Managing Thinking, Managing Knowledge

On March 2, 2011, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated.  Like others before him (including Benazir Bhutto), he was killed for standing up for the right of Pakistanian citizens to believe in whatever they wanted to believe.  In this case, Bhatti was a Christian, and (to his detriment) was outspoken about it.  There are leading Muslim clerics who will say that the Koran is precise about the consequences of “blasphemy” which I suppose being Christian is.  Whether or not this is true is not for me to decide as I have no basis in Islam, the Koran, or as a religious scholar of any sort.  However, I do this to simply point out that people the world over feel a compelling need to manage what other people think and believe.  We can take another example of China and the shutting down of Google months ago.  (Google actually pulled out I think – but at any rate, the internet is government regulated)

There are some organizations that are quite liberal with knowledge management.  Many technology companies deploy blogs and wikis and actively encourage employees to write and participate.  Many brick and mortar companies won’t deploy enterprise social platforms because they are afraid of what might come out.  Rather than encouraging the discourse (ALL of which will happen anyway), many of us have suppressed it based on a fear of “bad behavior.”

The problem about this is not about trust.  It’s about generations.  Unfortunately, many of us (I’ll just draw a line at 35 years old and up), realize that large corporations have not been democratic societies.  We work in states that are oligarchical at best.  Even in companies where the corporate center does not have much power over divisions, the individual divisions can command the employees at will.  Those in the workforce in their 20’s have no acceptance of such a model.  We’ve always talked about them as being insistent on having access to decision-making, being vocal and contributory, and demanding the be part of the conversation in general.  They have grown up in a world where technology has democratized the world, and it’s their expectation that data and information is part of their realm.

Evidence supports that actual instances of “bad behavior” are so low that it’s really not worth being afraid of – and the community will generally self police itself.  People realize for the most part that the conversations that happen in the workplace are different than the conversations that happen without – and the 5 horror stories you hear each year are insignificant compared to the potential for collaboration you have.  We can’t control the thinking.  Nor can we control the content.


Between everything that has been going on in the Middle East and of course the earthquake in Japan, I think April will be a current events month.  My thoughts and best wishes go out to all those throughout the world as they struggle in their various ordeals.  (written a while back obviously – sorry)

Enterprise Web 2.0 and Personal Brands

I started systematicHR something like 5 years ago as a true weblog – a place where I could record my thoughts as I went through my daily reading and research.  More than 5 years after my first blog post that I never thought anyone would read but myself, systematicHR has really become my own personal brand.  It reflects a lot of who I am, what I’m interested in, but more importantly, it reflects what is in my head and how I think.  I have continued to contribute to the HR blogosphere since I think I have a unique point of view that is not widely represented in a space filled with analysts, vendors, recruiters, but not too many strategists connecting dots between all of that thinking.  Hopefully, you all have not decided that I’m delusional.

The thing about Web 2.0 and what I’ve decided to call Enterprise Digital Interactions (rather than “enterprise social media”) is that we’re assuming our employee populations are willingly going to participate and lend time to contributing content.  Certainly, we’ll have a hard enough time getting a large and diverse cross section of our workforce just to subscribe the the appropriate blogs let alone writing them.  Employees are used to the networks and connecting with other people by now, and some people are getting used to pulling data from the web and consuming what they want rather than what they are given.

The key to all of this is the personal brand.  Just like for myself, some (or hopefully many) people will take some pride at being able to share knowledge.  People like the fact that they came up with an original thought or a best organizational practice.  They like the community recognition that they are in some way, a leader.  And it just so turns out that people who contribute also tend to subscribe to more in the environment as well.  All of that leads to more comments, conversations and more interactions.

I know there are at least dozens of ways to help spur participation in the corporate communities, but personal brands seems to be a good, long term way to view employee motivation.  You can always get people to post a blog because it was on their list of goals, but you won’t get them to continue to do so unless they see the personal value to it.

Defining Web 2.0

It’s probably long past time to write some definitions.  In fact, I’ve done this before, probably every time I write a post about Web 2.0. A few years ago, I said that Web 2.0 would not be on the radar screens of HR for a couple of years, and sure enough, the last couple of years has seen a huge rise in interest about Web 2.0 and I think that the implementations are starting to grow at a fairly rapid pace.  We should see the first true wave (not a pre-wave) of Web 2.0 implementations starting to go live just about now.

