E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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McAfee’s Hypothesis and The Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & SurroundingsAfter last week’s blog post on "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections — Collaborating Effectively through Wikis" in which I tried to cover in a few words a quick response to that really insightful article put together by Andy McAfee under the title "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Email" (as I am finishing up the last touches to a much lengthier entry), I have noticed how on Friday Andy put together a follow-up under the heading "McAfee’s Hypothesis (plus contest results)", which is just as good and which surely is going to have a much lengthier reply as well from yours truly shortly.

However, I thought I would venture into sharing an initial response to the latest blog post from Andy in this series. Especially after reading through his rather provocative and perhaps controversial, too, McAfee’s Hypothesis:

"Within organizations, collaboration technologies are dictated by the most powerful person involved in the collaboration"

Well, meet Molly. At IBM. Molly is a knowledge worker. Like you. Like me. A knowledge worker who always wants to do a good job. Actually, a better job. Even if her boss doesn’t ask her to do so she will still do it. She will go the extra mile. She is a professional. A knowledge worker. Like you. Like me. What we have been hired for in the first place.

In short, in today’s corporate world, Molly is a knowledge worker who has taken responsibility for her work life. Like my good friend David Gurteen would say Molly would be that knowledge worker that "continually strives to understand the world about her and modify her work practices and behaviors to better meet her personal and organizational objectives. No one tells her what to do. She doesn’t take No for an answer. She is self motivated".

She understands the organisation. She gets all the help she needs from her leaders, because she knows they trust her to do the right job. After all, that’s what they hire her for. Her boss knows that she may need some guidance and, eventually, she gets it from the weekly meetings they hold over the phone. Her boss understands that to get the best results Molly needs to perform at her best. And, as such, all what her boss does is to provide that guidance to help her excel at her job. Because that’s what Molly expects. As a knowledge worker she gets to thrive, while at work, at the stuff that she’s really passionate about. It’s all about building and nurturing mutual trust. Trust that works in both ways!

And you can’t stop that. Molly knows what she has got to do. And, most importantly, she knows who she is going to connect, reach out and collaborate with to get that job done. How? Well, of course, through her adventures discovering social software at IBM (that’s where she works, by the way!).

What I have just mentioned above may seem to be unrealistic, yet it is happening in multiple places within the corporate world right as we speak. And much more often that what you could expect! And just like I referenced the three episodes from Jean François Chenier on "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections", I would love to introduce you today to "The Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software at IBM".

Like I said, I will be putting together a much lengthier blog post trying to share my 2¢ into the whole conversation. But today I would like to share with you that series of YouTube videos that one of my fellow team (BlueIQ) members, Anna Dreyzin, has been putting together over the last couple weeks to demonstrate what a poor job email does when collaborating and sharing knowledge, and how, perhaps social software can help fill the gaps it leaves behind.

The reason I wanted to share these two stories is actually a twofold one. First, each of the episodes clearly shows how when talking about group collaboration email may no longer cut it, as it used to. So, perhaps, it may be a good time now to look for alternatives, i.e. social software tools. Again, the scenarios presented in both stories will be self explanatory to contexts that we can all relate to, because I’m sure that most of us can relate to both of them. And quite a bit! If not, judge for yourself, by going into each of the episodes or just check out the embedded the versions included below.

The second reason why these two episodes are going to be helpful to people out there is because they actually try to explain a little bit what the job of my team is like on a daily basis. I know there are plenty of people who have asked me in the past what is it that I do at IBM, as a social computing evangelist, and, being part of a team of people called "BlueIQ".

Well, these two episodes will certainly help shed some light on what it is I do with my team: mainly, helping accelerate the adoption rate of social software within the firewall. And it is with stories like these from Molly where we focus more on the tasks at hand, more than just tools and their features, to help accomplish them effectively. I know some people would call it Task Centric Computing, and I would be okay with that. In fact, that is exactly what we do. Except that we always try to inject 2.0 flavours as often as we possibly can.

And we do that with the invaluable and amazing help of a worldwide community I co-lead with another colleague, Josh Scribner, of over 870 ambassadors, or evangelists, or just simply social software enthusiasts, who volunteer their time to help spread the message around social software (Basically, how knowledge workers can make use of social networking tools for a business purpose). And it is down to videos like these, amongst several other activities I may be able to talk about at upcoming blog posts, that help demonstrate, somewhat, how email may no longer be the best of the collaboration tools available out there, even if the most powerful person involved in the collaboration still things that it is. Hummm … maybe not.

The Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software at IBM (Episode #1)

The Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software at IBM (Episode #2)

Hummm… Not anymore!

Oh, oh, before I forget … I would strongly encourage you to have a look into the follow-up blog post that James Dellow (a.k.a. @chieftech) has put together under "Email – No Surrender?" where he has got an amazing thought-provoking and mind-blowing conclusion with this great piece starting it all off!:

"[…] Suggested organisations contribute to the problem of misusing email (rather than me calling for its elimination) by:

  • Failing to provide alternative and more effective communication channels;
  • Creating a culture of secrecy and information hoarding; and
  • Not providing the right policies and training for staff on how to use the communication technologies already available to them.)" (Emphasis mine)"

Just brilliant!

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  1. I follow your blog and very often share your views. I was an e-mail evangelist late 70’s and early 80′. Since early 90’s I have spent a lot of time trying to establish collaboration using more productive tools.
    One question. Why do we call sw that provides collaboration tools like discussion forums, blogs, IM, wiki’s etc for Social SW. I would appreciate some reasoning on that from you.
    Then. The man who… is a good example of why the person in charge is key to the collaboration process. That was he who caused that the available tools were not used in the first place.
    So the key success factors as I can see it are
    – key collaboration functions available
    – awareness of the advantage of using them
    – basic skills to use them. It’s not self explanatory how to use a wiki or what tool fot wha purpose
    – committment to a new way of working. To use mail as an action trigger with links to appropriate info for one on one or one on many, for personal dialog one on one, but never, never for a reply all-based discussion or to shuffle around big attachments.

    Molly had a god start. She came to the prepared table. Key qusetion for me. How do you get a ‘prepared table’?
    Thanks for your thoughtful blogging 🙂

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