Many organizations see no big change in the existing ways of working after deploying social tools or social collaboration initiatives. Not only has it proven to be quite difficult to make people adopt these tools. It has also proven to be difficult to achieve any significant improvement of business performance.
Here are five ways (anti-patterns) to approach social that are doomed to fail.
1. Social as lipstick on a pigThe main reason why the organization wants to “go social” is because some people have heard or seen that other organizations are doing it. They have seen competitors showcase their “social intranets” or “social collaboration platforms” at a conference or elsewhere. “Everybody else is doing it so why shouldn’t we?” There is no awareness that about the problems and challenges social technology can help address. The organization just wants to show others that it has also jumped on the bandwagon.
2. Social as a featureSocial is merely seen as a number of technical features, such as commenting, blogs, wikis, rich profiles and activity feeds. There is some basic understanding why such features are needed, but the organization doesn’t develop that understanding. Nor does it explore how to use the features or how the features need to be designed in order to support work in the best way. Therefore it has no plan on how to make use of these features to improve current ways of working or how people communicate. The “go social” mission is accomplished by adding a number of social features to the list of requirements when buying a new collaboration platform or intranet.
3. Social as a siloThe organization buys a social intranet or social networking platform from a vendor without any real thought about how it should relate to and integrate with other tools and platforms. It’s just installed next to the other tools and platforms. There is probably already an intranet and perhaps a collaboration platform in place. The idea is that users should go to the intranet to find information, to the collaboration platform to collaborate, to the document management system to manage their documents, and to the social platform to be social.
4. Social as a crutchThe organization has invested a lot in a new intranet, but it is rarely being visited. The key performance indicator for the intranet is number of daily views of the intranet home page, and the corporate communications department has already tried to improve it by making the home page the default page in the browser. To make it more attractive for users, the communication department decides that social features such as commenting and likes should be added in order to make the corporate news more interesting.
5. Social as a silver bulletThe organization sees social tools are seen as magic pills or silver bullets that will, once deployed, be “automagically” be adopted by employees, just as they have adopted social tools such as Facebook. As a result, it expects that new and smarter ways of working will “automagically” emerge. Since people have asked for these tools, there is no need to support them.
Why all these ways are doomed to fail
- An organization will never get any value from social technology if it doesn’t make a serious attempt to understand what it is and what kind of problems and challenges it can help to address.
- To get value from social, an organization must first understand the employees’ needs, tasks and situations and then carefully consider, select and design the right social technology that will help them get their work done.
- Social cannot be allowed to become yet another system silo. The great promise of social technology is to improve communication and collaboration across a large and dispersed workforce by connecting people and information across organizational, geographical and system silos. If it is allowed to become a system silo, all of that is lost.
- Adding some “social” features will not save a traditional intranet that is not accessible, attractive, easy to use and useful. If social technology seen merely as a tactic to improve adoption of an intranet, it will have no impact on business performance whatsoever.
- There are no silver bullets. Adoption and change doesn’t happen by itself. Change is hard. People need a clear vision, incentives and support. They need to see management walking the talk and talking the walk. The change journey doesn’t end when the technology has been deployed – that’s when it starts.
The most important thing to understand is that “social” is about bringing about a new communication culture that will enable new and smarter ways of working to emerge. The norms that dictate how people communicate with each other have to change from being closed, opaque, formal, hierarchic, exclusive and one-way to being more open, transparent, informal, democratic, inviting and two-way. Such a shift can be enabled and accelerated by social technology, but it doesn’t happen automatically. There has to be an intention, a clearly expressed reason why it is needed, and a commitment to make the change happen.