Mark Oehlert on Going “Social”

Having heard Mark Oehlert talk yesterday about building communities in the TKChat with Jane Bozarth, I’m back for more… The brochure says we will discover the real barriers to adoption of “social”, social learning tools or subject-matter networks. Bring it on!

Introduction to the common things we hear about “social”

To start things off, Mark quotes a recent study that notes that many “social” initiatives will fail, but adds that this is not because of the tools. It is because of the culture of the organisation or the people in it.

Secondly, he notes that the common fear of “people going crazy because you gave them freedom” is not justified. Leave a bunch of kids in a room with a football for 10 minutes and you won’t come back to chaos. You will come back to intelligent people who have thought up a game, with rules, and are following a structure to get something from the experience.

Next, he underlines that you should not go social just because it’s fashionable. Don’t jump on the bandwagon because you can and don’t assume you are going to get million-dollar savings just by adding more “social”.

And finally, he notes that things take time and should be done for a good business reason. If you have a good business reason to go “social” you are going to have to be patient to see results. Just as it took 2 decades to see the real impact of personal computers in the workplace, “social” takes time too.

Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the dynamics behind them

It would be easy to be feel overwhelmed by the number of tools available on the web. Everyday another platform or app is created and if you try to keep up, you will fail. So don’t. For us instead on what these tools can do for your business; , the affordances or added-value of the tool. Answer the famous “What’s In It For Me?” question. The tool will follow and probably even change. Think first about what you want to achieve and work from there. It’s not “Prezi”, it’s raising awareness.

According to Mark Oehlert, the are 3 major dynamics at play in “social” (network) tools: Listening. Learning. Adapting. Ask yourself what you want to listen to, how you want to support learning and how adaptation is important in the organisation.

What makes “social” work?

Firstly, we must realise that the organisational culture is the foundation of “social” success. But as Jane Bozarth said yesterday, individuals all understand the value of community. We need to show the value for the organisation.

Oehlert adds another important element: We need to change the way we think of knowledge. Knowledge is not something we need to try and stock, store and organise. It is something that flows. We need to think more about facilitating that flow around and through the organisation.

Thirdly: It’s not about control, it’s about influence. Control comes from hierarchy and power. Leaders like to be in charge of what is said, how and where. Influence is created by how the community “rates” the information being shared. If they like it, they pass it on. If they don’t, they don’t.

Where should we start getting “social”? Are there some business activities that can show the organisation the value of “social”?

Mark Oehlert says that individuals “dig it” in their own world, but they sometimes wonder what is the value at work. There are some typical activities that lend themselves to “social” and can show that value to people. Consider starting your social adventure here:

  • Product development and co-creation
  • Market research and seeking out customer insights
  • Generating sales leads
  • Knowledge-sharing and FAQs
  • What are the barriers to going “social”?

    Different people in different functions will respond to the move to “social” in their own way. The IT guys worry about bandwidth (as if everyone is suddenly going to all download HD videos at the exact same moment and is if they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it), the financial controllers worry about people sharing information on the bottom line and the CEO is worried about strategy or commercial leaks.

    In short, like all change, it comes down to fear, control and trust issues. But the risk always existed. If you have email and telephones at your workplace, you are running the “social” risk; if you have lawyers that don’t dare to ask questions to their peers for fear of looking undereducated, you already have a “social” problem. These problems and risks have nothing to do with the technology. The technology is awesome.

    And who in their right mind would hire awesome people who could access awesome tools and then tell them to do nothing or control their every more? Or leave them stewing in their fear of ridicule? Crazy! What we need to do is educate our people for “social”, support people in the shift, and reap the rewards.

    What is the cost of not changing?

    How should you deploy “social”?

    Mark’s message is simple: It is important to start small, but think big and move fast. Don’t roll-out a massive social project for everyone right from the start. But don’t do pointless things for no-one either. Find an added-value “social” activity that is linked to your greater sense of (“social”) business purpose and a group of early-adopters and get them involved. When it works, invite some others to get started and add new activities….

    Good luck!

    Thanks for reading.
    More ASTDTK14 posts here.

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    About Dan Steer

    Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

    Posted on January 24, 2014, in Leadership, Learning Management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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