Jump Start Your Enterprise Social Efforts With A Jam

So, your organization needs to get social. We all get the benefits. More interactions among more knowledge workers with more frictionless access to more content equals a perfect environment for something new and great to happen. "Peanut butter, have you met chocolate? Oh, you work in separate parts of the organization and haven't had the pleasure yet? Well, you two are a match made in heaven. And, the vast majority of the organization agrees."

Flip comments aside, companies are considering making big bets on enterprise social technologies. For many organizations, particularly in North America and Western Europe, knowledge workers are the last real opportunity for competitive differentiation. Social technologies offer the promise of magnifying that differentiation and potentially in dramatic fashion. The question is how do you drive the cultural and organizational change that come with Enterprise 2.0 as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the end of the day, how do you go about setting up the best environment to drive those incredibly valuable serendipitous interactions?

Andrew McAfee, the father of Enterprise 2.0, recently blogged that the way to get to critical mass most quickly is to drop the pilot and go straight to enterprise deployment. While the conversation that followed was somewhat contentious (including some interesting discussion on a panel I was on at the Gilbane Conference yesterday) Andy's main contention is not up for debate. Social networks thrive on scale and critical mass. The more quickly and broadly that the social network evolves, the greater the  chance it has to thrive and ultimately produce those accidental and potentially magical interactions.

Without starting a debate about the merits of a pilot, I recently ran across an organization that is planning an interesting approach to introducing an enterprise social networking platform. They are considering kicking off their social networking initiative with a company wide Jam to determine the greatest business value for social for their organization. I like this approach for three main reasons:

  • It calibrates the broad organization to working in a social environment. This approach takes the "if you build they will come, or not" issue off of the table. Everyone know why they are participating. It has the potential to be a very positive and very productive session and will give employees an excellent grounding for what to expect from the system going forward.
  • It has a focus on business value. Let's also take the "people will just waste time" objective off of the table while we're at it. A Jam focused on business value will give everyone a good sense that social technologies belong in business. There is nothing like true business value to drive broad and rapid participation. The more people you convince quickly, the better. One note: Make sure that you have strong executive participation in the session. Nothing will tarnish your effort faster than saying it is critical to the organization, but not critical enough for the executives to bother with participating.
  • It provides your initial roadmap. Let's face it, we think we know how social will be received in our organization, but we really don't. The organizations that are most successful almost always say, "well, we didn't expect that we'd use it for that!" Let the Jam shake out some of the surprises and provide your roadmap. And remember that whole IT thing we never pay enough attention to, socializing the value of a new technology? Already done! The plan was developed socially.

And, you might just have that serendipitous interaction right out of the gate. That's where things get really interesting.