Measuring Trust

I attended a Social Media Roundtable yesterday morning and the question of trust came right to the forefront of the cultural debate of why companies should use (or don’t use) social media. A lawyer can poke holes into any argument for or against social media but leaders need to instill a culture of trust in order to see success with social tools and collaborative processes. They need to understand the risk attorneys point out but, ultimately, it is a business decision as to how and when these tools can be used.

A fascinating study was presented at this Roundtable: Edelman’s Barometer of Trust. I never thought trust could be measured but this study shows that people are tending to trust “People Like Me” more than their leaders. I find this shift of placed trust very interesting. Is this phenomenon a result of social media or have people always trusted their peers and social media enabled that to happen?

I would argue with the dawn of social media, people suddenly feel like they have a voice…maybe for the first time at least in consumer circles if not at work. This feeling of desired empowerment is trying to make its way into the business world and so a great struggle ensues in some companies. People want more say and responsibility and some leadership teams are hesitant to trust their employees with decision-making and expertise sharing.

Presenting this barometer of trust idea to leadership may help fuel the business case for why we should integrate social tools into our work processes and communication flows. The command-an-control, top-down method of operating is fading. In the years to come, “People Like Me” will be influencing our decisions and shaping the way we work and share. What an exciting time to be in the middle of knowledge management and collaboration!

Is Working Together Harmful to Your Organization?

sandbox1I was behind on my reading when I stumbled upon an article in April’s Harvard Business Review, titled: “When Internal Collaboration is Bad for Your Company.” My immediate reaction was to buy up every copy and hide it from my leadership team. As I read the article, I understood the point Morten T. Hansen was making…essentially that sometimes collaboration takes up too much time and in fact eats into your opportunity cost of doing a project.

One of his main arguments is that forcing people to work across silos will only lead to turf wars and the time to tear down those silos will kill a project. That could be true but if you never attempt to tear down walls, those walls will grow higher and higher and stronger and stronger until one day, they will never come down.  Is that really a good operational strategy? 

I am really anti-silo. I believe that roles and responsibilities and domains should be clearly established within an organization to prevent turf wars in the first place. Oftentimes, to make a project or initiative successful, multiple domains need to work together. This is why allowing kids to play in the sandbox together is so important. Adults have to do the same thing in real life, and we are not great at it.  (Maybe we only fought over whose bucket the blue one was in our sandboxes.)

Hansen states that asking how can we get people to collaborate more is the wrong question. That instead, we should ask: Will collaboration create or destroy value? Value is exactly right. I agree that more collaboration does not necessarily equate to more value but I have yet to see a time where one person in his cubicle had all the answers.

Maybe not everything needs a cross-functional team assigned to move it forward but, at a minimum, sharing ideas and allowing others to have input will help manage change! That is something Hansen does not talk about in his article. Sometimes, collaboration isn’t all about the bottom line, although you can certainly set up measures to try and determine that. Collaboration is getting people to play in the sandbox, building off of one person’s idea and thinking through all the possible implications to a decision.  To me, that is invaluable.

Debate Over Learning Lessons and Capturing “Best”

KM imageAt our MW KM Symposium on Friday, a few of us had a lively debate over two cornerstones of knowledge management: capturing lessons learned and vetting “best” practices. While I don’t think we came to consensus on either topic, it was nice to actually discuss and challenge one another.

The debate over capturing lessons learned was centered around that focusing on only what went wrong never leads to what is right. That we should only focus on the positive, identify that and replicate it. I agree and disagree. I think there is still value in discussing what went wrong and then brainstorm on how to prevent what went wrong. And, that’s the key. Only capturing the “wrong” doesn’t do anyone any good but taking it the next step and realizing how to prevent what went wrong is a key part of sharing knowledge and not committing the same mistake over and over again.

I found it interesting that most of our debates centered around semantics and that semantics seem to play an awfully big part in pitching and clarifying knowledge management activities. “Lessons Learned” meant only focusing on the negative for one speaker; while myself and others felt that implied in “lessons learned” is learning. So, in a sense, we agreed that only focusing on the negative is not productive but talking about prevention and sharing how to prevent is learning and vital to any organization.

I presented the premise that we should enable people to simply share stories and not worry about setting up committees to review and vet “best” practices. If something is “good enough” it will meet the need of the person seeking the information to help them not start from a blank slate. That no longer do we have the time or resources to vet best practices. And, while there may be industries where there is truly one best way to do something, I contend those are really standard operating procedures and should be integrated into training manuals and process documentation. For other organizations, however, there may be lots of good ways to accomplish something. We should capture, serve up and let people decide and customize these practices for themselves and re-share to keep the sharing cycle constantly flowing.

Does Social Media Degrade Storytelling?

storytellingI recently signed up for the Harvard Business Review online and in print (I know online should suffice but I still love flipping pages!). I stumbled upon a short little opinion on storytelling boosting knowledge transfer in the May 2009 issue. Knowledge professionals have touted this for years that storytelling is the best way to make information memorable instead of reading the now endless tweets, blogs, articles, training guides and books available on a various topic.

But, then I thought, the whole purpose of social media is to enable that level of storytelling and sharing virtually. But, do we lose something in translation? There is no replacement for seeing a person deliver a story live with facial expressions and the ability to ask questions during or after the sharing session. Most would say to just videotape the person and slap the clip on YouTube. Hmmm….well, in a former life I did video production and I always saw that the story I got from the person off camera was better than on.

So, how do we enable good storytelling virtually? Here are some guidelines to enable better virtual storytelling:

  • Definitely provide guidance, training or even facilitate/interview people yourself to help them tell their story well
  • Encourage people to not just share facts but tell their “story” – how did you feel, how did the client or supplier feel, what as the mood like, describe the environment
  • Help them reveal the whole truth – chances are things did not go smoothly so be honest and share the good, bad and ugly
  • Enable readers to rate the stories – this is invaluable to determine which stories are the best to listen to
  • Create a calendar of stories to regularly publish and create an expectation
  • Set up sharing stories as a way to recognize great work and further develop professional skills

My greatest wish is to see true telepresence technology become reality. To me, that will be the ultimate for virtual storytelling. I will be able see (clearly) the person deliver their story and interact to ask questions without a chat feature in real-time, face-to-face. So, all we need is infrastructure, affordable solutions and adoption. Come one Cisco! Work your magic!