As promised in a previous post, I am going to tell you about a book that I believe is extremely important to organizations and how we communicate and learn. This book is Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web* by Euan Semple. When I first looked at the title, I thought it was about how to use social media in the workplace, but I found it was more than that. It is about the importance of allowing employees to use social media tools to learn, collaborate, and share information. In chapter one, Semple explained we have a powerful tool at our disposal to learn from, to communicate with, and to improve our world. He admonished, “We will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 1, para. 7).
“We will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions”
Across 45 very short chapters, Semple outlines his thoughts of leveraging social media in the workplace. As he explained in his introduction, this book is not a how to book but a book that explains how the Internet affects the workplace now and into the future. The chapters are short so that you can read one quickly wherever you are at. Throughout the book, he draws upon his experiences while working at the BBC where he was successful in getting teams to collaborate and share information. In the second chapter, he lists 10 steps to succeed with technology:
- Have a variety of tools rather than a single system.
- Don’t have a clear idea where you are headed.
- Follow the energy.
- Be strategically tactical.
- Keep moving, stay in touch, and head for the high ground.
- Build networks of people who care.
- Be obsessively interested.
- Use the tools to manage the tools.
- Laugh when things go wrong.
- Unleash Trojan Mice.
Over the next 40+ chapters, Semple added detail to these ideas. He pointed out strict control is quashing our ability to innovate. We need to let people use the tools they are using personally to help each other improve. This is better for the individual, the organization, and all the people who interact with the organization.
Each chapter has a nugget of valuable information that personally had me nodding my head up and down throughout the book. I will highlight a few of the discussions that really resonated with me. Two of the chapters, I wrote about in a previous post, and they dealt with “Leaving a Trace” and “Writing Ourselves into Existence.” In short, Semple stressed the need to share our thoughts and ideas on the Internet so that others could benefit.
Semple talked about the power of writing for a blog, a twitter feed, or a wiki page. The more you write, the more observant you become. However, when you become more observant and write, you may be taking risks by writing about what others are thinking but too cautious to put into writing. There may be times when your writing is not even read. But at least, you have left a trace.
When trying to sell the importance of social media to your boss, Semple provided solid direction from providing education, running pilot programs, and demonstrating the utility of social media. As he explained, one of the benefits was free professional development through free online tools. Just today, I sat in on a great presentation by Jane Hart called Workplace Learning Revolution: How the Internet is Changing the Way. The ability to sit in on a presentation from the comfort of your office along with 150+ other viewers is great. Semple added, “Offer social media as an opportunity rather than a threat to your boss. Show them blogs written by other managers in your business” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 11, para. 11).
“Offer social media as an opportunity rather than a threat to your boss.”
Semple stressed that to be a valuable resource, you have to share the knowledge and information you have. At one time, hoarding knowledge and trickling it out was seen to be powerful; now you become known for your ability to share with others. “In an Internet world there is no point in having knowledge if people don’t know you have it, and if you are not prepared to share it” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 12, para. 3). I think this is especially applicable to the world of Cooperative Extension. We need to do a better job of getting our information out to others. Here are some ideas: when giving a face-to-face presentation, set up a Google+ Hangout on Air to share with the rest of the world. It is then archived on YouTube for others to see. If you give a PowerPoint presentation, place the presentation also on SlideShare for the benefit of others. If you create a flyer or brochure, place it on Scribd for others to learn from it.
“In an Internet world there is no point in having knowledge if people don’t know you have it, and if you are not prepared to share it”
Semple talked about how to get started on a personal level. Talk about the things that you find interesting. Keep tweaking your input stream to locate interesting things, and jettison the noise. Semple also talked about how to build your networks. Networks help you achieve more and with less effort. He also discussed how to manage the chaotic world of social media from a leadership and management perspective. In short, he said, “Being obsessively interested in what people are doing and asking great questions is the way to help steer their collective energy towards successful outcomes” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 20, para. 1).
For control freaks, some parts of the book will make you uneasy. Semple advocated leaving social media development messy. Adding too much structure sanitizes the message and a lot of the meaning is lost. “There is something disruptive about creativity which is why many organizations are so keen to keep it in a box. There is also something inherently disruptive about social tools” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 26, para. 12). However, Semple provided some guidance on how to manage the mess. “We have an imbalance at the moment because most business information systems are formal and managed to be as tidy as possible” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 33, para. 8).
“There is something disruptive about creativity which is why many organizations are so keen to keep it in a box. There is also something inherently disruptive about social tools”
Semple left me with the following thought: “It is important to own your online presence. Make the most of the opportunity and learn to say what you think” (Semple, 2012, Chap. 44, Things to remember).
“It is important to own your online presence. Make the most of the opportunity and learn to say what you think”
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