This same principle applies when using social tools within your organization. Becoming a social business is about how you and your company can leverage the knowledge and potential of your entire organization. It's about letting your people, each individual, do what they are intended to do...help your organization succeed and grow.
I've had the privilege of working with many companies in their social business efforts and I've seen both good and poor examples of social adoption and business results. One common error made is based on the misconception that social will “get out of control.” To alleviate the risk, tighter controls are placed on the access and capabilities of the system. Let me give you an example.
One very powerful social construct is “tagging”. This provides the user the ability to place short descriptions on items. A human resource officer might tag their new policy document with “HR policy” and “hiring procedure”. These tags are used when people search the social network. While this is an example of an author tagging their document, most social systems allow the readers to tag the document as well. When this capability is mention, it's often met with concern over “control”. “How will we keep people from posting inappropriate tags?” “What tags should we allow and should we have a tag dictionary...a folksonomy of tags?” This tight grip stifles the social power you are looking for.
The way an individual perceives and uses information is often different from the intention of the author. Someone who used this new HR policy document might have found it to be particularly helpful in recruiting. So if they are allowed to tag it “recruiting”, it will not only be readily available for them, but also show up when others are looking for recruiting information. We've found user tagging to reflect “use” not just “intent”.
Tagging, like many social tools, can be “controlled”. These features can be constrained, but in doing so, you are often hindering the very purpose of becoming a social business.
Most of these concerns are around the topic of governance. If you are like most companies, you probably already have company guidelines on how employees should behave. You likely don't allow your employees to include inflammatory remarks in their email correspondence. Nor are they allowed to verbally attack a co-worker or customer. These same policies apply to your social system.
A respected IBM colleague, Jon Mell, reminded me, “It's cheaper to trust than to control.” The business benefits of leveraging social...the increase in open communication and resulting innovation, the ability to locate information and expertise, the identification and leveraging of your best assets...these are almost impossible to achieve by tightening your grip.
Your people are amazing and the knowledge they have about your company is incredible. Consider loosening your grip and use social tools to empower them to perform at their peak.
This is a new session I presented for the first time yesterday at Smarter Business Day in Copenhagen. I would be interested in feedback: (1) do you agree/disagree with the statements made and (2) what additional myths can you think of?
Thanks for everyone's help.