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3 Posts authored by: Dennis Pearce

I know Jive is primarily a collaboration tool, but many employees at my company want to use it as a document repository.  I've argued with them for the five years we've been a Jive customer that it's not really suited for that, but I've been mostly banging my head against the wall.  So recently I decided that if they are really wanting to use it to store documents, then at least they should have some good practices around it.


In the interest of working out loud, I've attached some of the things I've created and am in the middle of working on in case any of you find yourselves in a similar situation and want to either use what I've done or chip in and help make them better.  (Wherever you happen to see the word "Innovate," just be aware that it's the name of our Jive instance).  The attachments are:


  • "Content Management in Innovate" (Word doc) -- the outline of a series of training sessions I wanted to put together to focus specifically on good content management in Jive.  You'll see that there's a lot of Jive functionality I don't touch on because I'm just focusing on the parts I think are relevant to document management.


We have a clean-up initiative going on in several of our business areas so I've already created some material to help users with that effort:

  • Business areas have been assigning specific people to manage clean-up of particular sets of spaces, so "Innovate Space Clean-Up" is a presentation to help them find and remove obsolete places (mostly spaces) and content.  It's Section 4 of the outline I mentioned above.  In the first few slides, I used the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA as a metaphor and have screen shots of some of the more ridiculous spaces I found that mirror aspects of that building.
  • Some people asked for help deciding what to get rid of.  I couldn't help with specifics because I can't possibly know what's important in each business area, but I was able to come up with a couple of generic decision trees to help them think their way logically through identifying the the content and spaces with the highest probability of being worth considering for deletion.
  • "Content Management in Innovate" (Powerpoint) -- the presentation I actually used for training based on the outline.  Consider "Innovate Space Clean-Up" to be part 1 of the training (get rid of the stuff you don't want) and this file to be part 2 (organize what's left).


Feel free to steal anything you might find useful, and also feel free to comment if you think of anything that can make what I already have better.

Not long ago, Ilya Pozin at Inc Magazine blogged that collaboration often fails and is not always a good thing.  He quoted Steve Wozniak in a 2012 NY Times article ("The Rise of the New Groupthink") by Susan Cain, the famous introvert, as saying:

I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.


But Wozniak was also active in the Homebrew Computer Club and in fact stated that “without computer clubs there would probably be no Apple computers.”  So how can we reconcile these two views from the same person?  I think it’s the subtle difference between collaborating and sharing.  Collaboration implies a certain amount of give-and-take between multiple parties, but sharing is simply offering up something without necessarily expecting anything in return.  water cooler.jpg


I've talked about working out loud a lot here in the Jive Community and also in other places.  It’s the idea that you make your work observable as you are doing it.  Certainly many great collaborations came out of computer clubs, but the clubs themselves weren't so much about collaborating as they were about sharing.  Lone wolves often tinkered in their garages, then came to the clubs to show what they had done and see what others were doing.


In the physical world, companies have long recognized that cafeterias, coffee machines, and water coolers can be magnets for the sharing of ideas within an organization.  Steve Jobs famously obsessed over bathroom locations at Pixar in order to maximize the opportunity for “serendipitous personal encounters.”  So it’s surprising to see how many companies recoil at the notion of having a virtual Water Cooler on their employee social platforms, a place where employees can feel free to talk about whatever they want.


On the surface, it’s easy to understand why.  A virtual Water Cooler can look like a giant, highly visible, ever-growing waste of time and resources that keeps employees from being productive.  Collaboration software vendors and consultants will often counter this perception by arguing that having a Water Cooler increases employee engagement and speeds adoption by creating a fun way for employees to become familiar with the tool’s features, thus developing skills which then can transfer over to more productive collaborative efforts.


I wholeheartedly agree with these benefits, but I want to point out two other often overlooked ways in which a Water Cooler can add real value at a much more strategic, organizational level.   We’ve had a Water Cooler operating in our Jive internal platform for three years and have noticed a couple of interesting things.


First, a vibrant, active Water Cooler contains a ready audience that is a microcosm of the entire organization.  Because anyone can talk about anything, readership is drawn from all areas of the business.  Our Water Cooler regularly draws in about 25% of our employee base as readers in a given month.  The charts below show the distribution of Water Cooler visitors by business area and by geographical region as compared to the distribution of the total employee base (labels have been removed for confidentiality purposes).


ba.jpg  geo.jpg


As you can see, the Water Cooler readership mirrors overall employee distribution reasonably well, meaning that there’s a good chance that when you post something there, your readership represents the company at large.


