Need to Measure Social? Look Down More.

According to a recent CLO Magazine article/survey, executives added or supported social tech for 3 very big and very common reasons:

increase collaboration (47%),
increase engagement (42%) and
create a culture of continuous learning (60%).

Each is sincere but since an investment has been made, measurability is desired and rarely found. There are two problems. First, the focus is on abstract ideas and second, the emphasis is only on “growing” each. Stop looking up and start looking down.

  1. People are collaborating. If questions are being asked and answered, input is sought and given, feedback, edits, etc. This IS the work in collaboration.
  2. People are engaged. Engagement to HR = happy employees. If they’re sharing photos, jokes, emojis, if they are supporting personal causes and lending an ear to a peer. These are community behaviors, the stuff that makes people feel connected to each other.
  3. Learning is continuous. Are tips being provided? Articles and resources shared? Corrections, critiques, knowhow abound? This is how people learn informally, it’s happening.

What each of these has in common is that each is really small. Meaning that they often happen between small numbers of people and they can happen very quickly in small exchanges between people. Social closes gaps. Organizations need to measure what’s shrinking not what’s growing.

  • A good measure of learning through others (social learning) could be measured by a reduction training; it’s requests, it’s expense, production time and time taken out of work.
  • Celebrating success, maintaining relationships, getting timely feedback are all parts of the engagement equation. If these activities are present you may be seeing a reduction in disgruntled employees leaving the organization.
  • Do you follow your employees on social platforms? Are they talking up the organization? If employees are engaged and better connected then Marketing costs could shrink as passionate employees are your best evangelists. Happy employees are invested and invested employees want to see the organization succeed.
  • A well-connected team means peers guiding peers. information if flowing easier through and around management. A communication bottleneck is removed and measured by a reduction in management time in providing direction.
  • Do you know what might be equal to or better than innovation? Nipping bad ideas early before they grow into full-fledged costly initiatives. An open conversation can surface all the issues well before the baking process begins, reducing time and money waste.

The truth is social is already happening with or without technology but if you must measure it to justify technology, lean in a bit more to all the small stuff that is contributing to big impacts on the business.

Collaboration and The IKEA Effect

What’s the IKEA Effect? Simply, it is a form of narcissism where we tend to appreciate and overvalue the things WE create ourselves. So a reason we may love IKEA furniture is less about how inexpensive it is but more that we built it with our own two hands.

Going it alone, as noted, can lead to an inflated sense of value for our own work. Others could see it as being less impressive of course and one could even surmise that feedback that can be less than glowing might get dismissed by the designer as being flawed.

Some research shows that this is all related to a need to be competent (in our eyes and the eyes of others). When we have feelings of low ability, people can tend to want to go it alone to create. A higher sense of competency thus can lead to less of that need to create in isolation.

The IKEA effect extends beyond physical creations. Think about the less tangible projects, solutions, and designs in organizations around L&D, Marketing, Advertising Campaigns, Leadership initiatives, Change Management, etc. When they fail, how many go back to criticize their own work and rather just point to other factors and forces that caused the lack of success?

Maybe then the value of collaboration is not limited to just creativity or innovation that so many tout. Maybe the value is also in bringing people together to work and preventing bad ideas from becoming expensive, time-consuming, and potentially damaging efforts.

We Trust, We Watch, We Learn

Most of what we’ve learned from our father’s was through watching them; how they spoke, how they treated others, how they worked. We learned far more through observing them than from what they told us to do, far more.

We trusted them, so we watched them and we trusted because we respected them. This is the crux of social learning and it’s similar and yet different in organizations. Here social learning happens through peers and experts not parents. And organizations themselves can be our new guides. They can create the environment for mutual respect to bloom and so that trust emerges, because when we trust, we learn and when we learn we grow. Like we always have, similar but different.

The Unsurpriseable Organization

Photo by gleangenie on
12 years ago…

“What? People aren’t responding to our ads!? Quick! We need to engage with them on social media!”

8 years ago…
“What? People are using their phones to find info and do research? Quick! We need to have a mobile strategy!”

4 years ago…
“What? A job isn’t enough any more!? Quick! We have to make work purposeful!”

Last year…
“What? Our competition is getting more efficiency from technology! Quick! We need to digitally transform!”


You get the idea. The “What? Quick!” business moments just keep coming faster and faster. How can you be prepared!?

Answer: By never being in a position to be surprised.

That’s what an agile and responsive workforce is, “unsurprisable”. An agile and responsive workforce is highly connected and frictionless in its knowledge sharing. They are aware of what is happening inside, outside, and around their organization. The organization empowers them to seek and share openly. It also encourages them to commune and rewards them for it.

You see, the only way companies can be prepared for change is when they readily invite the change.

Game of Work

I contend that beliefs form from repeated behaviors. This could be your own behavior, an observed behavior, or a behavior projected on you by another’s story (an authority tells you). I also contend that our behaviors are influenced (guided or supported) consciously or unconsciously by systems. Systems are often the context we’re in, our environment, it can also be the rules. Systems are the boundaries we can move within. We then form strategies to navigate these boundaries in order to survive or thrive. Our repeated successes or failures can lock us into a set of beliefs about how it all works.

Let’s look at all of this – beliefs, behavior and systems in a more practical way before returning to how they all play out in the world of work.

My wife, I and my in-laws enjoy playing a classic game called Rack-O. Players receive a set of random numbered cards they place in the order of receiving. Turn by turn players take cards from the deck or the previous players discard to try to create a numerical sequence (low to high). The first player who does wins. Rack-O!

For the longest time, we played simply, Rack-O or bust. But then we decided to play by rules that allowed you to obtain points without having to achieve a full sequenced set. If you had even a sequence of 2 cards you got points but the sequence had to start from the beginning only or no points. A Rack-O gave you 75pts but a solid sequence could garner 40pts. The game can be set for multiple rounds, so like 1st to 500 wins.

The rule change led slowly to different behaviors in how we played. Seeing how you or others could win over time, in different ways, changed the beliefs in the best way to play. In short, altering the rules forced behavior change, observing this different play formed new beliefs about strategy. Systems ->Behaviors—>Beliefs.

Now, one could argue new beliefs became evident with the rules change. That even before play, you could see how you may have to form a new strategy. I’d counter that, as even in this scenario there is still the active *behavior* of reading or listening to the rule change. This action prompted a change in belief and even then, for most, the new strategy was still only a theory until proven in your own play or observed in other’s play.

What does this mean in a larger org context? Simple, by changing the rules of the organization, those systems that guide or support behaviors, impactful change happens. Just telling people to change their ways when the system remains the same won’t work (beliefs) and teaching them different approaches to work when the system remains the same won’t stick (behavior). How we act, who we work with, who we aim to please, what we share, where we converse, etc. – all these social behaviors guided by systems of authority, decision-making, and rewards are all parts of the organizational design.

Work is a game after all. Change the rules and people play it differently.