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What if you could have strong ties of trust within your organization? What if you didn’t miss opportunities to add value because you are always in the know? Let’s put down our copies of “The Prince” and start using the power of our social technologies to get real.
Some companies have internal social networks for collaboration efforts, most do not, and no company that I know of has leveraged their network for trust-creating transparency. Call it “CoPROfile” (or whatever you want), your company’s robust internal social network.
Self-Managed and Opt-In Oriented
Trust cannot be forced. Members can share anything they are comfortable with and that they deem appropriate. Members have the opportunity to share personal interest, their resume and past and present projects along with updates, set-backs and victories. They can invite people to participate on a project, collaborate, create meetings and invite guests. They can share, here’s where it gets interesting, their latest performance appraisal, their salary information, and the areas where the organization needs improvement. Everyone has complete freedom to share and complete responsibility for what they share.
This feature is critical to the success of the network because it allows the network to evolve with the company’s culture. Leaders have the opportunity to lead by example by being open and honest about what they are working on. If the leadership agrees that total transparency is the way to go, then they can be the first to publish their salary information.
While trust cannot be forced, participation can be encouraged. On the MIX we have Hackers, Mavericks, Top Mixers, etc. This is a form of gamification. On the network I am describing, members who are open and honest can earn titles like “Straight Shooter” or perhaps each members page would have a fading transparency percentage at the side, beginning with a dark black 0% Transparent transitioning to almost nothing, then “BAM!” a bright shining 100% Transparent.
Considering how quickly Facebook added half a billion active users, I believe people generally like to participate in this sort of thing; the trick is overcoming the “work” stigmatism. While Theory X managers are trying to invent new ways to keep people who are “on the clock” off of Facebook, Theory Y managers can be inventing ways to leverage their teams social energies to unlock potential and leave the Theory Xers in the dust!
As trust cannot be forced; it also takes time to develop. People don’t generally “spill their guts” on the first date (at least not if they want a second date). Members who are brand new to the organization should not have immediate full access to everyone’s profile but should have a trust building period. Perhaps profile access is on a request basis until a member’s one year anniversary at which time full access is granted or maybe you can only get as much information as you give. Another option may be for each user to set boundaries on who can see what, like setting up groups on Facebook and assigning access privileges.
What happens on the network stays within the organization. When you trust a friend with important and personal information, it is a gut wrenching betrayal of that trust if they share your info with others. For organizations operating in a competitive environment, and that’s just about all of us, betraying the confidence of the organization can have a painful emotional and financial impact. When you betray a friend they often terminate the friendship. When you betray your organization, they may terminate your membership.
Are you thinking of doing a project on X? Find out if anyone else is too. Need someone with skill set Z on your team for the big project? Search all uploaded resumes to see who fits. Really! Do you know the education and experience of anyone who is not a direct report? You could.
Disputes happen and they can be particularly ugly and damaging when they take place in front of the masses on a social network. Fights or other poor behavior on the network that turns nasty needs to be handled face to face with offline mediators.
If you already have an internal network used for collaboration, you could start by building in some of the additional features that I have described and let management take the lead by being the first to get real. An easy first step may be opening up your calendar, which can be as simple as changing user preferences.
If you don’t have a network in place, it might be time to start building one… “If you build it they will come.”