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Friday, October 30, 2009

Internal micro-blogging can be intimidating

7:16:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments

Browsing is a complementary method to searching which can be used when you have av vague idea about what you are looking for, or when you just cannot describe it. Just as browsing is a complementary method to searching, micro-blogging can be seen as a complementary method to targeted communication methods; phone, e-mail, chat, sms and so on. You micro-blog when you don't know specifically who to address with something. With micro-blogging, you simply turn to your followers, your groups and the entire community instead of targeting specific individuals.

As the adoption of internal micro-blogging grows at my own company, I am constantly discovering new use cases for internal micro-blogging. Here are a few of the things people use it for:

  • Asking collegues to help them find information about something, such as a report, method or customer
  • Asking collegues to help them with a problem they have with a specific software, their computer, or something else
  • Finding collegues with a specific skill, experience or knowledge
  • Building intelligence about something, such about what is currently happening at a customer or what we have previously done for that customer
  • Sharing ideas and finding collegues willing and able to help them develop them further
  • Getting help to find the right translation of a term that they use within their profession

The benefits of internal micro-blogging becomes quite clear as soon as you start to use it. But, I have also learnt that, for some people, internal micro-blogging can be intimidating. Why is that?

I believe it has to do with the fact that positions and titles matter also online. Some people are simply very afraid of making mistakes, such as saying the wrong thing, when their boss could be listening. So they see it as a much safer strategy to not say anything at all and just listen in on other conversations without joining them.

It all has to do with our fear of transparency. Micro-blogging is a transparent way to communicate, way more transparent than targetet communication methods like email. When micro-blogging, you just have to be a little more careful about what you say and how you say it than when you email people. Email is perceived as "safer" in this respect because it is much less transparent. It allows you to say more sensitive things, assuming that you trust the people that you communicate with (so they don't forward your conversation to other people). The point is that a lot of people will do anything to hold on to email and continue to use it for conversations which are not senstive and which could be very valuable to others who are not on the list of recipients to join or access.

Comparing micro-blogging to email also highlights another potential benefit of internal micro-blogging. The lack of transparency with email also means that you can use your work email for communicating and discussing highly sensitive things, even very private things. Or just bullshit and complete nonsense. This highly contributes to the email mess that most of us have to deal with on a daily basis. Internal micro-blogging is, just as blogging, a way to keep the important stuff than can be important to others as well from being buried and lost in your email inbox.

To me, one of the greatest promises of Enterprise 2.0 and tools such as micro-blogs is that we can use them to tap into the hidden talent of a large organization. The people who don't get to travel a lot, or who have the time needed to develop a strong informal internal network, can start to make start building a network of their own. The people who don’t have access to established forums other than their project and department meetings can share their ideas, opinions, experiences and knowledge with other collegues across organizational and geographical borders.

The sad part, from my experience, is that most of the people who don’t speak up at an internal meeting won’t do it online either. Although I am sure that some of them will speak up as time goes by and they get more used to this new communication arena, it will take time. And they won’t change their behavior voluntary. It will take peer pressure.

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