Tag Archives: user adoption

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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Enterprise 2.0 Success is About the Players, Not the Field

October 10, 2011

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Watch your local Pee-wee football team’s practice sometime and you’ll see a lot of dropped passes, missed tackles, and a whole host of other mistakes. But…what would happen if you put that team on Heinz Field and gave them all the same amenities as the Pittsburgh Steelers? Yep, they still wouldn’t be able to complete a pass, kick a field goal or break a James Harrison tackle. Clearly, just because they were put on a better field and given the latest equipment doesn’t mean they will suddenly learn to play football.

Southern Tier Youth Football Conference, NY - Newark Valley @ Maine Endwell Gold

It doesn't matter what kind of equipment you give them, these players aren't going to win the Super Bowl

Similarly, simply adding the latest Enterprise 2.0 platform behind your firewall doesn’t mean your employees will suddenly learn to collaborate with one another. Collaboration doesn’t just magically happen because you went out and bought the latest Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business software. It happens because they have a reason to collaborate. It happens when they are rewarded for sharing information. It happens when they like working with the people around them.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen dozens of failed wikis, blogs, microblog platforms, forums, and idea management deployments, and I’m sure I’ll see many more. This is frustrating on a couple of different levels for me. First, since I suffer from HOLI (“Hatred of Losing Information“), I hate seeing the missed collaboration opportunities that result from these poorly implemented solutions. Secondly, I know that because of these failures, these organizations will most likely write off social media behind the firewall as some sort of snake oil.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of these failures is the reliability with which their failure can be predicted. If you’re implementing some sort of social media behind your organizational firewall, and you’re doing any of the following, I can tell you right now that you probably won’t be successful:

  • The same IT department who installed your email system, your ERP system, or your databases is responsible for leading the implementation of your wiki, blog, microblogging platform, etc.
  • You don’t have anyone talking about user adoption and community management on the team from the very start
  • You don’t have a plan for funding this initiative beyond this year
  • You’re measuring success by the number of “users” you can claim
  • You’re talking about giving away iPads and candy bars to get people to use it
  • There are numerous conversations among senior leadership about how to mitigate the risks of your employees using the tools “as a dating service,” to “goof around,” to complain about everything, or editing things they don’t know anything about.
  • You’re more concerned with the available features instead of making it fast, reliable, and accessible
  • The team responsible for the platform doesn’t even use it

Instead of trying to give the players the latest and greatest stadium and equipment, start focusing on improving their passing and tackling skills. Maybe you could have them run some pass patterns instead of installing a state-of-the art locker room?

  • Do my employees have a reason to collaborate with people outside of their immediate team?
  • Is collaborative behavior rewarded during the performance assessment process? Are they punished for hoarding information?
  • Does leadership model collaborative behavior?
  • Are colleagues encouraged to spend time with each other outside of work hours (softball teams, happy hours, etc.)?
  • Are there multiple levels of approvals needed before anyone can share anything?
  • Do your employees trust each other? Do they trust management?

If you’re interested in learning more about why your Enterprise 2.0 implementations are failing and what you can do to help them succeed, take a look at the webinar that I just did for UBM TechWeb.  The “It’s Not the Field, It’s the Players” webinar will be archived here, and the slides are now available below. 

[UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE PRESENTATION BELOW]

[slideshare id=9663453&doc=e20webinar-draftfinalslideshare-111012142902-phpapp02]

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