It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting. – Jerry Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance
Thinking Gets in the Way of Change
A common barrier to social adoption in organisations is when we let our traditional management patterns of thought get in the way of employee adoption of the technology. Because social technology in the workplace demands new actions and new interactions that don’t fit with our mechanical metaphor of employee performance we find our traditional thinking is a barrier.
Adoption is commonly held up as senior executives and even the employees themselves debate issues like:
- What if I don’t trust the employees in this organisation?
- What if they waste time?
- What if they don’t value my contributions?
- What if nothing valuable comes of all the effort and investment?
- What if they don’t collaborate?
- What if I lose power or influence?
We struggle with these challenges because social adoption is ultimately a sense-making exercise. The platforms are neutral. The networks that gather on them have no defined purpose. We need to come together as a community to individually and jointly make sense of the potential, the value and how to realise it.
This sense-making exercise is why you can’t order collaboration. It is also another reason to be sceptical of those who will guarantee collaboration with technology or fancy adoption practices. The same scepticism should apply to any claims to deliver fast adoption. The best way for each community to realise the value of social adoption is for them to practice it and make sense of the change.
Acting Creates New Sense, New Potential and Accelerates Change
The Collaboration Value Maturity Model is based in a series of simple actions that individuals and communities can take. The power of these actions is that they are generic enough to be universally valuable in organisations. Every organisation and indvidual can benefit from connecting, sharing, solving and innovating. We can get started on these actions now in and for themselves:
- Want to know people in the organisation better? Connect
- Want to learn more about what’s going on? Share
- Want to make work easier and better? Solve
- Want to deliver more value? Innovate
These four steps enable the individuals and the organisation to benefit from a set of near universal use cases that deliver the basic value case for collaboration in any organisation. Starting a community with a clear sense of the value to be created by the action helps justify user’s time and efforts and also shapes the future growth of the community by providing a north star.
Acting As If Culture Has Changed
The secondary power of these four steps is that as people act on each of them, they effectively act as if a new paradigm of organisational culture is true:
- Connect as if the organisation is full of humans
- Share as if the organisation can be trusted
- Solve as if the organisation is enabling, generous and collaborative
- Innovate as if the organisation is empowering, agile and responsive
As people act through each of these four stages they surprise themselves with the potential that is realised, reinforcing their practice and fostering new beliefs as to the culture of the organisational community. There will be scepticism, doubts and recalcitrant sub-communities in the organisation. The goal is never 100% adoption. You only need enough people acting as if to create the value that justifies the organisational investment in collaboration and helps realise your strategy through collaboration.
Because culture is just a series of expectations of how we behave in an organisation. This pattern of ‘acting as if’ creates change in the culture of the organisation. Others see the practice and the benefits and are encouraged to copy the practice and reinforce it. Over time this consistent practice and the community it builds does more to change the organisation than posters, videos and CEO speeches.
Those who have been through the endless debates at the beginning of a social adoption journey know that issues like trust, safety and value are quickly resolved in properly managed adoption journeys. Often they are never discussed again after the program of adoption support is approved.