E2.0 Behavior Changes: Swapping Tools – Real to Digital

This post is a variation on what I’ve started and plan to continue on Use Cases, but rather than a Use Case, this is a Behavior Change. What’s the difference? You need both, and you want as many available in your toolkit as possible.

Use Cases show more in-depth and “tangible/measurable” scenarios that you, as a practitioner of whatever practice or technology we’re discussing.

Behavior Changes, are frankly more important, because if nobody can drive a stick shift, it doesn’t really matter if the corporate Ferrarri is parked right out front with the keys in it. (That’s a personal example, incidentally – as I’ve not yet mastered a manual transmission, not that I have a Ferrari either.) Relating to Enterprise 2.0/Social Business, having the greatest Enterprise 2.0 system in the world will not do you any good if nobody knows or cares to use it.

What I’ve been honing in on, particularly in workshops intended to help the people in large or small organizations, in the last several years of Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business work, is how to get more people to take that first step into realizing that “doing it the new way” is not all that different from whatever they did before.

In some cases, I will literally hand participants a card that gives them a “License2Collaborate” or in an innovation context, a “License2Innovate” – which may seem simplistic and unnecessary, but being able to “unfreeze” people from the terror of learning a new technique or system, can be shockingly low-tech and easy.

Why make problems or solutions more complicated than they need to be?

Remember, What is Your Information Architected FOR?

If your Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business System is not architected for real users to participate and take advantage of the capabilities of the system… well, you have failed.

You’re not building a system to create a piece of art – but to have a system that will support your employees and the goals of the organization.

First example

E2.0 Behavior Change: Swapping Tools – Real to Digital


Get the “non-evangelist” and early adopters to try any new system

Business Objective:

Show that the “new way” of working is just a pivot or step away from the “old way” – no big deal, so why not give a try?


Stage 1: Make a discussion “transparent” and visible.

Whether it’s the kick-off of a new project, or discussion around some problem area, capturing the details of the discussion and surfacing it visibly (not just audibly) makes it both real, and moves you out of the hazy area of having everyone in the room with their own perception of what’s being discussed.


Have a stack of PostIt Notes, or in my office, we have wall-to-wall whiteboards (the walls are full-scale whiteboards covered with IdeaPaint – which is fantastic, and highly recommended), and note all of the ideas in a visible area.

Have people stand-up to do this exercise (which will make them more productive and get them engaged), and there are no excuses for not participating.

It’s everyone in and involved (which will happen naturally as individuals begin to take action – others will follow – it’s the wisdom of the herd to follow a leader), or stop the meeting and call it off. If you need to, use a facilitator to get the first few sessions running, but really, this isn’t rocket science, folks.

Get the ideas out and in the open, without criticism or discussion yet, and aim for 5-10 contributions from each person, with a time-limit of 3 minutes.

At the end of 3 minutes, you will have accomplished a few things:

  1. You will have far more ideas than you normally get in any given meeting
  2. You will have actually engaged the brains (which is unfortunately rare in many organizations) of everyone in the room, rather than allowing a single or small majority to talk over everyone in a typical meeting
  3. You will have set the stage for teamwork – by getting everyone to participate, even if you haven’t yet worked “as a team” in a coordinated way, everyone has been present and visibly engaged, alongside others
  4. By surfacing all of these thoughts of the individuals in the room, you will have helped everyone to find a context to what you’re trying to do. When everyone on a “team” is left to figure out the context on their own, it’s far too easy to only focus on “me” versus “us” – there is nothing to tie people to the common ground because that common ground is often never built by a team, it’s handed down from the top without context, or is never defined, period.

Stage 2: From Real to Digital

The next stage of the exercise after this, is to show how doing this in-person, with physical tools, is really no different from doing it online in whatever collaborative tool you happen to have.

