Previously I posted on the ability for the bottom-up use of free-hosted tools as a way to bypass the usual channels to try something out…basically you don’t need permissions…this may sound anarchistic, but it’s simply true…people may not pay attention to their rogue behaviour for long, all they see is that they are able to work more productively. All companies can do is monitor and observe, and then shut-down or harness.
When you think of it this is a basic principle of emergent systems. The top are open to allow a pot to boil to see what percolates, emergence arises (not all ideas and strategies have to come from the top), and they can then make decisions based on the outcome.
Anyway, in the next post I talked about this type of experimentation and compared it to pilots, in the realm of enterprise 2.0 implementations.
NOTE: I used the term "enterprise 2.0" because more people will pick up that post and read it, but more accurately I mean introducing social platforms and the adoptions of these into the enterprise. Enterprise 2.0 is a state we one day may reach that will transform the structure (hierarchy blended with networks), operations (from competition to cooperation/collaboration), and the way organisations are managed, as described above (complexity eg.the Cynefin framework).
In this post I want to talk about the benefits of experimentation or "Proof of Concept", over a suggestion.
I facilitate many Communities of Practice (CoPs), and I do this by facilitating the facilitators.
Another thing I do is react to things I see around me, and imagine how they can be re-purposed using community tools. I contact the person to make the suggestion, but I’m finding the "suggestion" is not enough…Proof of Concept" speaks louder than words.
Eg. IT send out an email newsletter on Tips and Tricks
- some sections are excerpts and link to a PDF to read more.
- I suggested that each section in the newsletter could be a blog post (more timely, feedback)
- this way the newsletter becomes a digest of the blog posts over the last month, that is presented in newsletter style
In another example I put together a presentation on some recommendations on how social tools can continue the conversation after an event, and how the presenters could have blogged their monthly happenings and roadmaps in a blog as a pre-cursor to the presentation…but it’s still not enough.
Even if they agree, they might not be savvy enough, allow time, or find it hard passing it by their boss.
The new approach is, "Proof of Concept". Just seed it, get it started and then let them take over…you get the ball rolling, rather than talking about a ball rolling. Momentum is king here.
Feeling it, rather than hearing it, has more impact…people just need a little push or offering to get started.
BUT, when you oversee lots and lots of CoPs it’s hard to find time to go further than a suggestion. You need to be able to build a network of volunteer activists to help you out. Sometimes this happens in a self-organised way…some of our CoPs have success in using social tools for a particular use or process, and when these facilitators are in conversation with others they naturally share the success in the way they have done things…this in essence is the viral effect.
Show and Tell
I have lots on my plate at the moment, but my priority is going to become CoPs-in-Action.
What is this?
I have been collecting lots of use cases that have emerged by various CoPs…people are using blogs, forums and wikis in ways I didn’t think would happen. Lots of these are both Above-the-Flow and In-the-Flow, but what I really want to hone in on are the In-the-Flow cases. People are also using CoPs in the way you would imagine like troubleshooting, calls for help, announcements, looking for stuff, sharing stuff, etc…
I’ve already posted about the emergence of different types of CoPs, in this post I’m now talking about the types of activities that have emerged in these CoPs.
At work I’m going to run workshops demonstrating the business value of social tools that goes beyond sharing and learning…these type of use cases are more tangible as they demonstrate what’s already being done only doing it a better way eg. broadcast team announcements, creating lists, discussing and coordinating a task. And showing examples of what people are doing. eg. A project control team using a wiki for answers to common questions, BU’s using wikis as an onboarding tool, the L&D team using blogs, forums and wikis to do a task like a global e-learning initiative (and the actual end product is a wiki), the L&D team using a forum as a place to ask questions after the presentation is over, etc.
…these initiatives didn’t come from top-down, they were grassroots things started by passionate people in those teams…now we have the ideas and have the enabling tools do the execution…no more waiting, as you are empowered.
You may be happy with how social tools spread your idea, or how the tools themselves built the idea…if not at least you built a Proof of Concept, which is more tangible than hearing a pitch…management may like it and throw some resources at it.
These workshops that will demonstrate what others in the company are doing are a Show and Tell exercise..and the intention is a viral effect.
Show and Tell is good as it demonstrates business value and use cases for others to learn from each other. To help the viral effect, or parallel push along side it, exercises like Blog and Wiki Raids are a good way to workshop with a team on an actual use case by using the tool in the workshop. Then when they go back to their seats they have first hand experience, and may continue using the tool.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain the benefits and use of a new tool, it’s better if people "feel" it…it speaks for itself, it has more impact. But it’s just hard to make time to sit with each group, so you may need to find a network of volunteer activists. Ultimately we hope for the viral effect to become so embedded that it becomes part of the culture.
Just the way Proof of Concept and pilots are similar, so is peer influence and the viral effect.
I have talked to managers about CoPs and collaboration and they really see the benefits and intend to use them. But they go back to their seats and don’t have time to experiment.
Yet if they see the benefits that a peer is getting out of them, or a peer recommends the tools saying there is some ground work, but then in the end they are better for it…then they more likely will give it a try.
Training, and presentations only go so far. You are more influenced by people in your peer group, people you trust..these are conditions for a viral effect.
Instead of waiting for what you want or instead of making a suggestion, use grassroots tools to DIY, or as a Proof of Concept. Some of these applications can be as innocent as complementing a newsletter with a blog, or using a forum for discussions after the presentation is over. And some, like perhaps using wikis to onboard BU’s, could be seen as a control and authoritative issue from a management point of view. But from an autonomous point of view your concept may have fans, and you can’t fight the crowd, or something that is viable and has increased productivity…this can be seen as disintermediation, rogue behaviour…or it can be seen as engagement, innovation…a change from extreme management to leadership blended with management.