Archive for Social Media:

January 21, 2011

By jleffron

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Knowledge Management, Social Media

More Than Words… Building Productivity Out of an Abundance of Ideas

There are probably writers who work in a nice tidy sequential fashion.  They have an idea, sit down, research it, write it, hit ‘save’ or ‘publish’ and move on. I’m not one of those writers.

Well, I used to be one of those writers, but I’m now solidly in the school of writers whose work-flow goes something like this: “Start with a couple dozen open tabs on Firefox and a collection of journal articles spread out on the desk, add a few though provoking conversations, have the connections start pinging in the brain …. and next thing you know, there are the notes for 3 or 4 different posts and articles, but nothing actually written.”

At some point I realized that this is the blessing and the curse of living in this Web 2.0/SocialMedia world.  An abundance of resources, an abundance of conversations to trigger ideas, and an overabundance of details to try to do something useful with.

I’m realizing more and more that the problem is not a lack of information structuring, nor of information filtering, it’s that I’ve needed to learn to keep my resources for a given piece of writing all in one place.  My brain is more than willing to be distracted when I write, and it was an awful lot easier maintain a hint of discipline when the only things within my grasp were directly related to the work at hand.  You know, Old School: at the big library table with references and note cards creating the only visual landscape; a wall of focused information blocking out the rest of the world.

So, I’m learning.  Learning when to allow myself time to dig into research and go down those rabbit trails that lead to serendipitous connections.   And learning to remember when it’s time to say “enough”.  Just because one has nearly infinite access to resources doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to gorge on all of them.   If I’ve missed an idea or a connection, I’ll find it later, on my own or through the comments of others.  But if I don’t get it written in the first place, there’s nothing there to improve on, to criticize or to expand on.  It’s that simple, and it’s that hard:  sit down and write.

Now, it would be really great if I had the discipline to tune out the siren song of Google Scholar, and the persistent calls of Twitter.  But it’s human nature, when you lift your head up from writing, to want to dig in and find “one more thing”.    I needed to find a way to keep all the resources for a project in one virtual workspace so I wouldn’t drift off while tracking down references, mind maps, emails, and notes that I’d collected.

For me this ultimately meant finding a software solution;  I started using Scrivener.   It allows me to recreate that giant library table of references and notes, removing the need to wander off to Google (or Mindmeister, or iStockphoto) to finish a project.

Writing is more that words.  It’s words fueled by ideas, challenging conversations, striking images, or problems to be solved.   Creating a virtual library table can make it possible for a writer to step back from the conversation long enough to actually produce something that contributes to the conversation.

August 5, 2010

By jleffron

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Learning, Social Media

Company Policy

I was asked, recently, about the advisability of including the Blog function in a Sharepoint implementation.  The answer to that lies in a question, the same primary question that needs to be asked if your business is looking Twitter, Yammer, an in-house wiki, or a host of other Social Media tools.  The question is a simple one:

Is it your company policy to hire stupid people?

I’m guessing the answer to that question is “no”; that your HR policy is to hire talented, capable, highly motivated professionals who want to excel in their careers.  Assuming that is the case, then there are some other questions to consider:

Do you want to leverage the talents of your workforce to achieve the greatest business results?

Do you want employees to have access to the best in-house knowledge to support their performance?

Do you want to increase efficiency and productivity?

In this case, I’m guessing the answer is “yes”.

So, if you’ve hired intelligent, motivated adult professionals, maybe you need to let them be just that.  Given the opportunity, it is likely a good portion of them will have expertise and insight that they want to share.  And if that expertise is shared on an in-house blog or wiki, then that means the next time someone needs input or advice they’ll be able to track down the experts in the business instead of taking Hobson’s Choice, merely asking the person at the water cooler or in the office down the hall.  And as questions get asked, it’s good odds that more and more of the most needed information will end up on your blog or wiki so that the experts only have to put it out there once, not in twenty separate conversations.  More efficient for the information seekers; more efficient for the information sources.

Now, of course it is not that simple.  It’s easy to fritter away time on blog posts, micro-blogging or wikis.  It’s easy to spend too much with social media and not enough time on projects.  But you and the rest of your organization face this already, with phone calls, email, the internet, impromptu conversations in the hallway….  Wasting time is a product of people and the company culture, not of tools.

In the same way, success of Social Media tools will also hinge on your business culture.  If you have a culture of information hoarding, or of viewing “failure” as worse than inaction, then the best tools in the world will not be effective in leveraging the knowledge and talents of your employees.   Because, as was said before, your employees aren’t stupid.  They’ll contribute and innovate in direct proportion to what your corporate culture really values.