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Flippancy: The Biggest Threat to Enterprise Social Media

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

For years many have lamented that rigid hierarchies, silos, and knowledge hoarding were major barriers to success in organizations. Many today still speak and write about these as the biggest hurdles for organizations. But a new specter is creeping in—flippancy: this “OK, we have social tech now too” leadership attitude that has, in part, emerged as a result of what many had actually hoped for—a plethora of social tools. Many are light, embedded, and free, and have permeated the enterprise, making social tech commonplace and social behaviors (cooperation, collaboration, sharing) more common. A good problem to have?

Additionally, the social tech ecosystem has expectedly fractured; social intranets, social LMS, enterprise social platforms, chat platforms, and text-based services, not to mention public platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all compete and often exist alongside each other in the organization. The fracturing is giving social advocates headaches as community and collaboration behaviors retreat into private groups, departments, and project teams—new digital silos. When this occurs, the work being done may happen faster, and may be even better due to the ease of access to content and co-workers; but the work itself isn’t necessarily going to change, and the agility of the organization won’t rapidly improve. The conversations have just become more challenging.

When you talk of the meat and potatoes of enterprise social, about building the company as a community of radical transparency and cross-silo connection, you are likely to be dismissed with a flippant “Oh, yeah we have X and let everyone use it.” No longer is mindset and behavior change—or, for that matter, culture change—warranted in the eyes of these leaders; they have done their job and washed their hands of it. They have email 2.0 now!

Helping organizations adopt these technologies is no longer the critical need. The need now is in helping them see past adoption and getting deeper into the real value they offer: business transformation and responsiveness that only the connected organization can achieve. This is a big leap because to organization leaders:

  • The tools are available—check!
  • The tools are being used—check!
  • Employees are connected and productive—check!

For any leader focused on meeting client/customer needs today and achieving quarterly return numbers, everything looks splendid—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But complacency stops progress. Your next steps are moving from adoption to adaptation! Here are a few pointers:

Mind the gaps. Point out the deficits in the offerings, the competition, and the internal skills. Collaboration, as Marcia Connor once stated, solves new problems none have solved before.

Map the silos. Data speaks! As organizations increase their digital communication channels, the tools offered by OrgNet and SWOOP, to name a few, provide analytics that reveal where healthy communication resides and where it has gone dark.

Bring the outside in. The world is changing rapidly. The next disruption is upon us and it’s not cliché to say so. Just look what Uber and AirBnB are doing to the transportation and accommodation industries! Your connected organization gives you the greatest opportunity to capture and convert information quickly.

The past is prologue. Reveal the historical shift that technological disruptions have caused, and discuss the themes that emerge. Fear sells (but the whole Blockbuster and Kodak stories are old news now).

Identify the cutting-edge users. They will be tomorrow’s norm. Let’s get to tomorrow faster! Shift your attention from solely raising up the laggards to supporting the leaders. Find and amplify their progressive ways. Partner with them.

Build customer partnerships. If the enterprise social network has been internally focused, now is the time to build client/customer collaborations. Not surveys and focus groups, but open and honest conversations about needs and wants.

Curate, curate, curate. The answer is out there and in here. Look before you create. You need a framework for this now.

Attack the learning paradigm. Training has to be dismantled. Moves to microlearning (formerly known as performance support) floating in the workflow are a good start, but managers need to be coaches and mentors. Experimentation is a must and failure has to be tolerated. Systems changes around recognition and rewards should be addressed as well. This is a part of a larger organizational change in learning.

The fear about social tech has subsided. The dismissal of it as a passing fad is no more. Social has gone corporate, and not necessarily in a good way. To combat flippancy, we need new conversations.

To learn more, join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2019 for the session 10 Principles for an Effective Enterprise Social Strategy.

About the Author
Mark Britz specializes in solving organizational performance problems. For more than 10 years he's led the design and development of e-learning courseware, instructor-led training, and blended learning. Mark promotes the use of collaborative technologies and user-generated content to extend training initiatives, enhance peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and encourage informal learning channels.
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