Taking time to reflect, and connect

Re-reading articles from my Culture, Connectivity and Engagement class a year ago is really interesting. I realize that I’m in a much different place. I don’t know if that is as a result of additional classes I’ve taken, where work has taken me, or the fact that I’m not reading the articles for the first time. Most likely it is a product of all of these factors taken together.

I’m also more in the mindset of application and reinforcement rather than measurement. While measurement is of course important, I now realize there are plenty of models for that as well as organizations happy to do it for you. And that side of things is not really where my passion lies anyway. What is much more interesting is helping people to find guidance to address the areas they find need attention; and tools to support them on their journey.

Happily, I’m reminded of the myriad ways that the social intranet that I help manage has to support improving employee engagement and cohesion. For example,

Need to be more public about employee recognition?

  • Make a comment on an employee’s post telling the world why you think it is great!
  • Write your own post pointing to the exceptional work of a few select individuals.
  • Support an employee-led program to select exemplary individuals on a quarterly basis, and use your community to showcase the nominations and awards.

Is management trust lacking?

  • Commit to frequent, regular community posts that are authentically you.
  • Allow people to post questions, even the uncomfortable ones, and give frank answers.
  • Publicly ask “dumb” questions yourself when you have them to show that you are a real person, and that asking questions is OK.

Want to encourage more weak ties?

  • Bring non-obvious people into conversations when you know (or suspect) they have something to contribute
  • Encourage creation of areas for social collaboration
  • Promote open rather than closed collaboration, and allow “outsiders” to comment on conversations

Trying to encourage a learning mindset?

  • Make the class rosters public in the community
  • Spotlight when employees and managers earn certificates or degrees
  • Encourage discussions about learning rather than finished, shiny outcomes

And I very much appreciate the reminder from Lorsch and McTague (Culture is not the Culprit, HBR April 2016) that culture is the product of these kinds of changes rather than the place to focus your efforts.

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Thinking Out Loud … On Design Thinking

Full disclosure – I’m writing again for class. And I’ve been agonizing for a while now, thinking that I’ve been being a slacker and not doing any “homework” for my independent study. Well, yesterday as I was reading a book that had been recommended during my summer class, I realized that it absolutely qualifies as independent study. And better than that, there are even concepts that I think I can use in the project that I’m planning to pursue as well as in my day-to-day work. So here goes nothing, thinking aloud about what I’ve been reading in Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely.

The big concept I was reading about yesterday had to do with how we as humans react to things that are free. Funny thing – my daughter and I were just talking about this the other day. She is smitten with free things – even things that she knows she’ll end up carrying home and throwing away. So I can honestly say I’ve frequently watched this behavior play out in my own household.

But how might I employ this knowledge in terms of driving engagement in an external community? Here is the part where I’m truly thinking out loud. One of the ways I imagine I’d want to use an external community is to gather feedback about product direction. Put these two things together, and I can see simply asking customers to participate in a survey. No gimmicks, just help give us a bunch of data that will help us in our design efforts. This leans on social norms, presenting a friendly request for assistance. Obviously there is the possibility that participation will help design a better product, but with no guarantees it is really good faith on the part of the participant.

Of course, you can only go to the well so many times and people get tired of helping out. So perhaps we could use the built-in community rules engine to periodically invite people who have participated in surveys to participate in a different way – offer them a free gift as a token of appreciation for their participation. The free gift could be some corporate merchandise (a backpack, or a laptop sleeve, for example).

How about the idea of asking a select set of customers to write blog posts on a product or industry topic, and everyone who submits their post by a specific date gets entered into a drawing for free admission to the company’s annual user conference? I think there you actually have a few things going on the customer side of it – the probability of gaining recognition as an expert by having your post published, along with the possibility of getting free admission to a premiere event.

The platform could also be used to market the conference, and offer up some select spots in one of the breakout sessions for customers who help moderate a specific topic area in the community for a given set of time.

I’m sure as I think more about this topic, I’ll come up with additional suggestions. And now I don’t need to feel guilty about reading this book and avoiding homework. Maybe I’m not as bad at independent study as I thought, I just need to take the time to reflect on what I’m learning and what the possible applications might be.