Flippancy: The Biggest Threat To Enterprise Social Today

For years many have lamented that rigid hierarchies, silos and knowledge is power beliefs were the greatest barrier to social success in organizations. Rightfully so, as many of us in this space of social advocacy answered the tough questions that stemmed from fear and pushed through those that saw it as folly and/or a passing fad. Many today still speak of it and write about these as the biggest hurdles for organizations. But a new specter is creeping in – flippancy. This the “ok, we have social tech now too”  leadership attitude that has, in part, emerged as a result of what many had actually hoped for – A plethora of social tools. Many are light, embedded and free and have permeated the enterprise making social tech commonplace and thus social (i.e. cooperative, collaborative, sharing) behaviors more common. A good problem to have?

Additionally, the social tech ecosystem has expectedly fractured; social intranets, social LMS, enterprise social platforms, chat platforms, text-based services, not to mention public platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, etc all compete and often exist along side each other in the organization. The fracturing is giving social advocates headaches as community and collaboration behaviors retreat into private groups, departments and project teams… new digital silos. When this occurs, the work being done may happen faster, may be even better due to the ease of access to content and co-workers but the work itself isn’t necessarily going to change, and the agility of the organization won’t rapidly improve. The conversations have just become more challenging.

When you talk of the meat and potatoes of enterprise social, about building the company as a community of radical transparency and cross-silo connection, you are likely to be dismissed with a flippant “oh, yeah we have X and let everyone use it.” The tech v. sociology/psychology is being won by the machines. No longer is mindset and behavior change or for that matter culture change warranted in the eyes of these leaders, they have done their job and washed their hands of it. They have email 2.0 now!

Helping organizations to adopt these technologies is no longer the critical need. The need now is in helping them see past adoption and getting deeper into the real value they offer; business transformation and responsiveness that only the connected organization can achieve. This is a big leap because to org leaders:

The tools are available – check!
The tools are being used – check!
Employees are connected and productive – check!

For any leader focused on meeting client/customer needs today and achieving quarterly return numbers, everything looks splendid, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Try convincing them of an unsettling future and you look like a sandwich board wearing sidewalk preacher! But this is the charge now.  Your next steps – moving from adoption to adaptation!

  • Mind the Gaps. Point out the deficits in the offerings, the competition and the internal skills. Collaboration, as Marcia Connor once stated, solves new problems none have solved before.
  • Map the Silos. Data speaks! As organizations increase their digital communication channels, the tools offered by OrgNet and SWOOP to name a few provide analytics that reveal where healthy communication resides and where it has gone dark.
  • Bring the Outside In. The world is changing rapidly. The next disruption is upon us and it’s not cliche to say so. Just look what Uber and AirBnB are doing to transportation and accommodation industries in under 2 years! Your connected organization gives you the greatest opportunity to capture and convert information quickly.
  • The Past is Prologue. Surface historical shift in technological disruptions and flaunt the cause and effect themes that emerge. Fear sells (but the whole Blockbuster and Kodak stories are old news now.)
  • Identify the Cutting Edge Users.  They will be tomorrow’s norm. Let’s get to tomorrow faster! Shift your attention from solely raising up the laggards to supporting the leaders. Find and amplify their progressive ways. Partner with them.
  • Build Customer Partnerships. If the ESN has been internally focused, now is the time to build client/customer collaborations. Not surveys and focus groups but open and honest conversations about needs and wants.
  • Curate, Curate, Curate. The answer is out there and in here. Look before you create. You need a framework for this now.
  • Attack the Learning Paradigm. Training has to be dismantled. Moves to microlearning (umm formerly known as performance support) floating in the workflow are a good start but managers need to be coaches and mentors. Experimentation is a must and failure has to be tolerated. Systems changes around recognition and rewards should be addressed as well. This is a part of a larger organizational change in learning.

The fear about social tech has subsided. The dismissal of it as a passing fad is no more. Social has gone corporate and not necessarily in a good way. To combat flippancy we need new conversations. It’s time to beat your swords into plowshares – there’s work to be done in the fields!

