send a memo. Just like we had to experience erotic novels before scientific journals and LOLCats before sites like Ushahidi, we will also have to accept the fact that your employees will be talking about fantasy football and what they're doing over the holidays before they're going to be ready to use those tools to conduct "real" work. 

This makes intuitive sense though, doesn't it? Isn't posting about fantasy football or your favorite lunch spot a lot easier (and less frightening) than uploading that report you've been working on for three weeks? If someone doesn't like your favorite restaurant, who cares? If, however, someone criticizes the report you've spent weeks writing, that's a little more intimidating.  Once you've taken that step – that step from doing nothing to doing something – it's a lot easier to take the next step and the step after that. After engaging in that conversation about your favorite burrito, it's suddenly easier to join the conversation about the new IT policy. Then, maybe you upload a portion of the report you're struggling with to see if anyone can help. Viewed from this perspective, even the stupidest posts and most worthless conversations have value, because they provide a safe, low risk means for people to dip their toe in the water and take that first step. It takes time for employees to feel comfortable using these social tools at work. If you give them the ability to grow and learn together at their own pace, your community will become much more scalable and sustainable.

So embrace the LOLCats, the fantasy football threads, the lunch discussions, and the custom avatars – at least your employees will be creating and sharing something with someone else. Because what will follow is that these stupid, silly, foolish discussions will lead to relationships, questions, answers, and finally, very cool innovations, products, and solutions that will save you money, win you awards, and really and truly create a social business.

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The Year in Social Media Strategery

December 24, 2011

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As 2011 comes to a close, it's only natural (and for a blog, virtually mandatory) to reflect on the year that's passed. Since that first post more than three years ago until now, this blog has served as the foundation for everything I've done in creating and building the social media practice at Booz Allen. During the first year, it was the pioneer, carving the way for others throughout the firm to feel empowered to create their own blogs as well. The second year was probably my most enjoyable year authoring this blog because I had moved beyond the "justifying my existence" stage, the Gov 2.0 community was active and engaged, and I found myself really in the trenches with a lot of my clients helping them work through many of the issues that I got to write about. This third year though, was a little different. As my firm's social media capabilities matured beyond the start-up phase and expanded to other areas of the firm, I found myself struggling with how to scale and sustain these efforts and this was reflected in my writing too. 

I wrote about a lot of different topics this year – from community management to higher education to public relations, and even personal introspection – reflecting the many different focus areas I had in my own career over the last year. Was I going to focus on Enterprise 2.0? Or Public Relations? Social Media? Social Media and Higher Education? Sports? Change Management? Management? While I remain interested in all of these topics (and many more), I've realized that I have do a better job of focusing, both professionally and personally. As I look forward to 2012 and my fourth year of blogging here, I'm going to do a better job of focusing my energy on a few areas instead of trying to get involved with every opportunity I'm interested in. Now, I just need to identify what those focus areas are….

While I think through that, here are my top five posts of 2011, as determined by how much you liked them, the reaction they generated, and how much I enjoyed writing them:

  1. Rest in Peace, Social Media Ninjas – Probably my most controversial post of the year as some applauded it and others (predictably, some social media ninjas) heartily disagreed. While I used stronger language than I usually do, that's because I really do think social is better when integrated into other functions rather than operating in a vacuum.
  2. Seven Things About Social Media You're Not Going to Learn in College – This post actually received a lot more interest over on the PRSA blog, comPRhension than it did here, but I was still very proud of this post as I heard time and time again from students and professors alike who referenced it in their classes.
  3. The Many Roles of an Internal Community Manager – One of my favorite posts I've ever written because I lived it and because this was one of the best ways I found to really show other people what it is a community manager actually does and why the role can't be filled by just anybody.
  4. More Than Words: How to Really Redefine the Term, "Public Relations" – This one hasn't gotten as much traffic as I would have hoped, but I'm including it here because I'm tired of the bum rap us PR practitioners get and because we've got an opportunity now, as an industry, to change this perception. We have the tools to put the relationships back into public relations.
  5. Insulate Open Government Efforts from Budget Cuts – This post became one a frequent soapbox of mine over the course of the year, as I frequently found myself asking both my team and my clients, "what's the business objective you're trying to achieve? Your goal isn't to get more Facebook fans – what's your real goal? How does this effort tie back to your mission?" 

