Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do
I picked up Euan Semple's Organization's Don't Tweet, People Do as soon as it was available and enjoyed it greatly. It helps that I've known Euan and his style for many years now. The idea of letting people be human, rather than corporate automatons resonates throughout his writing. Recommended for anyone seeking to make this change happen - or who wish to participate in it.
Funny enough for a book with this title, the book really isn't about Twitter - or any other specific service. Twitter simply serves as the most familiar vehicle to have a discussion around how we operate in the world of blogging and forums and Twitter and Facebook and all the other social services that are out there. And how we need to operate has been changing for a while - it's just that there have been too many people with a hierarchical or command-and-control mindset to be able to see it.
As I read this book, I saw many connections to other ideas that have been floating through my brain. In this case, I have probably seen Euan blog about many of these topics. For example, I recall him saying versions of, "If you don't trust your people, why have you hired them" several times in the past in relation to the oft-expressed fear that people are going to do something "inappropriate." There were many other connections too.
Leandro Herrero made an observation in his recent book that people often say, "We already do that," in relation to his suggested change management practices. Euan has a similar concern when people say, "Oh, we do digital." There is so much more to it than having an intranet or even turned on the social features. The book is all about making the shift to restoring the human element to running the organization.
Implementing social tools requires patience and a willingness to try things to see where they will go. It's very difficult to do this as a forced march, because it is the people themselves who need to set the direction - they should be pulling to where they need to go. This idea has all sorts of connections to Lean / Agile and the various learning loops (OODA, PDCA, etc). I could also hear similar arguments coming from Stephen Denning (Radical Management) and John Hegel (Pull) around creating the environment and looking for the nuggets.
I happened to listen to a TVO podcast with Clay Shirky discussing his Cognitive Surplus. He articulated something about the "people share too much" complaint that was new to me. It used to be that publicly-available comments were directed at the public: if it is available to anyone, it must be for anyone. This isn't the case anymore: people aren't writing about their lunch for everyone, they are writing for their friends. It just so happens that anyone can read it. Euan makes a similar point. And he talks about the value of seeing the messiness of "thinking in public" (Jim McGee) for developing ideas as well as developing a sense of who people are.
Along with all the connections to other ideas above, I originally discovered Euan through of our shared interest in knowledge management. Many of the comments he peppers throughout the book reminded me of those connections once again. "Knowledge retention" doesn't work by simply sticking documents into a repository - you have to let people share what they know in a context where they know they will be helping - and where others can easily reference and use it again. (And that is definitely NOT in your document management system.) There was also a strong element of the idea of observable work: if people don't know you are doing something, then how can they help you? How will they know you have interest / expertise in that arena?
Euan organized the book for people like me with short bursts of reading time on the commute to and from my new project. It was easy to take in a chapter or three, and not get lost midway through because my ride was coming to an end. And since I've been reading and following Euan for many years on the interwebs, the style and topic were quite familiar. To prove I made it all the way through, here is the main point of the book:
If you are going to say what you thin in public you have to become happy about what you are thinking. If you are not happy about what you are saying, don’t say it and do something about it until you are happy. This is the bottom line message of this book.
And now, having read this, I wonder about a new client. I am working with them on an "operational excellence" basis, so the KM angle isn't part of my relationship with them, but they have setup internal social media tools (SharePoint mySite). It's clear that there isn't a lot of engagement yet, but it will be interesting to see what becomes of it during my time with them.
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