Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Overcoming objections to social media reblogged

I found a great post by called Using social media in your nonprofit: overcoming objections, written by Debra Askanase. She writes about the need to engage in social media as a nonprofit, because conversations are happening online anyway. Her angle is more an organisational identity building angle, whereas I investigate the potential of social media for professionalisation and learning. But the objections are very recognisable.

She lists 5 objections she heard while presenting about social media

1. It’s not safe! What about the BU Craigslist killer? (someone REALLY asked this question in the presentation)
2. What if our biggest rival pretends to be us online?
3. Social media means a lot of work and we don’t have the staff time to do that.
4. There is no place in our organization for social media
5. People will attack us online with negative critique.

For each objection, she gives some answers. I liked the practical example of two organisations that practise 'online listening' through social media:

Carie Lewis from the Humane Society of the US (she’s their Brand Ambassador) holds a 9-minute staff meeting every day to inform each and every one of the HSUS employees about “what’s going on that day - PR, what people are talking about on Twitter, etc.”

Wendy Harman, of the American Red Cross, writes that “We distribute a daily social media update email that contains a sampling of most relevant mentions.” Everyone must be involved. No more silos.

Other objections I often hear are fear for using software that is not within the organisation's firewall, fear for information overload (not seeing the trees through the forest). In development low bandwidth is also used as an excuse. Yet, taking into account how many people you work with are comfortable using social media is a necessary step. I think a lot of the objections boil down to fear for the unknown, something new.

One newspaper article was very sceptical about twitter in terms of social relations, fearing that the loose relationships are mistaken for real relationships. I think that is typically a view of a person who hasn't experienced twitter. If you do, you see it is a new communication means that people use, but it is complementary to all other means.

See also the 10 objections to social media I blogged earlier on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yes we can, but very slowly (and not always)

A modern British LED Traffic Light (Siemens He...Image via Wikipedia

In a newspaper magazine I read about volunteers who go to work in Uganda in "alsof je de trein naar Zandvoort neemt". I agree with the conclusion drawn in the very realistic and recognisable article: see volunteering in countries like Uganda as an investment in yourself, and don't expect to change anything in 1,2 or even 6 months. There was a great example:
Two Dutch teachers: we were going to form couples with the Ugandan teachers to guide the children. However, we noted that these teachers were already a bit tired of volunteers because they try to change everything. Someone introduced a method from Dalton, with a traffic light system. Red means by quiet, Orange- you can ask questions and Green - you can talk freely. Whenever we entered, they would quickly put up the traffic light, but they would never use it.
This sounds like a very real situation. What can we learn from it in terms of change management?

1. You need to have a constructive helper relationship before you can facilitate change. People need to trust you and your interventions. There is imported trust (or mistrust) too. The Ugandan teachers were already tired of the volunteers. So for any volunteer it would be harder to build a relationship with the teachers in which they trust their interventions.

2. Change within a short time period will only work if it fits within the main system and respects the change rhythm of the people involved. The Dutch teachers frame of mind is too different from the Ugandan situation. Only small changes (single loop) changes are possible. Deeper change processes affecting the way we work take much more time.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Are your community's lurkers healthy lurkers?

I facilitated a teleconference with Mirjam Neelen for CPsquare. Mirjam is doing a thesis on this topic and shared her literature research with us. It struck me how much more you dive into a topic if you have to facilitate it, you suddenly feel more responsible and really invest in the topic. I've blogged about lurking before, investigating whether lurking in online forums is a sort of legitimate peripheral participation that leads to people learning about the practices of a community of practice. This time we tried to analyze whether lurking in online forums is a problem or a bliss for companies. The definition of lurking is as people who NEVER post, hence they don't share their questions, ideas or suggestions online.

