Paula Thorton is a blogging canon of late, which is good to see as her twitter trigger fingers are always on fire, but don’t provide enough space for her to share her extended original thinking, so I’m happy she’s blog drunk again.
Anyway, a post of hers called Adoption can’t be driven, really rang true to me, it’s about design, adoption and adaptation…the basic premise is that without user centred design, you can forget even trying to faciliate adoption.
In the comments she says:
“Rather than drive, push, pull — movement occurs by mutual attraction: draw (this is a fundamental principle of complexity sciences ala. self organization — per Stuart Kauffman, it’s “energy for free”). But that’s the ‘lesser’ goal. The FIRST goal is to simply GO to where they are. Meet them. While that can be taken literally, it’s more figurative. It’s about figuring out what activity they’re doing and embed function.”
NOTE: I’m currently drafting a post on adoption that goes much further into this, so stay tuned.
I could really relate to Paula’s post to the context of my current experience in using a 90’s non-user centred application for Communities of Practice (CoPs), as I find I’m driving adoption in a “pushing” sense in a big way in relation to the technology/design aspect. User manuals is not a good start, as CoP tools are very simplistic, they are not sophisticated at all…but that’s what you get when the design is not user centred.
Then to really press the point I came across this tweet:
RT @cflanagan: Poll: Do you allow employees 2 (self-service) create groups in your intn’l e2.0 deplmnt? http://twtpoll.com/elm0uu #twtpoll
@gialyons after meeting i can go back 2 desk + coordinate by email in 1 click, groups should b same
There is some context missing here that’s make it a little hard for this survey to be totally effective.
And that is, different applications have different ways of setting up groups…some old school apps involve some work in setting up a group…but on second thought this poll alludes to web 2.0 type tools, so I guess that means group features that you can set up in a couple of clicks.
NOTE: In this post I refer to CoPs and groups interchangeably, but as you know a CoP is a type of group.
In a previous post I have explained our CoPs are portal type websites that need to be designed, which means they take a while to set up, and they have lots of permissions functionality, you can add many blogs, forums, wikis, etc…they certainly don’t suit a quick set-up, and aren’t the easiest things to run.
This does not change our belief in emergent communities, but because of design sophistication and the design not being user-centric we have taken a bottom-up request, top-down creation, which is unfortunately a necessary obstacle to emergence.
This means I create the CoPs, and use my HTML skills to design the CoP as user friendly as possible to the needs of the requestors. I do this as they may not have skills or time to design their CoP…I want to limit the design adoption barrier as much as possible.
I really understand Paula’s point, because I believe we would have lots more adoption if the CoPs were designed intuitively, and we allowed self-serve creation.
People want to visit, orient themselves (ie. without thinking, understand what they can and can’t do), and be one-click away from an action.
Self serve creation is key!
The creation of the actual space is really important for emergence and empowerment, and this is what I like about new social computing tools like Lotus Connections, Jive, Open Text Social Media, etc… As a result this is a plus for adoption.
Think about it, a couple of us are interested in a topic or have a task to do…we create a group space in under a minute, and start participating.
The minute people need permissions, is a minute too long; they don’t bother and will use email. And if the design is not user-centric, they may eventually give up leaving a ghost town for email.
What self creation means is you are gonna get less of the prescribed scenario where the boss requests the creation of a CoP and appoints people to be members and lead; as people have the power to self-serve and naturally coalesce around a topic.
I bet that before the boss can even order a CoP, there would be people already creating their own…this is great, as the boss can concentrate on leadership.
Self-serve creation is where it’s at! as the very essence of it is not encouraging a culture of orders and outcome, but instead a culture of, “if it has value it will surface” (emergence and adapting)…plus the bonus of a transparent workplace (kind of like an emergence on top of the emergence)
User-centric design is where it’s at! as people just don’t have time to read a manual, or no longer read manuals anyway…or click around for an hour working it out, and even if they do, it doesn’t make using a non-intuitive tool less frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, our current CoPs are great as conversational portal like websites, your HTML skills are your only barrier to creating a flashy site. Because of this design, they are prone to be used for more long-term uses.
In contrast, the enterprise version of anyone being able to set up a Facebook or LinkedIn type group in a few easy clicks is marvellous and simple to use…what people think in the organisation is actually making itself present as the frontline workers actually get to create the brains (groups) where this thinking (conversations) happens.
But your group may want more than a glorified forum and activity stream. They may want various forums on the same page, perhaps some permissions control, and a way to flash up the site. I guess the answer to this using 2.0 type groups is create as many groups as you like, and then use a wiki as your website to list them all, and perhaps also re-syndicate the content.
Since our current CoPs allow each CoP to house unlimited forums, blogs and wikis; this means topics may become buried in the CoP as it tries to cater too much. Seeing a CoP name in our directory is certainly not going to be able to describe all the content sources in the CoP. Plus you may have people that hang around a particular forum in the CoP and not the others, and they may want some more ownership and visibility by having their own space.
In contrast some of our existing CoPs would not suit new web 2.0 stream like group spaces (as they seem too simple), they would instead like to provide multiple blogs and forums in the one page, and to create free-form HTML content, this is especially true with some of our CoPs being used as support spaces, as they serve as a conversational portal/knowledge base.
I’ll just add a final comment on behavioural design…I’ve noticed that some of these new group sites don’t use terms like blogs, forums, and wikis, but instead call them messages, questions, documents. Even contextual names for blogs like project diaries, etc… I think using a familiar word like “messages, questions” lessens the unfamiliarity and even the stereotype you may have of the tool, and in all lessens the barrier to take part as it’s nothing too different.
Just like matter warps gravity, design can warp culture.
NOTE: My use of the word “warp” is not referring to the result of good or bad, but instead the intervening cause.