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Choice matters.

Posted by Gia Lyons on July 9, 2008

Something my pal JD successfully hammered into my head last week caused a lightbulb moment.

Employees can choose not to use enterprise social environments.

About to dive inDo you have a customer relationship management (CRM), procurement, portal, or other software you are forced – yes, forced – to use by your company? Me too. I have no choice. But when it comes to social networking and collaborative applications, there’s no “force” about it. I can choose to use it or not.

This means that the traditional way of implementing “you gotta use this” software doesn’t really work with social enterprise solutions.

So, what does work? Think about the things you use in your life that you don’t really need to use, but want to use. It’s all the things that you could live without if you had to. And I’m not talking about choosing a less expensive model of something you consider a necessity (e.g., selecting a discount diaper bag over a Coach diaper bag – a mom’s gotta have a diaper bag).

Why do you use those things? You get some kind of personal satisfaction out of them. Can you say that for your company’s CRM or procurement applications? The authors of Groundswell refer to one type of this personal satisfaction as psychic income.

I wish I had a magic answer for my customers about what kinds of things constitute personal satisfaction for everyone in their organizations, but then I’d just sound like a dumb software vendor wonk. Instead, I’d rather spend time with my customers to help them figure it out. Because one person’s satisfaction is another’s irritation.

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12 Responses to “Choice matters.”

  1. Whenever I present, I keep telling the audience the same thing every time: this works for me, it may not for you. And that’s o-k (Al Franken moment).

    Invariably, when I use this non-threatening approach, someone steps up to share a personal experience in using these tools, which further strengthens my presentation.

  2. Gia Lyons said

    Zackly, JF. What is frustrating to those responsible for getting people to use social environments, though, is that they feel like they must figure out the “carrot” for their organization’s critical mass before they even attempt to implement an adoption campaign. And of course, it turns out that they need to figure out many carrots to attract several different demographics in their organizations.

  3. I think there is a big issue with ‘carrots’ though. Giving people a carrot contingent on a certain behaviour is not the way to engage them within social environments. Carrots change the motivation for people to participate and share their knowledge. People should share, because of intrinsic motivation to contribute to the public good, rather than because of extrinsic motivators like carrots. I think if you offer people carrots contingent on participation this fundamentally changes the reasons for their participation and soon they will begin to think of their knowledge as having economic value which needs to be bought using carrots. Rather it’s better to recogise those valuable contributors within the community. To extrinsically reward people for participation though will leading to an increase in participation, but a decrease in the quality of knowledge exchanged and shared.

  4. troyjen said

    Personal opinion – forcing Social Networking is akin to forcing a confession. The final content you get out of such activities will mostly be false, contrived, and just not all that useful.

    The other piece of it is that I consider it to be much more of a bottoms up media, than a tops down. You can’t force a grass roots effort.

  5. Another factor in a person’s choice about which social environments to use is who else is using the environments in question. Enterprise environments are usually (always?) behind the firewall, and while there may be ways to give access to clients and partners, there’s often process overhead and time lag in doing so… and these visiting or honorary members are probably not as invested in using the environment as the employees, who are natives.

    Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, people may work for an enterprise, but their professional networks span institutions. We need social environments that let us interact with our choice of people, whomever their employer. Note our collective use of Twitter, for example. I wonder if there’s already a demand for this sort of public social environment with more security and accountability — e.g., an offering from an industry association to meet the social needs of an industry vertical.

  6. Gia Lyons said

    @3 Richard, what if a carrot is to get one-off questions out of email and into a public discussion forum? If I were an SME, that would be a big carrot for me. But, I agree: reward systems need to change to encourage social behavior.

    @4 Troy, agreed. But, you can fertilize the grassroots effort, I’m thinking. Just need to find the right shit. :)

    @5 Ruth, yes! In fact, what you describe is what Jive’s roadmap reflects (soon to be made public). Create “one” environment – with proper controls, of course – that enables an extended enterprise (employees, customers, potential customers, business partners, former employees, etc.) to interact.

  7. troyjen said

    Gia, so you seem to have settled on a “crappy” theme for the day :-)

  8. Sid said

    So, what happens if you really really want to use social software but the tool your Enterprise has gone for sucks (read SharePoint)? Buy a bigger bag of carrots?

  9. Gia Lyons said

    @7 You *know* it always comes down to poop with me. :)

  10. Gia Lyons said

    @8 Sid, I think you just encapsulated my point. The software needs to be usable enough to become a non-issue.

  11. @6 A colleague recently wanted to send out an email to thousands of people asking them to join a new internal community. They were going to say they would give prizes to the top contributors after a few weeks. Once I heard of this I asked them to change it. At the end, we compromised and they said they would award prizes (e.g. ipods etc) to a random selection of participants in the community. I actually have an issue with rewards in general. Rewards and punishments are 2 sides of the same coin. They are both very effective at producing compliance

    I feel with a carrot you are saying it is inherently desirable to give a reward, that people ought to get something for what they contribute quite apart from the consequences this may bring. In a collaborative environment where everyones input together results in the creation of a knowledge repository i.e. individual achievement typically is built on the work of other people’s earlier efforts, who “deserves” the reward when lots of people had a hand in the performance? I feel we should not treat people like pets and try to implement behaviour modification programs within social environments.

    People should participate because of the 3 Cs. These are:
    Content – The social environment has content which people want to engage with and contribute to
    Collaboration – We are social creatures and like to join in discussions and meet others.
    Choice – The more people feel part of a process, the more their point of view is solicited, and they more choice they have over their participation, the more likely they will contribute.

  12. In it something is. I will know, I thank for the information.

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