Saturday, 13 September 2014

Knowledge Accidents Happen When You Work Out Loud

In 2013 I heard Jon Mell from IBM speak with great passion and conviction about the use of social media in the workplace. One quote really stuck with me:

"Knowledge accidents happen when you work out loud"


In a business context this is the equivalent of a tea point or water cooler moment. You're taking a break from your work and as you clean your mug or squeeze your teabag you either discover a piece of interesting gossip OR a way that your respective work projects are linked or could be mutually beneficial. In a social context it's the equivalent of chatting about friends, contacts or significant dates and discovering a commonality which increases the bond between two individuals.

For a business, social interaction can improve an outcome, save duplication, increase collaboration and lead to innovation. After all - everything is a remix - it's the way we combine and adapt existing ideas or concepts that can lead to great breakthroughs.

"But the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together creative leaps can be made, producing some of history's biggest breakthroughs." (everythingisaremix.info)

One way to create the effect of 'working out loud' is to use social media in the workplace.

In my experience the introduction of a social media platform (Yammer) in a Government Department had mixed results. There were early adopters who embraced the concept and were keen to share their projects and interesting articles. Some of the early users over-shared and strayed into more general updates and social experiences. This tended to turn off those who were exploring the possibilities of the system for the first time.



Many times I heard comments such as:

"If people have time to use 'Facebook' at work then they haven't got enough to do."

As one of the early adopters I also created a private group for the HR Business Partners across the department but I didn't succeed in convincing my colleagues of its potential range of benefits.  It could have allowed us:
  • to catch up on the key points of meetings we'd been unable to attend,
  • to let our colleagues know if we were going to be late,
  • to share comments on a draft report or paper,
  • to share common issues and solutions from across the department.
All of the above usually resulted in multiple emails and email chains clogging up our InBoxes which used to aggrieve me greatly.

There was a significant impact when one Director General became a regular contributor to Yammer. She used it to report back on Board Meetings and praise colleagues for projects and achievements. Interestingly - during a period of extended leave for this Director General, the rest of the Board considered whether a rota would be the most appropriate way to maintain the Board's input into Yammer. The far more powerful outcome would have been for all Board Members to make regular contributions and signal to the organisation how much they valued the medium.

One of the key factors to the mixed response was that the system was not integrated with any of the existing work platforms. If the system was integrated with the HR Platform or intranet and didn't require a separate login, it could create a more valid and respectable arena, leading to enhancements in decision making, collaboration and communication. An integrated system could also allow for real time feedback and suggestions for contacts or tailored training opportunities.

In his recent talk at the Changeboard Future Talent Conference Alex Lowe from Google showed a picture of their canteen. There was a quite a large queue waiting to be served in the photograph. This was apparently an intentional part of the design of the canteen space to encourage conversation.

Companies such as IBM have developed impressive solutions which provide an effortless and bespoke experience for employees. Solutions such as these allow more global 'working out loud' but never underestimate the wonder of what you can find out when you're cleaning your mug at the tea point. Here's to more working out loud.

Cheers

Ross

PS Here is one of my favourite videos from the 'everything is a remix website'.