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

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Social Learning at TELUS by Dan Pontefract

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the WinterAnd while I am still digging the Google Plus experience, confirming that, for now, it’s going to stick around with me for a while, time and time again it keeps proving its great value, beyond the initial learning curve and that set of discussions and interactions about getting around the tool itself. On a rather regular basis one keeps bumping into not only some rather interesting and engaging dialogue amongst your social network(s), but also precious little gems that are worth while sharing across beyond G+. Like, for instance, a recent Plus entry that my good friend, Dan Pontefract, Director of Learning and Collaboration at TELUS, shared across where he included a link to a recent video clip, where he was interviewed to talk about their experiences with social software tools within the enterprise. In case you haven’t seen it just yet, let me encourage you all and have a look into Social Learning at TELUS.

It’s a rather short interview, that lasts for a little bit over two and a half minutes, but at the same time rather telling and quite revealing. In it, Dan shares how they keep making use of social tools like blogs, wikis, microblogging, etc. etc. in order to help people not only collaborate more efficiently and effectively, but also as a key, core learning activity, that helps sparks new ideas, new methods of solving business problems, while still keeping it all rather engaging and informal.

In fact, while going through the video clip myself, I noticed three different things that I thought were worth while mentioning as well, which were coming out of the interview itself in a rather succinct manner, but that I think is equally important. To name:

  • Social Software as a powerful Collaboration AND Learning environment: Yes, indeed, quite refreshing to see how the folks at TELUS have combined both social computing with learning and made them both take a big share of how work gets done within the corporate environment. It’s interesting to notice how heavy they rely on these social tools to help promote self-/group learning activities, to the point where they may well be self-sufficient, both producing and consuming that content they create and share across. Power to the people, if you ask me, and perhaps nothing more empowering than letting your employees take good care of their own learning activities, while on the job. They probably know better about their needs than you do.
  • You don’t have to have everyone on board to get value: Indeed, something that we have seen ourselves, over at IBM as well with some of our social software tools, like IBM Connections Bookmarks where about 35k fellow IBMers make use of it, yet the entire IBM population of 400k benefit from it, because the search results from our corporate Intranet search engine are injected with those social bookmarks that folks keep adding along. And it looks like the folks at TELUS share a similar experience; while they may not have achieved just yet 100% penetration with their social tools, the ones who are making active use of them are helping everyone else get enough value, perhaps not just producing valuable content, but digesting it as well.

    This is, in my opinion, a critical point regarding the adoption of social tools within the enterprise, mainly from the perspective of setting up the right expectations and encouraging those who would want to make use of the tools to use them, while allowing the remaining ones adjust accordingly and figure out by themselves whether they would need to jump in as well or not. Let them figure out the value they would want to get from it is probably as good as it gets in order to allow for knowledge workers to understand how, when, why and what to contribute, whenever they may be ready.

  • Don’t mandate, but empower: Which brings me to the third point Dan shared across that perhaps folks may not have noticed, because of how subtlety he shared it across, but that I think it’s quite important and paramount to understand what a successful adoption by most employees of these social tools would be like: don’t mandate their use, but empower your knowledge workforce to make the right decision(s) on whether they need to or don’t need to.

    He basically shared how at TELUS they don’t mandate folks to make use of social tools from top down, instead they allow their knowledge workers themselves to figure out whether they have a need to use them, or whether the pain points they may have could be solved by those social tools, but it’s all part of that play and experiment nature, where employees are allowed to explore by themselves and figure out the potential of social software to help them improve both their individual and group productivity. It’s all a matter of understanding that rather than managing it as a project and making it mandatory, it will always be much more productive leading the change, facilitating it, embracing it fully starting with yourself, regardless of where you may well be within the organisation, helping others how they could benefit themselves from making use of social networking. Management, all of a sudden, needs to turn into Leadership, an active leadership, by the way, that leads by example and not just by talking away about it.

There are plenty of other golden nuggets that I could mention on this blog post about Dan’s short interview, but I think, instead, I am going to encourage you all to have a look into the video clip yourselves, and watch through it. It will be worth while your time, I can surely guarantee you that. And from here, perhaps just share a special Thanks! to Dan for the inspiration and for sharing along the interview itself with all of us, on what it is like a successful adoption of social software within the enterprise. In this case, at TELUS. Well done!

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  1. Well that was unexpected … but so very appreciated. Thanks my friend.

    @Sam – we’re somewhat agnostic, so you will see us mixing and matching various software opportunities including Confluence, Sharetronix, SharePoint 2010, SAP, Cisco Telepresence, Lync, and Jive for some of our external facing actions.

    1. Hi Sam & Dan! Thanks much for dropping by and for the feedback comments! Glad you enjoyed the post and much appreciated, Dan, all of those details on what social tools you folks are using. Fascinating journey, for sure! I guess you folks have taken the expression of not putting all of your eggs in a single basket into a new level! Very nice!!

      Happy to keep sharing these gems as they come along! Thanks again for the inspiration, my friend! 🙂

  2. Wow, this is fantastic Dan. I went to Enterprise 2.0 in Boston 2 weeks ago and learned in theory about what you’re doing in practice. My company is a distant cousin of yours…Blacks.ca so I’ll likely reach out to you at some point to see how we can leverage your knowledge.
    Roland Reddekop
    Manager of Change & Innovation @ Blacks

  3. Dan
    Your vision and way of being has shifted lots of mindsets over to collaboration and trust. Congrats again on your acheivements, I have been learning so much lately. I can’t wait to share what I know with likeminded folks at Telus. Thank you mr Suarez for allowing us to connect on your blog. Please keep writing gentelemen so the world knows more about What you stand for.

  4. Hi, Luis & Dan, do I read your post as a good-bye statement to near future 100% adaption rate of microblogging in corporates?
    You seemed pretty satisfied with 1/6 or 1/10 of adoption, is this the realistic expectation level (beyond the hype)?

    1. Hi Gerald, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback comments! Greatly appreciated! Probably you shouldn’t! You should look more as an incipient and good beginning of things that will come up later on as more and more folks feel comfortable with a new model of working, one where openness, publicy and transparency rule and one that would need re-adjusting by those folks who don’t feel comfortable just yet with “narrating their work”.

      I think it’s important to highlight how unrealistic it would be to think that all orgs. will transform in social business with a 100% of penetration. I am afraid that’s not going to happen. It didn’t happen with the phone, didn’t happen with email and it won’t happen with the Internet and with the Social Web.

      Knowledge workers need to find their comfort zone and their space in social networks, but they need to see a real business benefit that would help them. If not, it would be a waste of time and resources.

      Hype is long gone now, imo, with regards to internal adoption of social software. It’s no longer about what and the how, the hype part, but more about the why! And that’s where folks need to figure out for themselves whether they would be willing to jump in or not, and 1/6 or 1/10 is a pretty good solid start for a company that plans to go through that social transformation over the course of decades and consolidate itself as a social business of the 21st century. Why the rush to have 100% penetration from day one as an expectation… Slowly, but steadily will provide the best results, without a doubt.

      Thanks again for the feedback, Gerald! Greatly appreciated, as usual! 🙂

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