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

From the blog

How Fun and Creativity Can Shape Your Own Social Computing Guidelines and Policy

Gran Canaria - Meloneras in the WinterOne of the main issues large corporations and small businesses have been having all along, when trying to go through that business transformation towards becoming a Social Enterprise, has always been the lack of an effective governance model and eventually decide to go for the easy way out: blocking social networking sites at work, hoping that knowledge workers would make better use of their own time, instead of goofing around, supposedly, when in reality they will just be switching devices and access those social networks regardless. Even without having to use your company’s resources.

It’s been one of those recurring themes that we keep coming back to time and time again, over the course of the years, and the solution always seems to be the same one, unfortunately. Instead of perhaps working a bit harder in trying to understand, address and mitigate whatever the potential risks, but also taking advantage of the many different benefits behind social networking for the enterprise, we keep bumping into news items that seem to confirm quite an interesting trend: instead of working your way towards a robust, trustworthy, essential and rather elemental social computing policy and guidelines, folks seem to want to leave that to others to figure it out, if anything at all, when it’s probably a bit too late already.

I remember the day when IBM was first facing that very same issue, on whether to put together a social computing policy and guidelines or not. At the time, May 2005, it was rather refreshing to see how instead of the company trying to figure it out by itself, on its own, it decided to rely on a group of prolific bloggers to come to the rescue and eventually put that policy on a wiki page over the course of two weeks. From there onwards, and 6 years later, two different revisions coming along and we now have got IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, which we could possibly say have become an industry standard that other companies have adapted to their corporate culture and values to make them their own and shine through all the way. And it all got started with just a bunch of bloggers!

Fast forward to 2011, and I am still finding it somewhat provocative, and perhaps a bit too sad, how plenty of businesses still keep blocking the use of social networking tools, as business tools, thinking they can get away with it without making things potentially worse, for them and for their employee workforce alike. And it’s not just like we are back into 2005, or earlier when help and support were scarce; nowadays we have got a whole bunch of rather insightful articles and resources that can prove to be rather helpful when trying to draft your own guidelines and governance models (Those are some rather good resources to get you going, if you don’t have one just yet, by the way…) to match your company’s corporate culture as well as your values. So there is probably no excuse any longer, is there?

The interesting thing from this whole debate about governance models and social computing guidelines and whether to block access to these social tools or not, is that policy and guidelines don’t necessarily need to be boring and unsubstantial. Quite the opposite! It could well be plenty of good fun! In fact, it should be a fun activity. Like my good friend, Mark Masterson, would say, “If you treat people like sheep, they would probably behave like sheep“. If you make it a fun activity, if you trust them to do the right thing, since you have hired hard working professionals in the first place, they would look at it and fully embrace it, internalise it and own it, to the point that they would match those guidelines to their own overall values and corporate culture of the business. And that’s probably as good as it gets, because the last thing you would want to see, as a hard working, socially networked professional is to witness how internal social tools get abused by others who think they just finally got Facebook for the enterprise to hit their next date!

It just doesn’t work that way! And here is a good example of a social computing policy and guidelines that combines fun, creativity, innovation and the right messages to be shared across in a format that’s very easy to digest. A video clip that lasts for a little bit over 4 minutes. Take a look into Social Media Policy, a YouTube video put together by the Department of Justice in Victoria, Australia (Yes, the Department of Justice! Who would have thought about that, right?), which explains quite nicely their own social media policy that they are using:

Fun stuff, eh? Well, after watching that video and seeing what’s possible to become a Social Enterprise, even for late-joiner industries like Government, I guess there isn’t probably any longer an excuse for you, as a business, to work your magic, just like they did on the video, and put together a policy and set of social computing guidelines that would be respectful and trustworthy of your employee workforce, as well as youself, as a business, towards your corporate culture and those values I mentioned above. That policy would eventually become your flagship as you enter the world of living and embracing social, just like it did for us, at IBM, over 6 years ago, just like it does for Victoria’s Department of Justice. The good thing is that you will no longer have to go the easy way out of blocking access and face the consequences. Quite the opposite; it can be quite an inspiring and creatively fun activity that everyone can contribute and benefit from. And, right there, that’s the next challenge for all of you who may be reading this and not have that policy in place just yet.

What are you waiting for? When are you going to start? Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can begin today! Make it fun, inclusive, participative, engaging, empowering, open and transparent; get that creativity juice going with all of that smart talent that is surrounding you and you will be off to a great start!

Your first step towards becoming a fully Integrated Social Enterprise.

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  1. Luis –

    Thanks for sharing this alternative approach to creating and publicizing a social media policy. It’s a far cry from the list of “thou shalt nots” that many companies use as social media policies. I’ll be interested to see how many other organizations follow the creative approach of the Victoria Department of Justice.

    – Mary

  2. Great video, Luis. Thanks for sharing. Russ Ackoff used to say, a little more pointedly than Mark, “If you treat your employees like criminals, guess what you’re going to get.”

    Wholesale blocking doesn’t even work anymore, now that we have smart phones and tablets. It’s both stupid and counter-productive to shut these services down.

    It’s amazing to me that lots of government agencies are getting it, yet many businesses still don’t.

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