This blog, much like myself, was a little all over the place this year. I'm looking forward to this next year, to meeting more of you who read and share my thoughts, to working on projects that really make a difference, and to sharing my thoughts and experiences with all of you. I hope everyone has a great holiday season and finishes out 2011 having a great time with great friends. See you all in 2012!!

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Enterprise 2.0 Isn’t About Social Business, It’s Just About Business

November 18, 2011

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Last night, while flying home from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Santa Clara, I thought about all of the sessions I attended, the people I spoke with, the demos I watched, and I kept thinking back to something that Dawn Lacallade said in her presentation on Wednesday afternoon:

“If you want your Enterprise 2.0 efforts to be successful, you have to use words other people understand and care about.”

She went on to say that instead of talking about social media, social business, building communities and why your organization needs to use blogs, wikis, and microblogging, you should be talking about increasing sales, increasing productivity, and cutting costs. If you’re talking with Director of HR, he doesn’t care that you are managing 100 new communities or that 1,000 Yammer messages were posted today. He wants to know if the attrition rates are going down or that new employees are getting acclimated more quickly. For you, building communities might be the goal. For him, those communities don’t mean anything unless they can help him reach his goals.

Paradoxically, sometimes the best way to implement social tools are to not refer to them as social tools. This isn’t a new concept – do a Google search for social media leadership buy-in and you’ll come across thousands of articles and case studies all saying some variation of, “focus on the business objectives, not the tools.”

For Enterprise 2.0 to be successful, we have to take it much further. This about much more than what words to use. It’s about integrating the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools into the actual business. It’s about realizing that these tools are a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s about understanding that a social business community that isn’t tied to actual business goals isn’t sustainable.

In this article, Chris Rasmussen explains how five years after the launch of Intellipedia, there’s still a long way to go to integrate it into the way the Intelligence Community does its work.

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) has made tremendous strides over the last several years with the introduction of a wide range of social software tools such as wikis, blogs, user tagging services, and social networking services for knowledge management and information sharing.  Looking back over the last five years there’s little question that “information sharing” has increased across the board and the Web 2.0 tools mentioned above have helped with this moderate cultural shift.  We have successfully automated the digital watercooler, created a massive unofficial knowledge base, and improved search by increasing the amount of links, but is this it?  Are process gains in informal channels the optimized promise of Web 2.0 at work? What about the official channels?  Content exchange is the lowest rung of the collaborative ladder when compared to joint knowledge co-creation in official channels and this has not happened within the IC.

This is where the Enterprise 2.0 industry finds itself today.You’ve brought social tools to your Intranet? You’ve created a dozen active, vibrant communities behind your firewall? That’s great, but don’t go patting yourself on the back too much. Now, let’s drive it deeper into the business. If your goal this year was to bring Enterprise 2.0 to your organization, your goal for next year should be to integrate those tools into one or more of your business units. If you spoke at the this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference and talked about community management or your implementation of SharePoint, Newsgator, Yammer, Socialcast, Clearvale or any of the other platforms, next year, I want you to bring a leader from another part of your business who can talk about how he’s used the platforms and the communities to have a tangible impact on his business.

Becoming a Social Business isn’t enough – you also have to become a better business.

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The People I Will (and Won’t) Meet at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference

November 11, 2011

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Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston

See you next week in Santa Clara!

Next week, I’m attending and speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara. I’ve attended many social media conferences over the years and have posted several times about my experiences at these events.While the vast majority of people I meet at these conferences are highly intelligent, ambitious, and well-meaning, I have noticed a pattern emerging among social media conference-goers. From Web 2.0 to Gov 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0, I always seem to run into the same people yet miss the people I really want to talk to at these events. Based on my conference-going experience, here are ten people I assume I’ll be meeting (and not meeting) next week:

Who I Will Meet:

The overzealous Director of Business Development. Don’t you realize that his product has revolutionary features not found anywhere else?? Well, that is, until you go two booths down… If you sit down for a demo, you’ll clearly realize that this is the ONLY product with this feature. Just listen for a few minutes and he’ll show you…wait! Come back and hear all about it!!

