A mini epiphany strikes a writer interested in enterprise social: Enterprise social networking sucks the social out of ‘social’. On an epiphanic scale, it’s more mega than mini, methinks.
Social in the enterprise is nothing like social in the “real world.” People write about the silos, separation, closed-fistedness and a general ambiance lacking in the intimacy promised by real time media. Relations articulated by an org chart have nothing to do with people relations. They’re functional relations! Roles, responsibilities, jobs, as selected by organizational design. They’re meant to produce work!
Social, on the other hand, is woven by the fabric of people relations — real relations. Built and sustained by communication, social emerges because people like and get along with each other. That’s what the water cooler is for, and why the water cooler is no sooner going away than is the oasis that punctuates the barren passage.
Deployed in the enterprise, social tools encounter resistance.That’s a normal and should-be expected outcome. The demos we have all seen of enterprise level products smartly capturing leads and assembling on-the-fly sales and marketing teams are a bit smoke and mirrors. They show what looks to be an “all-in” adoption of social tools. Fact is, adoption never works like that. Some buy in quickly and seize opportunities (to the mirth, in cases, of classmates keen to spot the brown-noser); but many withhold. Their resistance is the social — not their adoption. Their adoption is work.
The trick, in enterprise social, is not to transpose end user social tool practices into the enterprise ecosystem, but to innovate new practices that either leverage resistance or mitigate risks of adoption. People (not “workers”), if they’re to use social tools for “social” collaboration and communication, need to understand their exposure to others personally. One cannot expect an employee to “act normal” while also protecting his/her professional career.
Social solutions to this need to be designed — they can be fashioned out of roles, groups, teams, and more. These would all be social solutions, not technical ones. This isn’t rocket science, but it takes some out of the box thinking. Precisely because the problem is out of the box.
Some companies are doing just fine with enterprise social. They’re yammering, chattering, and Jiving their way forward. But the tales of doubt and hesitation that still print to enterprise media are a reminder that the vast majority of workplaces are not ready for enterprise social tools as is. And the gap between successful deployment and failure is bridged by an understanding of people, not technology.