Embrace the subcultures

Posted: September 19, 2012 in E20, SocialBiz

the subculture In my last post I talked about how culture comes first for your Enterprise Social Network (ESN). Without the right culture, which is generally a product of the senior leaders, your companies social platform may flounder. However that isn’t always the case, there may be instances when someone in the organisation has taken the lead on deploying the ESN platform and stopped there. Sometimes the organisation takes a “build it and they will come approach”, perhaps project funds run out during the change management program or perhaps the change management program wasn’t successful. In any case, the end result is you have a social collaboration platform ready to be used by anyone that wants to.

This is when true magic happens.

We often hear about the Gartner adoption curve and how the innovators or early adopters are the ones that jump on board. Now here’s insight #1 – the early adopters dont need to be specific individuals, the passionate folk trail-blazing the new technologies. Early adopters can be entire groups or departments of people that recognise the power of ESN’s and can adapt it to their specific business needs.

One of the biggest “a-ha” moments for me was when a manufacturing plant became a very early adopter. They saw in the collaboration platform a “digital cork-board” where they could post shift-reports (being a 24hr operation), information on production lines and general news such as OH&S tips etc. They adopted not only the short sharp messages of the microblogs but also regular blogs and calendaring. It was an “a-ha” moment because had we spent the time talking to these people prior to implementation we would have identified the business need (sharing of information across shifts) along with the problem (lack of richness in current platforms including multi-way conversations, ease of historical conversation tracking) and found a very clear use case.

So insight #2 is embrace the sub-cultures. Dont assume that the entire organisation has a particular culture and that every department or group will act the same way. While i’ve seen some tightly controlled deployments the danger with that is that you’ll corral disparate business teams into an accepted framework. The flip side is that an open self-service platform whereby anyone can create their own communities might provide you with some surprises while learning a little more about the business.

I’m not a change manager but the obvious other aspect of this insight is that you need to be aware of these differences in your change and training programs. Work out the “what’s in it for me” message for as many of the sub-cultures as you can and iteratively adapt the message as you see the evolving use cases.

So while the company culture  plays a big part in mass adoption there’ll no doubt be some great opportunities and some surprises when you embrace the sub-cultures.

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