People are the critical success factor for enterprise collaboration

People are the critical success factor for enterprise collaboration

peopleThis post originally appeared on Allison Maguire’s LinkedIn.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be wrapping up some concentrated coaching of five different communities across two organizations and a host of use cases. The seeds for this enterprise community coaching service came from something I had initially developed and applied internally at a previous employer to get new online communities or groups off the ground. After spending so much intensive time coaching community managers, I was reminded once again that success or failure relies heavily on two things, the use case and the people. The technology is just the enabler, important to have as a foundational element, but once in place it is fairly straightforward to address.

I’ve participated in some interesting conversations lately around use cases, in part triggered by a recent reposted blog I shared about the importance of wider consideration of business use cases and stakeholders. That blog was first posted in 2014 (seems eons ago, I know!). I reposted it, because when working with a customer, I was again reminded why organizations who focus on only one use case may miss out on the broader potential value for social collaboration. I definitely have more to say on use case development, but I’ll save it for a follow up post.

Complex and Unique

So let’s talk about that other critical success factor, people. The importance of the people factor cannot be underestimated in any change initiative. Social collaboration, social intranets, enterprise social, whatever you call it, for business value creation to occur, people need to participate. That’s why adoption has always been spoken about like a holy grail of social success. If people don’t use these collaboration tools, no matter how shiny or sexy they are, they won’t do your organization any good.

So how do we get people to participate? I’ve spent the last 10 years focused on this question, coupled with “how do we get business value from participation?” It all starts with people, and people are complex, unique individuals. So when building a sense of community in the online world, you really need to think about human motivations. Each of us is wired slightly differently but we tend to share some similar traits when it comes to motivation.

The late Peter Kollock, a sociologist at UCLA did some great work in the early noughties about human motivators and participation in online communities. He talked about recognition and anticipated reciprocity and efficacy as being potential motivators for participation. They are very different motivations, and none of them entirely altruistic or selfish, but more likely a combination of both.

Community Management as Psychology

A community manager needs to understand some of these concepts around what motivates people. They won’t necessarily need to apply this down to the level of the individual, but having an appreciation for what motivates different types of people helps us establish some good practices around promoting and reinforcing collaborative behaviors. Like ensuring that when someone posts something in an online community they get some kind of response (anticipated reciprocity). Or if they make a contribution, edit a document or answer a question they get an acknowledgement of some sort for their efforts (recognition, efficacy).

If, like me, your role includes coaching other community managers or leaders, then you also need to apply these same practices in your coaching. Even your community managers or your advocates for collaboration have their own trigger points. When it comes to building community, much like building teams, you need to understand the distinct roles and needs of the individuals. They each have their own reasons for what they do, as well as strengths that need to be capitalized on and potential gaps in understanding that need to be filled. Each person needs to be addressed with an understanding of what they want to do (use case) and why (mix of human motivators and business goals). Focusing on the “what,” without understanding the much more complex “why” will only get you so far.

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