Why would I want to know what my colleagues are having for lunch?

Water Towers (1)"Why would I want to know what my colleagues are having for lunch?" Sound familiar?

This is exactly the reason that high-level support for collaboration and collaboration technologies is still so critical.  I hear these comments almost every time I bring up the idea of social media within the organization.

I pick up on this idea based on a recent post by Bill Ives, Does a Senior Exec Need to be in Charge of Enterprise Collaboration?, where he provides a scenario of where clued-in execs can help turn things around.

The new CEO, who had been brought into save the company, said that it was important to share content and insights across business units. One leader for a vertical market asked why he needed to know what (another seemingly unrelated vertical market) is doing. The CEO looked at him and said that thinking is exactly what is wrong with this firm.

Certainly it isn't only high-level executives who can make collaboration work in the company, but they can certainly kill it through lack of understanding.  Or worse, they can kill a project through active indifference or disdain.

With my own colleagues, I like to counter this particular comment with, "You probably don't.  Unless, that is, you are one of the people going out to lunch with them."  In that context, this information is relevant.  Social media allow for all sorts of things to be said and shared.  To any one person, most of that is irrelevant.  But with enough people, there is always someone who has the context and interest to hear exactly what you are talking about.  Having trouble with a customer?  Someone else has likely had a similar experience - or maybe the exact opposite experience with the customer.  But if you don't say it (either around the water cooler or in your "collaboration platform"), no one will know to be able to help.

Similarly, people have a vast array of interests and experiences that transcend the formal walls of their job description.  Let that interest and energy loose in your organization, and you will have a lot more engagement and a lot more excitement about getting things done.  Go for it.

[Photo: "Water Towers (1)" by Adam Henning]

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