Here’s an example of how that becomes beneficial.  One of our product development teams was deliberating on several different design options for a new product feature.  They posted their ideas to the Water Cooler and asked for comments.  In less than two days they had over 40 comments from multiple countries and from employees in roles they would have never thought to include, and the result was actually a hybrid design that was better than the ones they had been considering.  This kind of innovation and productivity was able to occur because the audience was already there for other reasons, some of them non-business related.


The second way that a Water Cooler can provide strategic value is by surfacing patterns of interest.  It’s a good idea to periodically review and categorize the posts that are made there to see if such patterns exist.  For example, we found in our case that:


  1. questions about how to get something done in the company (where the poster didn’t know where else to ask), and
  2. discussions of new technologies


each comprised about 10-15% of the total discussions in our Water Cooler (I’m happy to say that it was our CEO who first noticed these!).  So we recently revamped the design of our home page to encourage and put more focus on these two types and to ensure that questions about work are promptly answered.


Casual conversations at work will always happen, whether at the physical water cooler or the virtual one.  I don’t think having a virtual Water Cooler increases non-business conversation, it only makes what was already going on more visible.  But it does create a larger space for more of Jobs’ “serendipitous personal encounters” to occur, and smart companies will recognize that as an asset, not a liability.


So I say to all you companies who are on the fence, embrace your inner Water Cooler!  It's not only cool and refreshing, but can be awesomely strategic as well.

Think about the utilities that you might use every day in your home -- electricity, water, cable, gas. What are their common attributes?  When I asked myself that question, I came up with these two:


  • I don't know exactly where they come from; I just know that (assuming everything is working properly) they are always there when I need them.
  • I as the consumer get to decide how much and in what form I use them.


Electric Utility.png When I want some electricity, it might be to watch television or to run the washing machine or to recharge my phone.  I can make it come out into a three-pronged plug, a USB connector, or a DC adapter.


Similarly I can take a coax cable coming out of my wall and get a phone signal, a TV program, or access to the internet depending on which device I connect to it.  The gas line to my house might warm the room, light the fireplace, or heat the water.


Water Utility.png

When I want some water, I can make it come out of a faucet quickly to fill up a sink or bucket.  I can make it come out in a stream to wash my car or in a spray to take a shower.  I can even make it come out in a drip to feed my humidifier or refrigerator's ice maker.


All this "stuff" (electricity, gas, water, cable signal) is always there waiting to be used.   I don't have to call up for it to be delivered.  I also don't have to specify to the supplier how I want to use it.  I just have to tap into it.


So how does this relate to social business and working out loud?


Well, for many years the people who study knowledge management as a discipline have talked about whether the "push strategy" or "pull strategy" is better for enabling the flow of knowledge.  The Wikipedia entry for Knowledge Management says:


One strategy to KM involves actively managing knowledge (push strategy). In such an instance, individuals strive to explicitly encode their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository. This is commonly known as the Codification approach to KM.




Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy).  In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their insights to the particular person or people needing this.  This is commonly known as the Personalisation approach to KM.


According to this push/pull model, the only two choices available are to either ask knowledge producers to "explicitly encode" it, or to expect those who need knowledge to make requests to get it.  Both of these methods assume that knowledge transfer requires someone (a producer) to deliberately bundle up that specific knowledge for another person (a consumer) to use.  The only question in this model is whether it is bundled in advance or upon request.


But there is a third way that is neither push nor pull.  Imagine everyone in your company is working out loud in your Jive platform.  And by "working out loud," I don't just mean collaborating, but collaborating in the most open way possible -- doing their work in such a way that large numbers of people can see it who might otherwise not be aware of that work. 


Now suddenly because your organization's knowledge is visible to anyone who wants it, it is neither packaged nor requested; it just gets created as a byproduct of the work being done.  It's not "shipped" like a product; it just exists as a utility.  Your social platform becomes a big knowledge generator that you as a knowledge consumer can plug into.  All that knowledge is out there "in the wall," and you decide by who or what you follow, by notifications, or by custom activity streams what kind of knowledge you want to see and how you want it delivered.  You design the plugs and filters to meter out that knowledge in the ways and at the volume you prefer.  Nothing gets pushed to you and you don't have to pull it out of anyone.


So try getting your organization working out loud and discover how much knowledge you have on tap!

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