If you do not yet have a tool officially bought and paid for, use an environment that has realtime capabilities to it, so everyone can see the screen filling up, such as Google Docs. You’re not looking for the “perfect toolkit” at this stage, remember, you are simply creating the stepping stones that allow people to unwind themselves from their old tools, to easily grasp and use (which is the key!) a new tool.

People are amazed – “Wow, It’s not that much different, and it’s actually very easy.” Why? Everyone can type, their typing is typically far better than their handwriting, the information is now captured digitally instead of as a temporary PostIt Note or scribble on the wall, and before you know it, people have been tricked into taking that first step of collaborating online.

Why It Works:

This works simply due to the fact of human psychology. While are tools are getting more sophisticated, our brains, and the psychology of decision making, will lead most people back to the comfortable and familiar ways of doing things.

You should expect that! Leverage it, in fact, and use that to your advantage.

I’ve been studying the social psychology behind Influence and Persuasion (See Dr. Robert Cialdini’s work of the last 35 years for more information) for the last 5 years, and applying that directly to enterprise work.

What I’ve been honing, and have now cut to a very concise impact, is creating an array of micro-actions that get people off of the brakes, and onto the gas.

Quick social psychology glimpse: Taking micro-actions triggers the “consistency” principle – which states that people are more likely to act in the future as they have acted in the past, and the size of those initial actions doesn’t particularly matter.

If you can’t get someone to budge from an initial position (the classic “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”), then obviously, it’s going to be difficult to get them to run all the way to an entirely new way of working.

As soon as you can get someone to take an initial step in the direction of using your new Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business System, you are beginning to create a new context that does not require that they throw away the “old way” entirely (which can trigger the fight or flight mechanism we all have), but simply turns them slightly in the right direction, with some guidance and reassurance.

Combine this with “social proof” (or consensus, as Dr Cialdini’s group now calls it) of other people in the organization doing these exact actions, and surviving, makes it again, that much less threatening, and more of the next logical, easy step in the right direction.

None of this, incidentally, required getting people to understand what RSS, XML, CSS, SaaS, or any of the other hyper-technical terms are.

Combine the psychological aspects I’ve been using with the understanding of maturity/readiness models, and individual problem solving and decision making skills – and it’s even more obvious than ever that most people should never need to know the details of what’s under your Social Business hood.

People have jobs to do – faster, better, cheaper, with less people than ever before.

Enable them to succeed, and make it easy to keep taking steps in the right direction, and you will be lightyears ahead of your competition.

Debating whether to call this Enterprise 2.0, or Social Business, or Enterprise Wikis, etc. – trust me, most people don’t care. For all of us in the “inner circle” – let’s discuss the subtleties when it’s appropriate, but I’d rather focus first on actually helping people Get Things Done (which is also built on consistency and micro-actions, incidentally).

Additional Research Context:

Every Enterprise 2.0 project (just like any other project) will have people who will have completely valid reasons for not wanting to use the system. While the approach I’ve described in this post (micro-actions for swapping tools) will not eliminate issues of putting in place a new way of work that is completely inappropriate, or that has chosen the wrong tool/toolkit for the job, or is downright user hostile – providing people with a way to take that first step, and then make it easy to continue to take steps into the new system, is the only way you are going to get large-scale adoption.

See the presentation of our research into 2.0 Adoption from the Enterprise 2.0 Keynote in late 2009, embedded below:

What have you done to introduce new tools or ways of working?

Have you tried a similar approach? A different approach?

Please comment below (anonymously if you feel you need to) and collaborate on getting people involved and unstuck. No more hand-wringing and whining about how people aren’t using the wonderful system you bought, built or duct-taped together – what are the steps you’ve taken to enable people to take their first steps?

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“Information Architected gave a wonderful class at the AIIM Expo in Boston! Moving 2.0 technologies into our business is a new concept for many in our organization. You have inspired me to start being more forceful in working parts in. I especially like your level-headed approach to the subject.”
by Mark Carlson, Director of IT , Systems & Methods, Inc


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