Sunday, April 05, 2009

Can you shift your organisational culture by introducing social media?

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This post may be a little chaotic as I'm using it to get a grip on some of my ideas about social media for organisations. Tomorrow I'm going to write with Sibrenne Wagenaar; we are writing a booklet on social media for learning and collaboration. We start with social media for professionals (individuals), then teams, then organisations. It's the organisational chapter that needs much more thinking. I once asked on twitter whether the exchange on twitter is not similar to the chats with your co-located workers. Someone replied that is it not, that on twitter people are far more open to sharing and helping each other. This started me thinking about the fact that introducing an internal twitter system would NOT make people share. The term enterprise2.0 is often used. But is that an open, creative organisation or is it an organisation with web2.0 tools? In my opinion, an organisation with less web2.0 tools could be more 'enterprise2.0' in terms of culture than an organisation that has a lot of web2.0 tools but lacks the culture.

One confusion is brought by the fact that organisations can embrace social media from so many different angles. I see a higher emphasis on social media from a marketing perspectives than from a learning perspective. If you jump on it for marketing purposes, you will have a different focus and process than when you want to explore how social media can stimulate learning and knowledge sharing processes. But probably in both cases, it has to match your organisational culture too.

Tools and culture: is your organisational culture ready for social media or do you want to shift the culture by introducing social media?. I'm re-reading Schein: organisational culture and leadership. Schein explains very well how cultures are created and reproduced. And that it's possible to influence cultures in organisations. At times I hear that an organisation is using wikis. Or uses Sharepoint internally with the blog function. An organisation seems enterprise2.0 enough because it has tools like blogs, wikis and social bookmarking. However, the juice of social media is far more in the culture of openly sharing knowledge, collaboration, and engaging in co-creation. Having the tools does not mean you have improved the collaboration between your professionals. So what is the actual change that you are envisioning? Can social media play a role in this? But what are the other interventions that are needed to help change the organisational culture? I see a lot of potential for change management professionals to help organisations with this process. On the other hand, there may be organisations that are already having an open culture in which social media fit neatly. But probably these organisations do not need any accompanying change process or at least a different process? So you'd have to start with assessing the culture of the organisation and see whether there is a match or a mismatch with social media cultures.

Another dilemma is how to balance individual preferences and creativity versus uniformity in tools. Back to the original question: what organisational processes do you feel can really be supported by social media? What is the organisational change that you envisage? I don't think there is any organisation that is completely enterprise1.0. I'm sure there are employees engaging in social media individually and that most do use wikipedia for instance. But a real enterprise2.0 is an open, collaborative, creative organisation that leverages the tools to the advantage of the functioning of the organisation. In this organisation: do professionals choose their own tools and are proficient in using them or do they work with the preferential toolset of the organisation?

By the way a nice guide of where to start with social media can be found here on the technotheory blog. However, this is also written from the assumption that you use social media to promote your organisation or products, not to stimulate internal learning processes.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Joitske said...

Thanks Tessa, you're welcome!

Simone Staiger said...

Hi Joitske,
Tools and culture: From my perspective and for whatever you try to introduce in an organization you have to start with a small group of interested people, try things out (re. some social media tools) and see where this leads you and the org. Each of these experiments is a collaborative effort per se. From my experience the only thing that works is learning by doing and then mainstream if it worked on a small scale.
While doing some social media capacity building in the CG I felt that it was very much successful in empowering junior staff, they went into a real learning process. When we targeted the senior communications staff later on, the entry point was more the opportunities for org. Promotion.
Finally, for me the power of web 2.0 is the panoply of possibilities and the freedom to choose the tool. Ideally the organization should then be able to mash up the content independently from which tool it comes. No?

Joitske said...

Hi Simone, this is something I'm thinking about- you could say give everyone the tools and see what they do!. I see management often goes into the direction of marketing etc. But you could see if from the point of view of a change process towards a more open, knowledge sharing, innovative culture. Then it probably needs a bit more than giving the tools because it will perpetuate the existing culture... would love to try this out in an organisation!

marnix said...

why not take it the other way around :
see which processes you want to install, then find the tools which support these best


Joitske said...

Hi Marnix, I think it is good to look at the processes- but then there are still so many tools that match the process... if you say, we want to build a repository, you can think of a wiki, but often when you dig into the question the question is far more complex. It depends on your perspective what you will do. I think people underestimate the cultural change.

marnix said...

I am an engineer, and I sometimes say : "processes are the agreed way of doing things, when we do it unconsciously, they become our culture ..."

Amanda Crowe said...

Social media marketing is the process of promoting your site or business through social media channels and it is a powerful strategy that will get you links. Social Media Marketing Spend to Hit $3.1 Billion by 2014. I have a question, does social media marketing boost the bottom line?