But that still begs the question that I think lots of HR people grapple with:  What is Web 2.0?  Basically, the answer is simple and falls into 4 simple categories:

  1. Web 2.0 helps us connect with each other:  This is the easiest to define since most of us who are interested in Web 2.0 are already on facebook, linked in or twitter.  We already have social networks we participate in on-line, and enterprise Web 2.0 has the same technologies behind the firewall.
  2. Web 2.0 helps us deliver content:  Anyone who is reading this blog is familiar with this.  Web 2.0 helps us publish our content on blogs, wikis and other social media tools.
  3. Web 2.0 helps us receive content:  I have debated whether RSS feeds are dead (this blog has not had any growth in the RSS feed for a couple years I think), but wither it’s RSS, your twitter feed, or your daily updates when you log into facebook telling you what all your friends are up to, Web 2.0 collects information from many people or many sources and aggregates it all for you in one place.
  4. Web 2.0 helps us organize content:  The last is possibly the hardest to see, but included in Web 2.0 technologies are things like tagging.  Tagging is a technology that helps us create dynamic “catalogs” of user based content and user based structures that constantly change based on the dynamic flow of content and ideas through the web.  Unlike “hard-coded catalogs like “Windows Explorer” on your PC, Web 2.0 tags will continually evolve.

Those are my 4 easy steps to understanding Web 2.0.  Anyone think I missed anything?

Going Too Far: Social Media Notifications

I don’t know about the rest of you, but pretty much every time I receive a notification about farmville or gangster wars on Facebook, I pretty want to shoot the senders.  If they are nieces or nephews, they get some allowances for being kids.  But when I get literally 5 or 6 notifications in a row from the same person (who I have worked with at some time or another and is very highly paid) it absolutely drives me crazy.  In all honesty, I love most of Facebook.  Keeping tabs on people who I have been close to but have either moved away from geographically or just through the cost of time is a wonderful thing.  But there are some people out there who I would love to stay connected with, but the only thing I know about them is that they forgot to water plants on their farms (or something like that).  I think I would be totally ok with it if I never saw another gaming notification again in my life.

I then think about RSS feeds like many of you already have.  I’ll bet you are reading this blog either through a feed-reader or in your inbox.  Some way or another, you have requested this text to be sent to you.  I’ve never abused my e-mail lists and I couldn’t abuse my RSS subscribers because I have no idea who you are.  And that’s a lovely thing.  At the end of the day (or beginning in the case of systematicHR) you get a delivery of the goods you requested.

I’ve been talking about enterprise social media quite a bit lately with clients and friends.  It’s a complex topic that involves not only the Facebook-like connections with people around your enterprise, but also the collaboration that may occur in blogs and wikis.  The power of the enterprise social media cannot be limited to any one of the features, but is an integrated experience that involves all of the above.  Lets say you have a talent management program in place at your organization that has internal mobility processes.  It would be marvelous if the talent management program could capture data on not only internal candidates who have declared interests through their career paths, but identified candidates based on their activities within enterprise blogs and wikis.  Talent managers could find that some of their best knowledge workers in an area didn’t actually get paid for a job in that area.  Similarly, if you were interested in a role but were not getting the type of response from your talent managers, you could connect to groups or people who could help steer you into the right career path.  Networking is half the battle after all.

The downfall of enterprise social media is in the governance.  It could make it really good or really bad.  In general, “bad behavior” is fairly limited.  Although we see more iffy transactions happening with younger people, most have some amount of self censure and restraint in a work environment.  The problem is when the organization does not censure actions when they happen, and questionable behavior becomes customary.  The posted pictures of inebriated sales people at the company convention is humorous to many, but not appropriate for the masses.  You never really know who your links are linked to, and who is looking at profiles (which are usually totally open behind the firewall).  To many, there is no line between posting pictures of the local after work happy hour and the company softball team (and perhaps there shouldn’t be).  But not all of our interactions with work people outside of work should be published.  Some of it is team building that is great for everyone to know about, and other stuff might be things you really only want to share with the limited group that was involved.

I think we’ve started in the enterprise social media space being a bit too careful.  But I also think that we will manage to start to lose attention to it as the technologies start taking a life of their own and we forget that an entirely new generation is starting to enter the workforce.  Perhaps I’m old fashioned? (wow – that indeed would be strange).  Thoughts?