ME2: Social Collaboration Myths

I just had one of those “I’m writing an email and I really should be sharing this more broadly!” moments…so I thought I would write a ME2 Tuesday Edition since I’ve been a ME2 slacker lately.

The questions I was posed had to do with concerns over the use of various enterprise social collaboration tools, which is natural. I don’t fault the questions nor the questioners, because this is new to folks and if you haven’t experienced it first hand yet, probably difficult to recognize.

These same concerns are being asked at all enterprises that are investigating the use of social-based platforms to do business. They are great questions to ask, and gladly I had some data to provide some comfort. The primary questions asked were the following:

  • Will people spend too much time and not get their work done?
  • Will people misuse / abuse the technology to say inappropriate things?
  • How do we make clear that these tools are for “business use” only? And will people be able to make that distinction?

First, let me start by referencing this Andrew McAfee Harvard Business Review article – “Shattering The Myths About Enterprise 2.0″. It covers some of the concerns listed above. Specifically the information around Myth 1…and here’s my personal summary of that myth:

Myth 1: E2.0’s Risks Outweigh the Rewards
  • Risk perception: “What if people post hate speech?”, “What if people criticize leadership strategy?”, “Don’t these technologies make it easy for valuable information to seep out of the company?”, “Won’t employees use the collaboration software to plan social events instead of for work activities?”
  • Why these risks rarely come to fruition:
    • Attribution of content is the norm in business social collaboration software, not anonymity.
    • Sense of community amongst participants results in quick community reaction to abusive use of the platform.
    • In addition to organizational leaders, community leaders with earned influence can shape fellow employee’s behavior within the platform.
    • Many people have been active in public online forums and have learned how to act appropriately in online / transparent contexts.
    • Compare to email which is mostly private. Contributions to an ESSP are monitored by the entire workforce, thus the temptation or false sense of security to conduct inappropriate communications is less. If anything, this could lower the risk of non-compliant virtual communication.

Next, in terms of limiting usage to “business use” communication only…I offer some caution. While we don’t want this to become viewed as another “Facebook” for employees, encouraging and allowing some interaction that is fun and non-work related (but still within the rules of conduct policies) is a good thing. It helps the virtual environment thrive by building relationships, which then encourages more comfort in business-related sharing.

It seems every company example I have read about that has existing social networks supports this notion vehemently as a critical success factor. The underlying argument – “People talk about non-work topics in meetings and around their desks, why wouldn’t we encourage that in a virtual environment as well?” It really helps with building a sense of community which promotes further business benefits…and I’ve seen this occurring within our internal blogging and micro-blogging community where professional sharing and personal relationship building are balanced very well. Others out there have similar experiences or testimonials to add here?

Now a personal testimonial…a couple of years ago before I got into internal blogging, following internal blogs and enterprise micro-blogging…when I needed a mind break I would read external websites about sports, news, television, etc. But recently I’ve noticed I do much less of that and I spend more of my “down time” at work reading other people’s blogs and posts instead. I still need that mental down time to be effective at focusing deeply on my work. But now, instead, I am using that time to learn about the work of others, build virtual relationships with people I wouldn’t meet or work with otherwise and occasionally teaching / helping others with their questions along the way as well.

So my internal social interactions have replaced my non-work distractions more than they have replaced me focusing on my work deliverables / objectives.

And at the same time, having those connections helps me complete my deliverables / objectives with more community input and help (crowdsourced) along the way!

Any other Enterprise 2.0 practitioners out there seeing similar benefits? Anyone out there who has experienced the opposite and found themselves less effective due to the “vacuum” that is social networking at work?

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