L&D Advice from Gary Vee

He’s raw, he’s real, he’s hyper, he’s crude. According to his website, Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia. I’ve been reading and listening to him for a little while now and it dawned on me that what he’s advising businesses to do could really help learning and development.

At it’s core his advice is simply be fast and be real. He is also all about quantity but with authenticity and value. He get’s social media but more importantly he gets “social”. He recognizes that the human story is compelling and the less polished the better, equating it to why TV programs like The Kardashians and Real Housewives knock it out of the park in ratings as sitcoms come and go. Finally, he is about the person over the product. Where Simon Sinek advised to start with “why”, Gary Vee starts with “You.”

For example Gary would have applauded this. I was recently looking for a newer used vehicle and engaged with a dealership a few hours from here. After a couple of emails about a vehicle I was interested in I got this from them the next morning.

Volvo C30 Tour by Wendy 

(sorry, I don’t have a video player for my theme. Can you recommend one?)

This personal video told me more about the person behind the emails. I got to look into the car and hear it’s doors shut. I learned that the back cover was a bit tricky and could see at the moment it was mentioned that the car was recently cleaned. And again, “personal.” This video was made specifically for me.

Did I buy the car? No. But that’s only because my wife and I shifted to a vehicle that was more practical for a family of four (don’t ask.). But I’ll tell you this, I remembered this video and this dealership over the other 6-7 I was poking around.

Here are some of Gary’s tips I think L&D should latch on to now.

Document don’t create. In marketing terms this means stop looking for the perfect product pitch and start sharing your process. As for L&D, they still spends a ton of time on their courses and infographics and classroom design worrying over font, image choice and color scheme while their audience goes off and figures stuff out. Maybe just put a camera or a microphone in the face of an expert and ask them compelling questions, then put it out there ASAP.

Start now. Listen, ADDIE lives. The talk of it’s death are greatly exaggerated. The analysis, design, develop are all still happening just repackaged but everyone is still doing them. Enough already. If you’re less on the compliance side of L&D, shift to the Probe-Sense-Respond model presented by Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework. This is his answer to being successful in complexity and don’t fool yourself, business is complex. Listen well, boil it down to the immediate needs and put a solution out there. If it works, scale it. If it doesn’t kill it.

Be Human. 99% of the time the highway is backed up is not because of the car accident but because everyone wants to look at the car accident. They want the emotional story to share, they are looking for the drama. If they weren’t you’d actually be going faster after a wreck! Flaws are real, mistakes happen and they are all a part of the human condition. Tell more stories, find more stories and share them, but more importantly help others to start sharing their stories without fear or the need for perfection. We have been learning through story for centuries. We are built to tell them and to dissect them. Don’t fight evolution.

Know your audience. Yea, yea I know you’re thinking this is about personas and focus groups and surveys and… No, it’s more a reminder to look at your product and really ask, “who is this for?” Are you really meeting the need of the struggling employee or are you fulfilling the wants of your manager or your own ego? The moment you utter the words “this is a cool feature…” you should punch yourself in the face. You’re selling now not solving. You’re either selling to yourself or some mid-level manager who signs your paychecks and feel good that she got her voice-over narration in your course.

Set your pride aside, stop being afraid, get real and real fast.

I’ll end with this quote from Gary. You can sub in the words L&D and learning where you see fit.

In a world where there’s an enormous amount of [social] content, if you don’t make someone stop what they are doing and create a response, you are going to lose. Whether that’s an action or an emotion, the true test of storytelling is how you feel or what you do after you consume it.

The Role of Social Networks in the Rise of Christianity

Christianity after the death of Jesus was just a small movement under scrutiny and attack in the Roman Empire. Yet in less than 500 years it was their official religion. Devine intervention? Perhaps.

According to author Rodney Stark, in his 1997 book The Rise of Christianity, the faith spread not by formal means or force but in great measure through conversations that led to conversions.

Social forms around an object and for Christianity, the object was “hope” and the social agents spreading the message were women. But these were not desperate and destitute women, rather they were the wealthy women, those married into Roman aristocracy.

