When I first started blogging and thinking about social media influencing learning and improving performance on the job, it was slowly sinking in and I think today I have a lot more clarity. I have changed teams within the same organization and dealt with people with a very old school of thought versus people who though are not big fans of social media but are quite open to it when I talk about the benefits. In my previous team, no one really thought much about it except a few managers who added the activity in my goals to make sure I find ways to benefit the entire team. People with not open to try a new way of communication and wanted to hold on to traditional email for everything. A basic thing as finding your remote team counter-part online itself was an issue. On being asked they responded saying they don't 'like' to be online so the best way to contact them was email. That was not an effective solution for a team distributed globally. It made things very complicated. I tried giving people suggestions to blog and share their knowledge about a product area on the wiki and use the forums instead of email. I sent invites over our internal networking site and also tried to encourage people to use tweet but participation was poor, and it was hard to show any substantial benefits.
The thing missing then was the enthusiasm to look at a new way of communicating. I can empathize with that thought as I realize it was even hard for me to explain how everyone would benefit from participating. Once I moved into a different team I made it a point to share my interest in social media and my blog. My team was more open to the use of certain other tools like tweet and instant messaging. That was a good start. A team of over 100 people used tweet as a medium to receive updates on the status of a product environment, uptimes, downtime etc. It quick and hassle-free. Given that I had already earned the reputation of being an advocate of social media, I'd have people question me about the use of various tools. Things do get easier when people ask questions, because then you know that they want to learn. Even if some were mildly resistant to the idea, I managed to come up with a few examples of using certain social tools and benefit from them when compared to the current way people were doing them. I had to clarify the bigger goal these tools aim to achieve and the fact that they are not perfect but constantly evolving.
In a more recent instance of a similar conversation amongst my team, I was able to push out the benefits of using a white board in conferences for brain storming and aiding a group discussion. I was happy with the positive reactions. Later on today, I was contacted by someone from my previous team. He conveyed that they were planning to use social media to help technical writers do their job more easily. He asked me of what I thought about it to improve the quality of technical documents. He had reservations like so many from the old school of thought about things like, what if information on social networking sites is inaccurate? I surprised myself with my clear response to his queries. My response made the following points:
- Our company has a bunch of social networking and business collaboration tools that one can use. Blogs are available both externally and internally.
- Imagine a community of employees from various product teams collaborating with customers and partners, about the product on the company blog. A plethora of information is shared over time. Implementations experiences, customizations, problems faced, workarounds, solutions, best practices, tips and tricks....the list is never ending when there is a community.
- So, if an individual has to blog 'inaccurate' information they will soon realize they have a greater responsibility to the community. When someone blogs they are in the glare of the public eye. Experts and novices will read the information and validate if they found it useful or not. If someone's information is not satisfactory, they automatically receive less traffic and someone in the community would let them know about their view of the content. So generally everyone would try to give their best rather than their worst.
- Your blog or profile becomes your public image and people know and respect you for the thoughts you share and the value you add to the community.
- Moreover, blogging what you know helps you organize knowledge you've gathered over time in a meaningful fashion and clarify several areas you may be in the process of figuring out. What is nice is that you're able to keep a record of what you thought and how your knowledge evolved over time.
- For large corporations where knowledge is distributed in unknown pockets, social media can be the medium of discovering that wealth of knowledge and putting it to good use.