Do We Need A More Social Government?

Nigel Fenwick

The new book Empowered highlights the benefits of empowering HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) within the workforce. As we approach our first-ever CIO Forum in October, I’m looking around for great examples of how governments are using social technologies to empower employees to serve empowered citizens.

When I think of government IT projects, I often think of multimillion-dollar projects lasting years before going live. But it doesn’t always have to be that way, as the following example illustrates. 

Peter Koht is a HERO working for the City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Office. In 2009, the city was facing its worst budget crisis (a problem familiar to many city officials). Running out of options, the city had already shut down civic services such as the community pool, museums, and a family resource center when it faced up to the reality that the people of the city needed to be involved in the decisions about what services to cut. Unfortunately, the voices too often heard at civic meetings were representatives of the extreme viewpoints at either end of the political spectrum. In an effort to collect more ideas from the silent majority, Peter suggested the city could tap into social media to connect with its citizens. Lacking any kind of budget or resources, Peter had to rely on the help of three volunteers to get a community site up and running in a week. 

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Einstein And Social Media

Nigel Fenwick

Albert EinsteinEven though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.

Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.

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Should You Pilot Enterprise Communities? Three Tips for Success

Nigel Fenwick

In a recent blog post called "Drop The Pilot," Andrew McAfee argues that most "Enterprise 2.0" pilots are unintentionally set up to fail. This is in part because such enterprise communities depend upon broad employee acceptance in order to be effective. This doesn't mean that collaboration platforms are only effective in organizations with tens of thousands of employees, but it certainly helps. And the challenge with pilots is that they are frequently focused on a subset of the organization -- these pilots never really have the chance to fully realize their potential. Perhaps the best pilots are those that are not limited in scale but limited in time -- they determine adoption rates over time and use the pilot to figure out how to make the final rollout more successful.

In his blog post McAfee goes on to suggest six steps toward effective deployment which gel nicely with the key lessons learned from the United Business Media (UBM) case study published recently. McAfee suggests you should:

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The Secret Of Successful Social Communities: 4 Social Needs

Nigel Fenwick

Ever since I first started working with online social communities I've been thinking about just what it is that makes some communities successful while others fizzle and die. In particular I'm curious why collaboration communities seem to be so hard to make work.

Of course we have plenty of research into the strategies and tactics involved in setting up and running a successful social community, and we continue to publish new research and insights each month. But what do we know about the real reasons why individuals take the time to participate in these communities? What motivates them? And if we can understand what motivates them, is there a connection to figuring out why some communities are more successful than others?

While doing recent research on social computing initiatives I got to thinking on this problem again. Recently I made the connection to Abraham Maslow's work on the hierarchy of needs

Maslow suggested all people are motivated by a desire to fulfill basic human needs in an ascending hierarchy. He also suggested that unless the lower-order needs are fulfilled, the higher-order needs are not motivators of behavior.

The primary needs Maslow identified fall into five groups:

  • Physiological: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion
  • Safety: security of: body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property.
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