Social: sure, you’ve heard about it and someone is teasing you are not. You feel stressed and the pressure is getting higher. It seems that your business is slowing down while your “social enabled” competitors are speeding up. True or not, you feel no way out: you must become a social organization. Easy to say, but how to turn a traditional hiearchical based company into a social business enabled? How to cowork? Where to start from? In my book “Working vs. Co-working: Social networking and organizational models of the future” (today only in Italian: Lavorare o collaborare? Networking sociale e modelli organizzativi del futuro) I collected and defined some simple practical actions to taste the social side of your organization. Just some simple advices you can start trying to play with.
So if you were thinking that social means only “software” or to improve the speed of your coffee vending machines…change your mind.
1) Slow down your coffe machine
Yes: as Riccardo Donandon CEO of H-Farm says the most powerful social network in your company is the coffee machine. People use to know, share, discuss, invent, suggest, improve, solve while having a cup of coffe or a Coke. So if you were thinking that social means only “software” or to improve the speed of your coffee vending machines in order to save time and send your employees back as quick as possible to their desks, well… change your mind. The more they can share while sipping some Java (and Sumatra) coffee beans the better for your business because there is no chatting software that can play such a good communication system than a good face to face discussion. People is having coffee despite your opinion, so maximize the benefits of this inevitable trend.
2) Don’t outsource, crowdsource
As soon as we face a problem we don’t know how to face we tend to outsource: the biggest mistake is to outsource not the problem itself but our capability to solve it. Next time try to crowdsource instead outsource. Someone see the workplace as big crowdsource platform, why not to be one of those?
3) Wear those shoes (finally)
How many times did you say the magic sentence: “if you only could be in my shoes you would understand”. Well, do it. Institutionalize a “exchange your shoes (job) day” and let people do one other job with the owner of that role supervision. It is a tremendous tool to understand the complexity of others life, learn how things work and create a strong relation between people that have to work together, maybe after you put in practice a good SNA (Social Network Analysis) to discover the nodes in your organization. You can start from people inside the same network, but then you can enlarge the circles and enlarge the effects.
The business you are playing today receive tons of micro signals once unknown, so you must be adaptive like your body on the board.
4) Humans are humans
Experience can become a real company asset. Humans are humans both if their chat status is green or red. In other words it is not “to be” on duty that make a human different. Smartness, experience, knowledge and humanity are the same off and on duty. So why not start considering the experience of humans inside your organization as complete asset independently by their role in the organization? You’ll have amazing surprises if you’ll start allowing people to bring their life time experience inside the organization, because they are very very skilled about one subject: their own life.
5) Let’s Surf
You’ve been trained to act like John Wayne: one word, one vision, one mission. Relax a little. Keep the word and the mission but enlarge your vision and make it flexible. Like when you are skateboarding your body keeps on micro-adjusting your balance on the board, do the same. Be ready to counter balance the micro-effects of the surfing given by winds, tide and waves. The business you are playing today receive tons of micro signals once unknown, so you must be adaptive like your body on the board. Let your team react as quick as possible even with small actions, even if those seems out of your vision. As we say in Italy: there is no worst blind man or woman that the one that don’t want to see.
6) Create some bottleneck
To be cooperative and participative doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be a little coercive sometimes. Let’s talk for example about attach in the emails: do you know those 50 Gb that start flying all over your mail system growing up CC after CC? Why did you built teamrooms for if people keep on sharing docs and contents all over the Web sending emails with huge attaches? So give a strong signal to your team, like: “I’ll never read anymore e-mails with an attach. Please note: mails with attach will be automatically deleted”. You’ll get buzz for the first two days, on the third day your teamroom will automatically start to become what it has been designed for. A place for sharing common knowledge.
7) Banality needs data
Data are fundamental, but data are dangerously sexy too and you can fall in love with them or better with the idea of what data could mean. It’s great when you can support your opinion in front of an audience with the last research on the subject. Who can say the opposite if “the last research said so”? But sometimes data are a wonderful way to hide the truth. In the social world it is better sometimes to rely on the analysis of more simple and rough data models which are far better to try to forecast the future instead of complex data models which are more indicated to understand and analyse the past. The opinion of a user published on a social network can destroy in one day months of statistical scenarios about a product demand by the target audience. So fall in love with data, but with care.
To be cooperative and participative doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be a little coercive sometimes.
8) Plan B (and C and D and E…)
Despite all your good plans things can follow other ways far from your plans. So, not very differently from your daily life, think about different possible scenarios and instead to try to understand what exactly will happen, think about different possible way in which things can happen. An example? To build value around a good author with a spontaneous number of followers inside your organization could be the best choice vs. to build a fully new communication channel to drive messages to the audience. Keep eyes and ears open to what is happening around and don’t be scared to surf it.
9) KPI (Keep Positive Instincts)
Your becoming social is a quite different story from others initiatives you’ve taken inside your organization. It goes to a deeper level that involves the soul of your company, in other words, the people. There are a lot of kpi’s you could rely on to measure the success of your social behaviour, but do not rush. Try to start without thinking (and looking for) immediately to the results: compared to other management actions the outcome you got out here is, if possible, even more related to what you put in. So start focusing on the quality of the inputs instead, only, of the outcomes.
10) “To be” instead “to be part of”
Give the “power” to the people inside your organization needs the “power” to make it happen. Need you to believe them and them to believe you. If you build this mutual act of faith you’ll let them “to be” the company instead “to be a part of the company”. Try to imagine the positive and negative “power” of this concept when ideally anyone in your organization could deal with the end customer.