Conversations Over Clicks

When I attended my first meeting as a member of the social media marketing committee for Vera House I learned of our team’s call to action. We were to guide the larger, influential steering committee in their effort to get the word out and create “awareness” about the White Ribbon campaign (and the march to end domestic and sexual violence).


Awareness in social tech is typically counted in clicks, likes and shares. But domestic and sexual violence are cultural blemishes not corporate brands and a product marketing approach of meaningless measures won’t do.

Let’s be honest, everyone gets moved a little when someone likes or shares their content online but this is only for a moment and then the emotion is gone at the speed of the Internet. Ask yourself, what have you “liked” or shared of someone else’s content that you actually remember? Or more importantly led you to think or behave differently? I’d argue that when you put fingers to the keyboard and type a response to engage in additional online dialog it is memorable. It’s memorable and closer to behavior change because it’s done often with careful thought and a more sustained emotional connection to the individual(s) and the content.

So rather than count vanity metrics, we aim to share to start conversations. Drawing on a mantra of mine that “knowledge doesn’t exist within us but between us, in our conversations“, we look to meaningful dialog as being much closer to behavior change than the simple, fleeting click of an icon. We know full well too that we will have far fewer conversations than likes but this is about quality and not quantity.

Over the next few months we’ll be working to help the broader White Ribbon Campaign Steering Committee find and share relevant content, add meaningful context and prompt as well as engage in dialog. We will monitor the types of conversations happening and if, through them, we see new understandings and reactions emerge we’ll feel a bit closer to deeper awareness and maybe closer to bettering society.

Cynefin Supported Campaigns vs. Courses

Businesses seek markets. Without these opportunities no service or product matters no matter how effective or unique.  I feel that today employees ultimately control access to these markets and this is no more true than in working in government contracts.

In my space a major barrier to opportunity can be Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI) and in government contracts it can happen like a bursting brain aneurysm; sudden, barely detectable and often deadly.

In simple terms, if an employee or contractor violates the rules and has access or exposure to non-public information; an unfair advantage regarding future work, their organization can be “OCI’d” out of  future related work.

For example:

“An employee of the contracting organization is in a client (government) meeting. The agenda is clear but as meeting sometimes go, a stakeholder expands the conversation into other areas i.e future development, pricing models, etc. The employee should not be privy to this information and frankly may not even know its significance.  Too late.  Later on, meeting minutes show the conversation and attendees, and the organization is not allowed to bid on a related project; in effect losing a multi-million dollar opportunity.”
There are just too many roles and too many situations where an organization is in jeopardy. Furthermore employees walk a fine line with clients in this space.  If one hesitates in assisting on a project for fear of OCI, they could be deemed difficult.  It’s a rare but precarious situation that no employee or organization wants to be in.

Complicated & Complex

Cynefin Sense-Making Framework

When seen through the lens of Dave Snowden‘s Cynefin the sense-making framework OCI straddles the complicated and complex. One can be “oriented” to the dangers and provided some (but not all) examples of when and where these risks can happen – making the issue complicated. However, one can often only see the right course of action in retrospect, thus making it more complex in nature.

Knowledge and proper action must then permeate the culture of an organization. It must be on the forefront of people’s minds but not consume them and it can’t simply be treated as a problem that training alone can solve. The solution lies in raising organizational awareness.  And although it is a performance issue, it is not something that should or can be solely owned by T&D. This needs to be a company-wide effort.

A multifaceted approach involving formal, informal, and of course social learning is key as it’s mostly about tacit knowledge sharing. Explicit, although having merit, is black and white and unfortunately OCI is many shades of gray.

Campaign vs. Course

Craig Taylor tuned me into the concept of a campaign as he explored it himself on a considerably grander scale.  An apparent influence for him was in the article Think “Campaign” not “Course” by Lars Hyland (Tip 16) From the eLearning Network:

“…Shorter, sharper, more varied learning experiences deliberately spread over a longer elapsed time period, demonstrably improve learning effectiveness. There are more opportunities for reinforcement of key knowledge, more prompts to practice skills in the field and the ability to adapt to the pace and personal needs of each individual. At long last our efforts can be focused on providing learning support interwoven into life and work, rather than artificially abstracted.”With this concept in mind the approach then is more to immerse people in OCI awareness. To begin, Cynefin not only serves to help identify the “habitat” of OCI but it can also serve as a performance support model for a communication procedure; Sense the potential situation, Analyze the severity, Respond according to organizational procedure.

The initial part of the campaign grounds people in a common understanding of OCI, and the response procedures identified in the job aid. For this a short scenario-based elearning module can serve to show the value of the communication procedure and practical application of the job aid in a scenario. Additionally, to improve access to a job aid (post completion), a QR code can be used within to allow the learner to place the support tool on their mobile device and be easily accessible in a potential OCI situation.

Next, leverage traditional communication channels such as an organization’s periodical. L&D can partner with them to maintain a long running series of compelling examples, statistics, factoids and industry news regarding OCI. A series of “insider” podcast bring a human face (voice) to the issue through interviews with internal experts and possible “victims” of OCI which will be made available for employees to pull; HR to promote at new hire orientation, and managers to leverage when needed. The use of a social media platform is fertile ground for sharing industry news, and war stories. And finally email, the default communication platform of the moment, can easily serve to launch short scenario-based “quizzes” to reinforce understanding and application of the procedure.

The approach is really one of an all hands on deck. People should not to be subjected to repeated formal (out of workflow) interventions but rather be surrounded by relevant information, expertise, conversation and resources to help them navigate a complex and potentially costly issue.