The “Too Many Social Tools” Problem

In a recent morning buzz session I led at the DevLearn Conference titled “Social at the Center“, a few attendees presented a common problem happening in their organization – having too many social tools available and in use. They were frustrated that people were entrenched in small, separated, collaborative pockets with a variety of social tools in use to get their work done. It’s actually a good problem to have, as I have shared in a previous post, Big Social Isn’t Always Best, however their desire was to reap the rewards of a largely connected company. For them, the conversations are happening just as silo’d as before social tools were adopted. Their initial reaction to this was the antithesis of social and sadly the common action of the status quo – shutting down unsanctioned/ unsupported tools.

That is the easy answer.  However it’s not the correct answer.

For starters, give credit to social technology for doing what it does best, making the invisible visible. Social technology can teach you more about your culture than can actually transform it. In this case just the availability of social tools may be revealing that there is no strong desire for these employees to share beyond their immediate team needs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this organization having individual sales goal awards, a single winners of some golden customer service trophy, and a hierarchical system where advancement is made by those who were savvy enough to out maneuver their peers. These are all strong indicators of an organization that values competition over collaboration and cooperation.

It’s rare that organizations significantly recognized those that help one another or  reward the process just as much as the product. Yet this is the correct answer if they want to realize the benefits of a social business. It’s simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy – social tools do not make an organization more social, more transparent, open or connected, people do.

Social Media Is Like a Light

Social media is often criticized for bringing out the ugliness of society. But isn’t that what we want!? What we need?! Racism, sexism, ageism, the “isms” have been able to hide for far to long and social media works to ferret them out for everyone to see. The latest example was brought to light by the posting of a quote by Engineer, Isis Wegner of OneLogin along with her image in a recruitment advertisement. The post, reaction and commentary leads one to examine their own actions and words. Being brought into the light, the average person perpetuates the discussion online, traditional media picks it up, hashtags invite participation, and the conversation reverberates across the globe.

Imagine if we didn’t have social media? This story goes away in a day, maybe it doesn’t happen at all and are we any better as a society? Without social media, it, like all it’s related isms, sits and festers for years, periodically popping up in small disconnected pockets and quickly dissipating like puddles after a summer shower… only to return again and again.

Social media gets none of the credit, nor does it seek it. It’s a mere tool extending and expanding our humanity where I suspect ultimately good will triumph over evil with its unrecognized help.

Using social media and networking is like a light. It spreads and illuminates that which it is focused on and all objects around it. The spread breathes life into new forms of learning and growing and being and connecting.    – Kevin Jones