This post by Angela Ashenden makes some worthwhile points about using social networks (i.e., Facebook) for business collaboration.  I appreciate that she points out the obvious, and not so obvious, reasons that social networks can be a productivity drain and their use should be discouraged.  However, toward the end of the post, Ms. Ashenden concludes that,

“[w]hen it comes down to it, the biggest issue is trust, and trusting your employees to behave in an appropriate way. The reality is that if people want to waste their time they will, whether or not you deploy social collaboration tools in your business (after all, they can access their public Facebook and Twitter accounts from their personal smartphones, even if your organisation blocks access on work devices). In practice, few organisations find that governance is an issue on internal social collaboration platforms – once everyone understands how things work, initial concerns fade away.”

I completely agree with this conclusion, but it seems to me that trust is the lowest threshold for adoption.  Most often trust is the issue cited by leadership for not embracing social collaboration.  This is becoming less of an issue for the rank and file, as noted in the quote above.

The obstacle I have not figured out how to overcome is drawing people to an internal social network.  People are drawn to Facebook by news about family and friends, games, pictures, video clips, etc.  You don’t want your business information to compete with baby pictures so there has to be a compelling reason for a team to use a social network for collaboration.

In my organization I believe there are two overriding factors that influence collaboration, deadlines and budget.  Assuming I am right, the biggest obstacle to adopting a social network is the impact it has on processes and accountability.  A model that is based on social collaboration forces an organization to rethink how it views these factors; However, I would argue that social collaboration spreads the responsibility in a healthy way and can instill a greater sense of unity in an organization.

  • What would it look like if everyone is jointly accountable for meeting a deadline?
  • How would people behave if they had a voice in deciding the theme for a catalog?
  • What if everyone knew what the top performing products were?
  • How could we collectively improve collaboration and communication with remote locations?

This is challenging to the culture of an organization.  It forces people to rethink their assumptions.  That is not easy and is predicated on trust.  In the long run I believe the benefits can far outweigh the consequences.