“Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?” – Frankenstein’s Monster
In 1818 Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein. In part the novel explored how electricity, a strange new power then might be used to create what only occurred naturally- life.
The take away for me – don’t mess with a good thing.
Well, in the world of Enterprise Social I fear many didn’t heed the warning. Our platforms often resemble the hideous Monster with it’s parts fused together. Features such as streams, blogs, tags, filters, discussions, status updates, polling, places, groups, etc have value but when jumbled all together and released on the unsuspecting – they litter, complicate and ultimately frustrate and repel employees. It is often that the platforms resemble the 8′ man-made man that terrifies the bewildered villagers. In some cases the people will slowly and only partially accept the platforms. In other cases they shun them and destroyed the incarnations through their inactivity versus overt aggression.
Web 2.0 was a simple concept and simple technology but once brought inside an organization as an ESN it has been perverted and manipulated to mirror the comfortable but outdated systems and structures of the organization itself.
The spirit of social technology is being crushed. It vaguely resembles the experimental, fun, easy world in which it was born. It is often a tool of the organization but not of the people. I’ve written about “simplicity” in the past and believe Simple is the New Black. That, like in Frankenstein, we have messed with the natural course. Twitter is a perfect example of “nature”. A simple interface w/ simple rules and a simple goal to connect people which millions caught on to. It also had obvious affordances with its open API allowing for fantastic uses and integrations. Web 2.0 like Twitter blended seamlessly into the chaotic World Wide Web. In it’s simplicity it amplified humanity, conversation, and sharing. The technology took a back seat.
Work environments, like the web, are equally complex and growing more so with ever changing technology, system, customer need, and competition. Yet the answer for many is to release monstrous platforms that often add another layer of work to get working done. Ryan Tracy shared this, which I think nailed the issue because of how ridiculous it is. Yet if you swapped Facebook for many ESN implementations, it wouldn’t be funny at all. Web2.0 vs. E2.0.
Social technology does work in some organizations but that depends on what one means by work and the organization using it. All are unique and one’s definition of success, user adoption, is not the same as another’s, work adaptation. How do we avoid creating a monster enterprise social network? Yes we need advocacy and yes we need to draw on good examples and approaches promoted by the likes of Jane Hart but before that, potential community managers and leaders need to put egos aside and…
1. Ask yourself why? If your answer is to bring the workforce closer together, do they even want to be closer? Are they close now? It’s a culture, people issue first.
2. Keep it simple. Start small doesn’t mean just starting with a pilot, it means thinking of light design.
3. Play guide, not God. Encourage people to find A way, don’t create THE way.
Learn from Dr. Frankenstein’s mistake. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Know the needs. Know the culture. Know your limits.