Take The Lid Off

At a recent large family gathering we were playing board games. I placed a box of salted, dark chocolate covered almonds on the table – irresistible! After it sat for a bit untouched amidst the excitement of the game, I motioned to my son to take the lid off.

Still, no takers.

A few moments later I reached in and grabbed a few. It didn’t take long before the contents of box was being devoured from all sides of the table. My son and I gave each other a knowing smile and I explained the psychology of the moment as best I understood it.

The lid was hardly a physical barrier; clear plastic and not even sealed, anyone could have pulled it off. The real barrier was emotional, as those few steps from thought to fingers to the mouth was enough to give people pause. Who wants to look like a glutton?

Enterprise social technology is all quite simple to use now, hardly a functional barrier. However most will sit and wait for others, not to start using it, but to start using it in those meaningful, work productive ways. Sharing openly reveals knowledge or a lack of knowledge. The former of these is the expert dilemma. If an expert isn’t fully convinced they are correct, the won’t put information/answers out there. The latter, revealing a lack of knowledge, is something most novices have been conditioned to keep hidden as historically organizations frowned on what could be seen as incompetence.

Leaders then┬áneed to understand that merely procuring social technology is not removing the lid. It’s not enough to purchase, implement and expect. I have coached some too that it’s not enough to just share something from their position to indicate to their workforce that it’s OK to engage. Rather, they need to ask a meaningful question, ponder a solution openly, and share their own work. Being brave enough to┬áreveal their limitations, their weaknesses, their flaws is like grabbing the first chocolate. It removes the emotional barrier, the transparent lid, that holds people back from diving in.

Enter the Rectangle

Today when we encounter a little white rectangle on a screen, we instinctively know what to do don’t we? 

Keyboard + interface with a text box = type

We also know through experience that selecting publish, send, post, or tweet can initiate a change in both ourselves and others, yet so many still hesitate or refuse to try. What really prevents people from engaging is not a technical barrier, not any more, it’s much more complicated than code and functionality. 

It’s about humility – “I’ve nothing to share.” 
It’s about fear – “how will I be perceived?” 
It’s about confidence – “I don’t have enough expertise in this topic.” 
It’s about time – “I have enough to do.”
It’s about value – “I have better things to do.” 

Too many fight their basic human instinct to connect and share even when it is made incredibly easy. Looking again at the brief list above, maybe the way to overcome the complicated is to simply take it head on. Help people make these internal questions external. Real change happens one conversation at a time, so online or face to face we can start by asking others who are more open how they feel they are perceived, about the expertise they share, about how they make the time and what value they receive. 

Knowledge doesn’t exist within us, it exists between us. But for that to be really understood, one must first get outside of themselves to get over themselves.