Is it the tool, or something inside?

Toolbox OpenMark McDonald asks How do you know that you need a wiki?.  But then he talks about a lot more than that.  It's not just the tool you might need.  If your organization doesn't have the context for the tool, it won't matter if it is the "perfect" tool for the job.  Mark's closing:

Too many people think of a wiki as another knowledge management tool. Knowledge management tools are something separate from your day to day workflow. That attitude will need to change along with the technology that integrates wiki technology into the workflow in order to have people say ‘put it up on the wiki’ rather than inventing an ad hoc process that takes time, resources and puts bottlenecks in the flow of information.

Tool vs. Process.  I have fought this same battle many times - most often with myself, just as described in Mark's story.  There have been many times where I want to suggest that people use tools that would make a given job much easier, but it doesn't make sense in a given organization.  It's not the tool so much as it is the way people in the organization already work.  In some cases, they already have the tools: their perception is that they are only good for job X, and I was suggesting job Y (and Z).  Hammers are only good for pounding nails!  That claw thing on the back must be a vestigial remnant of an earlier tool that doesn't have any real use.

This is why we I like the idea of "baking it in" to the process and work that people already do.  If your "new tool" requires that people go off into a different location from their regular workflow, then it is that much harder to create the change.  This applies to physical changes, just as much to software.  What happens when you have to do your physical filing in a separate room?  The papers and notebooks pile up on your desk.  I think David Allen says something to the effect of, "If it takes me longer than a few seconds to do, then I won't do it."  As much as I like to give email a hard time, tools that make it easy to use email to share and collaborate in a larger sense often do well because people are so comfortable in their email boxes. 

So, with the next great productivity idea, don't just sell the thing itself.  Bring in the larger picture.  What is the problem you are solving?  (Does everyone believe it to be a problem?  How can you help them to understand that it is indeed a problem?  Can you visualize it?  Can you easily show them the difference between "now" and "better?")  How does the New Thing resolve the problem?  Listen for new ideas on how to make the New Thing even better - particularly in your environment.

[Photo: "Toolbox Open" by Zak Hubbard]

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