What did I learn about lurking? First, most of all recognized that lurking can be very positive. Lurking into an online forum because you feel you are a novice can make you more expert. Or scanning a wide variety of online forum to know what's happening in other fields (helps boundary crossing). Something that really struck me in Mirjam's paper was the observation by Stegbauer that if participants remained inactive for the first four months, the likelihood for them to become active was minimized. I recognized this from my own behaviour. That means there is a crucial period to try and get participants active, to stimulate active participation. Mirjam outlined a wide variety of barriers that may lead to lurking behaviour and withold members from posting:
  • Interpersonal barriers- loss of face
  • Procedural barriers- people don't buy into the recommended ways of sharing (could be called preferential barriers?)
  • Technological barriers - lack of technological aptitude
  • Cultural barriers- crosscultural differences
'Healthy' lurking processes are probably situation where people are novices and learn by lurking or interdisciplinary lurking. It becomes unhealthy when important information and knowledge is missed out because of the above mentioned barriers. Suppose an online community is missing out all major experts because they continue to change offline, then some bridging needs to be done to ensure the online community doesn't become marginalized and mediocre. I guess an analyisis of inbound trajectories whereby people move from lurking to being active or core members are key to seeing whether lurking is healthy. What are the community's practice to stimulate sharing of ideas and perspectives?

What did I learn about online facilitation? I made it into a sort of exercise in online facilitation for myself, designing and online-teleconference-online sequence. The idea was to collect lurker stories online, discuss the research focussing on lurking behaviour in online corporate community forums, and go back online to brainstorm about research questions. The first part worked well, but there was no energy to go back online to discuss the research questions. I think I should have changed the initial plan into a topic that might have attracted more energy for the participants of the teleconference, like research methodologies. What really paid off was to prepare it all together beforehand in a skype session. That's an investment that really pays off in terms of quality.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

See me typing life..

This week I'm not too busy- great to read and write! Wrapping up a project. Feels like I have more room to think of new things to undertake. One of the really unnecessary things I discovered in livetyping. It shows exactly how you typed something, including the typos :). (through Willem Karssenberg). I'm lucky I'm not working for a company- they'd probably think I'm wasting my time though it's really clearing my head and refreshing me.

Might be something I will never really use, but it's nice to know this is possible. Another nice thing to play with is 1001 fonts. I really like the handwriting fonts.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Follow the instructions or think for yourself?

I found this cartoon on the blog of Marnix Catteeuw. If you can't read the text, you can go to his blog. It was originally posted on the xkcd blog.

I fell into the same trap when I was trying to locate a physiotherapist with google maps. I thought it was handy that you can locate them on the map immediately. I discovered later that the good old fat yellow pages had many more referrals than google maps..

Great reminder that good professionals think for themselves and don't routinely follow the instructions..

Friday, June 05, 2009

Schein's ten step culture deciphering process for enterprise2.0

I've reread Schein's Organizational Culture and Leadership. I read it in 2001 with the organisational change processes of Ghanaian organisations in mind. Now I'm reading it with social media introduction glasses. It's been a joy to read it, such good understanding and so practically applicable.

About a learning culture in organisations Schein writes that we don't know tomorrow's world,but we know it will be different, more complex, more fast-paced and more culturally diverse. Hence the need for organisations and their leaders to become perpetual learners. So there is a need to speed up our learning processes and mechanisms. I think social media can contribute to that. But there is a paradox with culture in organisations, culture being a stabilizer, a way to make things predictable. Strong cultures are stable and hard to change. So does it mean that we need more flexibility to change assumptions? A rapidly learning organisation will change its assumptions too.

How and when to assess cultural dimensions? Schein is very strongly saying that it is not useful to assess culture as part of a desire to change the culture. Rather, there should be a clear goal, an organisational problem to be worked on. If that problem has cultural dimensions, it would be good to assess culture and how the shared assumptions support or get in the way of solving the problem of the organisation.

If that is the case, you can use a ten-step culture assessment process to decipher the assumptions at work within the organisation. The steps role from obtaining leadership commitment, via group interviews to identifying artifacts and espoused values. From there you go to the shared tacit assumptions and identify cultural aids and hindrances in relation to the stated problem.

How does this relate to social media introduction in organisations? I think it is very relevant because social media is not introduced out of the blue, but linked to a certain objective. (see the POST model from the Groundswell). If you take the additional step of doing a culture assessment, it would help to decipher assumptions at play which help or hinder the use of social media. Though you may generalize by stating that you need a 'open' or 'knowledge sharing' culture this is so general that it's not helpful. The culture deciphering process could help you to find cultural or subcultural elements that need to shift. And elements that are already in place that match the use of social media for a certain objective. It will definitely increase the chances for success I strongly believe.

I would be very interested in trying this process out in an organization!