How to better connect, share and lead

Lessons from reading ‘Social Technologies in Business’

Communication in the old days. Picture by Ryan McGuire

While working on a major knowledge management initiative at my company, I came in touch with Isabel Declercq’s community The Future of Work. Digital. Social. Agile. Till that date, I had a hard time to understand the foundations of a successful knowledge management practice, especially because there is no single definition of what that actually means.

Through the interactions with the community’s members, I discovered that an important key to successful dealing with knowledge lies in human conversation. This is where social technology comes into the picture. Nowadays you need social technology (like Jive, Yammer or Facebook Workplace) to create strong connections between co-workers that maintain your company’s expertise. How to implement social technology in business is exactly the topic of a new book written by Isabel Declercq and several co-authors of this Yammer community.

After reading the book, my overall impression was that my implementation of Yammer (although still young) is well aligned with the recommendations in this book. That being said, I was able to find a dozen of great insights. This is also reflected in how my copy of the book looks now: full of text highlights, annotations and dog ears. Read on for my lessons from Social Technologies in Business.

#1: Generosity

Social technologies facilitate what John Stepper describes as “Working Out Loud” (WOL). This is an approach that aims to build relationships that can help you in some way in or outside of work.

Isabel Declercq reminded me in her book that generosity is key to make that happen:

At the heart of #WOL is networking, interaction with people on social media. (…) It’s not about getting things; it’s about giving, contributing to a community. Your knowledge, thoughts and ideas are a gift handed over in a generous, genuine way.

For me, this means that you need a minimum of trust in your workplace before you can start a community on Yammer or Jive. If people see each other as competitors, chances are high the social technology will be seen as a forum for self-promotion and the community will never flourish. Leaders can help to create a trustworthy environment by uniting people around a shared purpose, such as stopping HIV, Ebola and Tuberculosis in my case.

#2: Personal leadership

When implementing any piece of enterprise software, buying and installing it is only a tiny piece in its adoption. In the case of social technology, individuals need to develop themselves so they will not fall into the trap of information overload. That’s why Isabel Declercq rightfully writes:

The only healthy relationship we can develop with technology is a conscious one. Yes, it requires discipline, focus, self-consciousness and self-leadership. And common sense too.

I like how she connects information overload with self-leadership, developing rituals and mindfulness. In the end one should use technology for a purpose and not to start scrolling through your Facebook wall or Twitter feed during boring moments. Hence, social media should be a planned and deliberative activity. Common sense, right? In my case, the threshold for journalists, “thought leaders” and politicians to get into my Twitter feed just got much higher.

#3: Micro-blogging language

Social technologies are typically fast media. What was shared yesterday can already be completely out-dated today. That’s why it makes no sense to share lengthy posts in a social networking tool. That’s why you are reading this article on Medium and not Twitter :-)

In that context, I like very much how Geert Nijs thought the people at KBC that a good micro-post consists of 2 sentences: one with the core message and one with the expect action or a reference to more information. In addition, people can add signaling words, include hashtags and mention other people. These are very simple ground-rules but I believe they can help a lot to get people started.

#4: More, more, more…

Believe me, my copy of the book does not really look new anymore. That’s because there was so much to highlight and scribble in the margin. Here are a few of my other insights:

  • I started some Communities of Practice already but did not think about a crucial one: a community for the people that are helping to drive those communities.
  • A lot of effort was put to make charter, but felt sad that I did not come across Veerle Eylenbosch’s suggestion to make this a collaborative effort with the people that it is intended for. That being said we used end-user involvement in almost all other implementation steps.
  • It was great fun to try out Adobe Spark and make a little video to introduce one of my innovation projects. People liked it a lot and it demonstrates that using a social technology at work can be fun as well. I still need to find some memes that would fit in as well.
  • In the articles of Celine Schillinger and Anders Vinther on Medium, I had already learned how their interpretation of Edward Deming’s management principles had a significant impact on Sanofi Pasteur’s manufacturing quality. Still it was nice to read in the book how Yammer played a key role in all of this. If this book had been published in 2016, I could have picked right way some phrases for the business cases of my projects this year. It also led me to some further thoughts in What Quality & Compliance have in common with devilish rap songs & fidget spinners.
  • In many of the case studies, I observed that communication goes beyond the barriers of individual tools. What is shared online can be re-used again in offline team meetings. Or, offline one can discuss what would be useful lessons learned to share online. Although social technologies are mainly used asynchronously, they can also used for synchronous communication (so-called Yamjams). E.g. by allowing people to post questions and have them answered in real-time by a senior leader.

If you are planning to implement social technology in your company, you can save a lot of time by reading this book. For those that have already adopted a social technology, I am sure you can still find some great insights for continuous improvement, like I did.

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This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not necessarily those of my employer. Moreover, this article does not represent any opinion (positive or negative) about the activities my employer undertakes in this domain.

Erwin De beuckelaer

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Idea hunter💡& fire-starter 🔥@janssenbelgium. Works on innovation in healthcare, training and quality. Loves mountain-biking & cappuccino. Proud dad of 2.