I was asked by Ryan McClure, a regular reader of this blog, to “have a go at the fear of change by addressing it directly“. He was referring to situations where senior executives seem to be on a different plane of reality. For example:
- The CEO who doesn’t see the value of social networks and lumps them all into the “Facebook for fun” category.
- The successful business leader who is milking the current cash cow and sees the Internet as frivolous and of no interest to his customers.
- The President who gets others to handle his information needs without understanding the underlying technology infrastructure that is hampering knowledge-sharing and collaboration across the enterprise.
I addressed some of these issues in social media for senior managers, as Michael Cook had asked a similar question. I concluded that blocking social networks slows learning, reduces effectiveness and may in the end kill the organization. Senior managers need to understand social media in order to support learning in social networks which will enable practitioners to produce results.
But that’s probably not enough to change the status quo.
I work on these issues in two ways. One is by showing the big picture. These are patterns that, with any luck, are difficult to ignore. Most executives agree that their work and business environment is getting more complex. I try to show that we need to organize for complexity and diversity in new ways. A different corporate culture is required. Both of these will take some time, so it’s best to balance this message with specific practices that can be started right away.
I will demonstrate the benefits of networks in getting things done. Many times I have shown how simple tools, like social bookmarks, can make professional information gathering and sharing much more efficient. I explain how the organization should leverage collective knowledge from varied individual practices of personal knowledge management (PKM).
This is done by telling stories, showing examples and modelling behaviours, usually over a significant period of time. There is a lot of repetition. It’s also worth revising your message, based on feedback and observation. PKM made sense to my clients only once I had it boiled down to three alliterative words: Seek – Sense – Share. This took a few years to develop.
It takes time to cross the social business chasm.