Women of means had the time and connections to commune and influence their fellow women and eventually their men participating in government affairs. Like most women of their time they were greatly impacted by paternal decisions related to child-birth, infanticide, and abortion. Furthermore, Christianity provided hope in times of trouble like when natural disasters struck – pagan gods had no answer. Christianity was a new message ALL Romans could connect with.

Women then were the key nodes in the network, they influenced the influencers and slowly the faith spread to ultimately integrate with all elements of Roman society.

What can we take away from this?

First, change doesn’t always come from the top and as the case maybe, sustainable change is bottom up driven. Additionally, community forms it is not created or built and it’s best supported from within. And finally, (most importantly) change – the kind of change that can influence the world for thousands of years begins in the same way that can transform an organization today… one conversation at a time.

To all my Christian friends, Happy Easter.


Humility is a Bluebird

I read that in sales circles the term bluebird is slang for an opportunity that is unexpected or very profitable. You can’t exactly create a bluebird in this context (sales) I suspect but in others, by doing the unexpected we just might. For example the moment we let are guard down, even just a little, amazing things can happen. Yes, the vultures can swoop in seeing it as weakness but so too can arrive a bluebird of opportunity.

BluebirdMany organizational leaders think trust-building is solely accomplished by being strong and decisive. However a deeper trust forms when people in charge reveal their humanity which is often unexpected. Humanity is humility.

In a past organization I was working for, the leadership was struggling to solve the problem of time recording. In the contract space an organization can only get paid if the records for billable hours are accurate and complete. With most employees working on several projects at once, it was an arduous task to complete time records each day. The early solutions, in place well before I got there, included a system of automated emails sent by the finance department each day. Those late in submitting their time card were sent an ominous note informing you that “you have failed floor check” at 10:00 am each day. However simple, it was doing little to curb the epidemic of delinquency.  The typical approaches were not working as, regardless of the non-compliance, everyone still got paid.

Visibly flustered by the inactivity, the head of finance saw training as the solution. Yet this problem was not due to a lack of skill or knowledge and one operations executive agreed with me. I convinced him instead to post in our new Enterprise Social Network. His post was not to be a demand or a threat but a humble request; in his own words he simply asked for help.  He explained why non-compliance was bad for the organization, the individual and frankly stated he was out of ideas. Within hours the first comments started to appear and due to the inherent nature of social technology followers of followers chimed in seeing that it was safe to do so. Most offered personal tips; approaches and tools they used to remind themselves to complete the task. Others acknowledge these ideas and openly thanked one another.  What eventually appeared however was a criticism of the failed floor check email message itself. One employee even referred to the HR handbook and noted a discrepancy – the email message implied that if you received it, you already missed the opportunity. This was inaccurate, as 12:00 pm was the deadline. The 10:00 am email was meant as a warning but the verbiage led many to take no action since they figured it was too late!  The HR handbook was quickly updated and the email alert corrected. Delinquency declined.

A simple and highly atypical hierarchical communication, one based on humility, led to open dialog, productive criticism and a small unexpected change with financial rewards; a bluebird.

Between Us

Real knowledge does not exist within us but between us, in our conversations is something I’ve felt for a long time. So with that, if we want to create more knowledge, we need to create more conversations.

In principle it’s that easy. However the practice, although simple, is much harder to do.

To create conversations we must understand what it means to converse. To be equals, to listen, to communicate without agenda. The barriers to real conversation today are not physical or even technological, they are cerebral. Ego, power, fear and positioning get in the way. Because of these, most conversations are only labeled as such when in reality they are just carefully crafted monologues devoid of empathy, compassion or respect for another’s perspective and history. In these communications information is shared but this information can struggle to become actionable knowledge because this transfer happens best when there is a human connection.

Ask yourself – when did you last have a true conversation and who was it with? In all likelihood it was with others you respected, trusted and enjoyed. The outcome was likely mutually fruitful and satisfying.

Now imagine if you could have these at work with peers and leaders alike. It starts with you.