I recently met a marketing professional who had seen the “social light”, or should I say Social Business Light. He was stressed about the fact that most of his colleagues and the management “don’t understand the value of social media and what is happening within marketing communication”. Very familiar set up!
At least some of the common misunderstandings and friction is a result of language we use. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to a situation where mutual comprehension is not easy. Other challenges are – no news here – results of silo-liked work environments, communication and collaboration gaps, and also some kind of idea “inbreeding”.
All these factors complicate the work of management, business operations, and strategy work. More precisely, complicating the way management is use to manage and lead.
People, Process, Tools
What I am trying to do is to learn more about the challenges related to the communication and language issues. In the background I have several years of work with the global community of great IT Service Management people. So I am familiar with a situation where business people are accusing the lazy techies in the IT department for hampering the competitive edge, and the IT folks are blaming (laughing and crying at) business units for their unrealistic wishes and lack of understanding related to the various IT services and systems.
A best practices framework (called IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL) introduced the key processes for IT services and the common terminology for IT people; however it’s clear it isn’t the language of business people. They speak dollars and Euros, hours and minutes. I’m not going deeper into ITSM now; my wise friends from the ITSM sphere can help me with that. I’ll continue with wondering communication and organizational culture related to people, processes and tools.
From Land Border Discussions to Landscape Design
A common language does not solve all the challenges, but it sure supports better mutual understanding. I have recently experienced that often there’s a severe lack of trust between the departments (silos) and no common language. How on earth would they use social tools together?
Both understanding and trust are created in the interactions, in the value-creating relationships, between individuals within companies and also over the organizational borders. This is a must for value creation. An organization, that recognizes the customer value and customer experience as their core tasks, will be successful. I would like to describe its benefits with this metaphor:
An organization that, instead of “land border discussions”, invests in ”landscape design”, where each part is creatively fitted into the environment, sometimes with some trial and error. This kind of organization can be more innovative and produce more value for the customer. And further, an organization which has managed to skip the land border talks and proceeds to landscape design, is able to learn both from its existing business environment, and also better perceive the future changes.
This kind of organization also learns not only more quickly but also smarter what ‘social’ really means. Check out one of my favorite blogger Harold Jarche, he discusses about smart learning, working smarter. The foundation for this kind of development lies on an open attitude and desire to learn.
New Structures of Work, Language Bath and the Process of Helping
How a silo-like organization will be a smart, learning, social organization? There are naturally lots of answers to that but here are three suggestions:
- New structures of work lead us towards a situation where departments and hierarchies as the operating platform for management, are becoming useless. We need to move towards distributed work structures and new kind of organizational landscape design is needed.
- A common understanding that is supported by language bath (nicer term for language immersion) so that the language does not form new barriers. Forget about placing people in the offices by the unit and role, mix them up, let them find their swarm, distribute work, crowdsource, and utilize collaboration tools effectively. This contributes to development of a common language and understanding.
- On top of these two, an entirely new process is needed: A Process of Helping. This new process together with the two previous points will help organizations to create value.
Point 3. is an idea which was presented by the pioneer of organizational development and culture Edgar H. Schein in a recent interview ”A Corporate Climate of Mutual Help” (pdf). He says wisely:
”Better teamwork requires perpetual mutual helping, within and across hierarchical boundaries.”
”…companies need to train their teams in the helping process. Most teams training that I’ve seen is focused on making people feel good about one another. But what I’m talking about is something much more profound and essential: knowing how to work with one another as equal partners in an operational setting.”
Beautiful. BTW I think it’s also applicable to a marriage.
Esko Kilpi describes the value creation in this kind of organization – and with this kind of attitude – in his interesting blog post from May 2010, “Online multiplayer games teaching management”. He suggests:
“The new landscape of work consists of the network as the architecture of work and work as interaction between non-co-located but interdependent people. The astonishing thing is that we can find an existing, efficient, working model for this kind of digital work. It is multiplayer online games and the game environment in general.”
“Acting in the game environment is always based on uncertainty. You can’t succeed in an uncertain environment without trial and error, without taking risks. You can’t embrace risk taking without accepting failures. Here the game environment is fundamentally different from most corporate cultures. In corporations the often-heard objection to trying out something is: “We’ve already tried it and it didn’t work!” The game environment approach is “Let’s try that again. The situation has changed and we have learned!” Frequent risk taking and confronting risks routinely help players to learn to keep paradoxes alive calmly and to live efficiently with continuous uncertainty.”
Very well put. I recommend that you read the entire post. I do favor an entrepreneurial attitude, risk taking and curiosity, genuinely taking all parties into account – the client first and foremost. Like in the game mechanics.
I do believe in the ideas of game mechanics and a new kind of business landscape design for the customer value creation. I’ll end this post by Esko’s wise words:
“Widespread adoption of game mechanics to communication, coordination and taking responsibility would require a dramatic change in the mainstream organizational culture. However, these games are here today and the generation that has grown up playing the games is growing up and joining corporations. They are going to be the drivers of the change towards a more productive and more fun work environment.”
And I feel genuinely good about the fact that he is speaking about my WoW playing son too.
PS1. One aspect to the value creation is open innovation. Hutch Carpenter’s recent post about social CRM and innovation is excellent, he says: “Open innovation is the two-way engagement with external parties to source, co-create and develop ideas that benefit the market and the company.” A topic for another post.
PS2. I’ve earlier written about this topic in Finnish, you’ll find it here.
Nice article and subject matter. Game mechanics can affect behavior and positive ways. The trick seems to be finding the optimal behavior to realize a set of objectives. Then add game mechanics and feedback loops to optimize the experience.
There’s a real art and science to it.
Thank you for your comment, Mark! Indeed this is a research area (and trial & error) of no easy answers. Your formulation of art and science is the most relevant!
Liked your Watson computer post!
Hey Riita, thanks for sharing this! While I agree with much of the post (esp liked the ideas of ”landscape design” and mutual help,) I’m struggling with this idea:
”In corporations the often-heard objection to trying out something is: ’We’ve already tried it and it didn’t work!’ The game environment approach is ’Let’s try that again. The situation has changed and we have learned!'”
There’s a lot to be learned from the discipline of direct marketing testing, some of which is…we tried it, it didn’t work, let’s move on to the next iteration/test.
Is Esko really suggesting we abandon past learning by assuming (without validation) the situation is different?