Technology changes, humans don’t – or do they?

Although social tools have been around for almost 20 years and have seen a huge surge in the past 10 years, there are many organisations that have only recently started implementing them at scale.

technology changes, humans don't

The above image was created by Hugh MacLeod in 2007 but it was true before, it is still true today and most probably also in the future. Back then we were talking about Enterprise 2.0 and tools like Socialtext, Movable Type, Newsgator, Jive, IBM Dogear. Now we are talking about Social Software or Digital Workplace and tools like O365, Beezy, Slack, Confluence, Asana, Dropbox, Jive etc.

And yet, we are still talking about and still seeing the same behaviour when it comes to implementing and using social tools. Here are just some examples:

Seasoned communicators need to find their voice

Even people from whom you would expect to be very comfortable voicing their opinion, find it all of a sudden very challenging doing so using a company’s enterprise social network. They mull over and over again what they should post, thinking it needs to be extremely thoughtful and polished. In the beginning, this often leads to a rather stale and boring tone.

Posts and comments become emails

It is also not uncommon to see people writing a formal salutation and ending with a formal closing including their name when writing a post or comment. For them it is part of their etiquette. It is certainly not doing any harm. It shows though that people might copy their behaviour and norms (both positive and negative) that they have learned in a certain context (e.g. email), which might not always be suitable.

Posting of seemingly irrelevant content

Of course, everyone is looking for the real value of an enterprise social networking and some are expecting that all of a sudden the hidden ideas will just pop out of nowhere, information silos are teared down over night and everyone connects and shares ideas and super useful content with everyone. I remember my first days on Twitter. People, including me posting irrelevant stuff (my first tweet back on December 21, 2006: writing up notes from yesterday’s meeting with a client. My second tweet came on May 21, 2008!). Even though it might be trivial posts or comments, the important thing to note is that someone took the time and mustered up the courage to become visible on the company’s enterprise social network. It is important to embrace those people and encourage them!

Restricting the creation of communities to a few

This is more of a philosophical question in the end, but I have seen both ways – a central provisioning process of communities and a complete open approach. I intent to encourage the latter. The reflex of trying to control the creation of communities by a few is very much present in today’s organisations. It is difficult for them to let go and let the people decide what is important and what is not. The argument for central provisioning is the idea that only relevant communities will be created and that there will always be only one community per topic. I think this reasoning is flawed. First, most topics are complex and can have a magnitude of aspects. Who is the committee to decide whether an existing community already covers all aspects and serves all relevant audiences? Second, who is the committee to decide what is relevant and what is not? Let the people decide by joining or ignoring newly created communities and actively participating or not. Instead, educate community managers to be able to create and nourish vibrant communities. For example, anyone wanting to create a community would first have to successfully complete an e-learning module for community managers. In my experience that is more important and more useful than restricting community creation to a few.

Change is the only constant

I think most people can identify with Hugh’s view above, because they have felt like this at some point in their lives. Funny enough, it is always the others that seem to be the problem, never oneself 🙂 But then again, humans change all the time and so it is not all lost. You do need to know how people tick though to create an environment for them to adopt new behaviours. Some organisations have already successfully embarked on this journey and will share their learnings at the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen from February 27 – March 1, 2018. I have decided to attend the event to reconnect with the community but of course also to learn from others and share with them my experience.

The event has the following tracks:

I am very much looking forward to it!

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