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Who does the boring stuff in a social business?

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Who does the boring stuff in a social business?

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Last week I attended the Smartworking Summit at the RSA, and a strong theme from the event was the importance of giving employees a sense of meaning in their work.  This purpose would then feed through both to higher levels of employee engagement, and of course higher performance levels.

Suffice to say, open innovation can play a big part in that, as it gives people the opportunity to deploy their skills more effectively, and hopefully utilize talents that were hithertho under utilized.  It’s a line of thought that has been regularly used on this site over the years.  A member of the audience at the event raised the question however of who does the boring stuff?  The implication was that if we’re all doing things we enjoy, then that will naturally gravitate towards the ‘sexy’ things, leaving the more mundane tasks un-done.

The speakers had a go at answering it, and the answers generally revolved around mixing things up, so that employees did some ‘fun’ things, and some ‘boring things.  I kinda think that approaches things from the wrong perspective, as I’m not sure anything is boring if you have the right people doing it.

As a case in point, you only have to look at the numerous citizen science projects in operation around the world.  Some ask participants to catalogue galaxies, others to catalogue ancient artifacts.  To many of us, these tasks may not get the pulse racing, but the point is that to many it does just that, and that passion is the fundamental reason why they get involved.

You only have to look at the iSeahorse project operating in Canada.  iSeahorse is a citizen science project that uses a web and mobile based app to allow sea goers to log and catalogue sightings of sea horses in the wild.  The hope is that it will significantly increase understanding of this creature.  It’s a pretty niche field, yet it’s secured a good amount of support and has already achieved some excellent results.

For instance, recently a rare sighting of a sea horse in Canadian waters was logged by the volunteers.  The create was a lined seahorse, and a photo was uploaded to the site by divers off St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia.

“This is a thrilling discovery,” says Amanda Vincent, director of Project Seahorse. “These charismatic and mysterious animals are so highly cryptic – and, in many places, so threatened – that we often have to be very lucky to find them.”

For the divers involved, it was simply a thrill to be a part of such a discovery.

sa“I was obviously not looking for a seahorse but when I saw it I could not believe my eyes,” they say. “I was so excited, even without knowing that it’s not common around Nova Scotia. I have dived on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and in the Caribbean and this is the first time I have ever seen a seahorse.”

With sea horses threatened severely by over fishing, the more they are understood the better, and it seems like the crowd are doing an excellent job of just that.  The web is often accused of many things, but one thing that is hard to dispute is that it has enabled communities to form around even the most niche of topics.  That has to be the way managers think about managing talent in the future, for even the most mundane task will surely have people for whom it rocks their world.  You just need to find them.

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