The Director of Social Media/Virtual Collaboration Lead/Social Collaboration Team Leader. The company’s designated social media “guru” – there to find out how to turn their company’s Intranet into a “Facebook or Wikipedia behind the firewall.” This individual is usually well-meaning and excited, if a bit in over their head. On the first day, they’re enthusiastic, ready to absorb whatever they can over the next few days. But by the last day, they’re usually simultaneously overwhelmed and frustrated by all the stories of what’s possible, yet still lack any actionable steps they can take when they get back to their office.

The codemonkey. He’s the guy in the back with all the stickers on his Macbook. Mashups, visualizations, dashboards – you name it, he can code it. Keep in mind that he probably doesn’t actually use of the tools he’s developing, the features he’s working on really only interest the early adopters at this conference, and they probably do more to hinder user adoption because while they look cool, they really just overwhelm people and hinder user adoption because all the average employee really wants are tools that are accessible, fast, and reliable.

The self-promoter. Got his (oddly-shaped) business card yet? Don’t worry, you’ll get it soon enough. He’s the CEO for some new startup or he just got some VC to invest a boatload of money in his company or he’s writing a new book – it doesn’t really matter because he’s going to tell you all about it…whether you care or not. Don’t you realize how lucky you are to get an opportunity to talk to him?

The booth babe/dude.” He or she is always very nice and very conversational, but unfortunately lack ANY details about the company they’re representing. Good luck getting any actual information from him/her beyond a fact sheet, a demo, and someone else’s business card.

Who I Won’t Meet:

The IT Security specialist. Time and time again, I find myself talking with a client about Enterprise 2.0 only to hear that their security guys won’t allow them to install any Enterprise 2.0 software or that SAAS isn’t an option, but very rarely do I actually see any of these individuals at these conferences. Just once, I’d like to meet some ambitious IT Security professional who says, “you know what, I want to attend this conference so that I can learn how to allow our employees to use these tools AND be safe and secure?” 

The Lawyer. The relationship between lawyers and Enterprise 2.0 is tenuous at best. Everyone tries to have as little interaction with them as possible, but when they do have to get involved, it almost always results in a whiny, “do we really have to pass this through them????”  But what if your legal team was actually knowledgeable about Enterprise 2.0? If they knew the success stories and the potential? Have you ever spoken to a lawyer who actually “gets it” and asks you “how can I help?” How refreshing is that?

The Failures. I loved that Kevin Jones was a speaker at the last Enterprise 2.0 Conference and will be there again in Santa Clara. He was among the first people I’ve met at these types of conferences willing to talk about how he failed, what failed, and how he would have done things differently. Unfortunately, these people are few and far between as most people only want to tout their successes, their products, and their features. We all know getting this stuff right is hard – where have others stumbled and what can we learn from them?

The C-suite. Director of Social Strategies, Social Collaboration Lead, Virtual Collaboration specialist – where are the traditional organizational leaders? Where are the CIOs and CTOs? Unfortunately, Enterprise 2.0 still isn’t integrated into the other business units so it will continue to be marginalized. Until we get more actual decision-makers to attend these conferences and learn of the benefits for themselves, we’ll unfortunately continue to have to fight to justify social to the senior leadership.

The average employee. Where are all of the project managers, supervisors, associates, and HR specialists? Where are the people who are actually supposed to be using Enterprise tools to do their jobs? I want to meet more average users and find out what they want from the dozens of vendors who will be present. I want to find out why Cindy, the HR specialist in Omaha refuses to use the discussion forums that her company set up.

Will I meet you at Enterprise 2.0 next week? If you want to meet me, I, along with my colleagues Walton Smith and Jay Leask, will be there all week. Walton and I are speaking on Wednesday at 12:30 in the Expo Hall where we’ll be giving an abbreviated presentation of our webinar, “It’s not the Players, It’s the Game,” and then on Wednesday at 8:45am, David Berry and Jay Leask will discuss how organizations have successfully leveraged SharePoint as a social platform within their organizations in their session “Options for Leveraging SharePoint as a Social Platform.

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