Going Viral in the Enterprise

SisyphusHow can you tell if you are succeeding in your campaign for adoption of new enterprise collaboration tools?  How can you define that magic moment when you can breathe a sigh of relief and say “That’s the tipping point.”  Metrics maybe?  Sure, they are important, but for me it’s when some idea goes viral on your network.  Viral, like the Old Spice guy or the BPGlobalPR twitter feed, but inside your organization.         

More about that in a minute.  First, it’s obvious that user adoption for collaboration tools is becoming a hot topic.  Rightly so.  Even with all of the transformational capabilities at our disposal – wikis, blogs, microblogging, social networking, folksonomies – and the money we are pouring into them, we are still held captive by the ” inertia of the inbox”.  Try as we might to espouse and adopt the benefits of social media or web conferencing we still find ourselves caught in lengthy email threads with a dozen or more people – most of whom wish they weren’t on the CC list.  Personally, as a Collaboration Solutions Architect, I am overwhelmed by a sense of irony (or hypocrisy depending on my mood) every time I exceed my inbox quota.  Solving this is a huge challenge and opportunity.  The benefits are apparent but not easily measured.  I’ll write more on User Adoption in a later blog, but until then I highly recommend you look into The 2.0 Adoption Council.   You should also see Gil Yehuda’s blog and his white paper titled “Framework for 2.0 Adoption in the Enterprise“.         

Angry GooseNow, back to the importance of going viral.  The first time I experienced information that “went viral” was in 1997 at a major pharmaceutical company.  (The term “viral” actually meant something entirely different in that time and place!)  A visionary in the IT department sponsored a system on the intranet for idea collection and harvesting.  Continue reading

Falling…

“Controlled Falling”.  An odd name for a blog that’s mostly about Collaboration, Innovation and Risk Management.   I spent a lot of time thinking about this and believe it’s a good fit. Consider…

It is often said that “walking is controlled falling.”   You’ve seen a toddler learning to take those first steps.  They have a clear objective and incredible determination but they spend a lot of time with their bottom on the floor.  Fortunately for them they don’t have far to fall and have a bit of natural resiliency.  There are some rough tumbles though, and some tears.  It’s important that someone create a good environment without sharp edges, hard surfaces or tripping hazards.  And they get better with practice.   Soon, with each step, their foot seems to catch them just in time.  The whole body begins to align – arms and head for balance, eyes for threats, hands to catch (just in case).   

So it is with recent attempts to enhance Collaboration and Innovation in the enterprise.  So far there seems to be a lot of falling.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Like the toddler, we wouldn’t achieve our objective without a few setbacks.  Given time, we’ll start to put one foot in front of the other and gain a little control. Of course, we want to minimize the damage (aka Risk Management).  There are a number of things we should do to reduce those “sharp edges, hard surfaces and tripping hazards”. Basic things like focusing on business objectives instead of technology; starting with a strategy and an architecture; and implementing a user adoption program.

But there’s a problem with this perspective. Successful organizations cannot be content with being a toddler. We all see that the rules have changed. A common mantra in business journals is “innovate or die”. Collaboration is an imperative for the savvy executive – whether they be IT or business. Novel technologies are emerging faster than we can grasp them. One directory lists 2830 Web 2.0 applications in 175 categories! Organizations cannot afford to toddle in this new environment. Real success amidst this rapid change requires that we become more like a stunt-person than a toddler.

Really? A stunt-person?

Think about it. I’m not talking about a daredevil who takes foolish chances. I’m talking about the professionals. Stunt-people practice. They learn to fall gracefully. They take chances – sometimes big chances – but these are based on knowledge, experience, and a careful understanding of their environment, capabilities and goals. They have a plan. They manage the risks. And the smart ones know when to walk away.

Our organizations must develop these skills. We begin by creating collaboration and innovation ecosystems. These are environments where the occasional fall is acceptable and sometimes planned. We must nurture the staff who have the proper knowledge and experience and sheer intestinal fortitude. We acknowledge our limitations and reach outside to the experts when we don’t have them in-house. Finally, like the professional stunt-person, we control our environment and manage the risks by implementing a comprehensive governance program around our collaboration and innovation initiatives.

We are falling headlong into an uncertain future. It’s obvious to me that enhancing collaboration, facilitating innovation and managing the associated risks are critical activities for our survival and success. So the trick is to control that fall – to do it with grace and skill. If we work at it, then someday it will be as natural as walking.