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Dan Keldsen
Dan Keldsen
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Social Business: Don't Let Transparency Be A Barrier

What amount of collaboration makes sense to you and your company? Not to your competitors. Not to Apple and Google. To you.

I'm a big fan of maturity models for understanding skills, teams, and company cultures, and of people like Geoffrey Moore, with his "Crossing The Chasm" framework for understanding markets.

In years past (pre-2009), I'd never seen people, organizations, or ideas leap from one extreme of the maturity/adoption spectrum to another extreme in anything less than five years. The simple fact is, unless you're very good at managing change in your organization, you cannot leap from being a newbie to an expert instantly.

In the last six months, however, I've seen some remarkable team transformations in (and I hate to set the bar here, but it's true) as little as half a day.

It blew my mind when it happened, but a team, and some specific team members, would be dead set against the value of anything we would consider to be Enterprise 2.0, and three and a half hours later--BANG--they were fully engaged and running out the door to make change happen.

What's happened in the last six months to produce these results? Constant testing over the last few years has delivered the most effective psychological "onboarding" I've come up with yet, based on persuasion, real-world proof, and live exercises that side-step the classic "collaboration roadblocks" I've been seeing since getting involved in intranets back in the mid-90s.

Finding the right catalyst to light that fire is what I've been busy honing in on, and luck isn't one of the tools in my toolkit (or at least not a reliable tool). Understanding the social psychology at work with individuals, teams, and larger organizations is even more important than I'd already understood it to be earlier in my career.

A specific example from the 3.5-hour scenario mentioned above leverages three psychological principles: consistency (we will continue to do what we've already done), social proof or consensus (we will tend to do what others around us have done or are doing), and authority (in the absence of knowing how to behave, we bow down to third-party expertise).

As an outside consultant, it may be easier for me than for you to get people contributing to the overall experience. In the workshops I conduct, as soon as people realize that everyone else in the room is struggling with what Enterprise 2.0 or social business is, they lower their "immunity to change" and get busy doing rather than "changing." Once the change has happened, it's no longer terrifying, and you're on to the next change.

My goal is to make it obvious that "being collaborative/social" online is no different from doing it in real life. As soon as the behavior you want to see online is no longer seen as something foreign and, frankly, weird, then that last step into doing work "in the new system" is just one final, tiny step. (More on this subject in future columns.)

Yes, the technology is important, and you can't get scalable social businesses without technology. But let's not forget: The social business is powered by people, and it's easily undermined by people if you aren't paying attention. Tie transparency to what will make their jobs easier, and you'll be surprised at the boost it will give your business.

So here are some questions for you:

-- How do you define "transparency" in your organization?

-- Where do you think the ripest starting point for transparency in your organization is? For instance, is there a specific department or team already operating within your definition of transparency?

-- If you've already started, how have you expanded?

Reply in the comments field below, and let's work together to redefine transparency for the non-radicals and power ourselves out of this economy, eh?

Dan Keldsen is the chief innovation officer at Information Architected Inc. (IAI), providing analysis, consulting, and workshops on Enterprise 2.0/social business and distributed convergence based on nearly 20 years of work as an analyst and consultant.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/5/2011 | 7:43:35 PM
re: Social Business: Don't Let Transparency Be A Barrier
I think this is a really important post because it addresses the cultural issues around social networking within enterprise apps and around social networking in general. It (participating in social networking) has to be purposeful, and it has to make sense for your business. Not every business is set up in such a way that the associate lowest on the totem pole should be sharing his or her every thought with the company CEO. And not every business can tolerate high levels of public exposure. But every business can likely benefit from social networking functionality in some way, shape or form. Just like every business decision, there should be a plan with clearly stated and measurable goals before jumping in.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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