Enterprise social media: offline company culture impedes implementation?

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With Google again jumping into the social game with Google +, social is incredibly hot on the consumer side. But while Facebook and co. blaze a trail for home use, in the workplace interest in social has been smoldering away for years without really catching into a similar bonfire.

Why? Previously, WebWorkerDaily has spoken to Yammer co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni who explained that some executives fail to grasp the full benefit of social for enterprise. But perhaps there are other reasons social media at work has failed to catch on as speedily as it has at home that have nothing to do with the limitations of the tech itself or the imaginative failings of corporate honchos.

Writing on the IBF blog, Katrina Pugh explains that many of the corporate clients she works with fail to garner the full benefits of social media tools not because these tools are badly conceived or improperly rolled out, but because the larger corporate culture that surrounds them makes workers hesitant to fully utilize social. Without these two offline prerequisites, she writes, organizations will fail to reap the full benefits of social media:

Interpersonal trust comes from a sense that you who are asking for my help (or from whom I am asking for help) are worthy of that engagement. Worthiness might come from relationships I’ve developed with you or your team, or from an affiliation we share (part of the same company or network). I will go out into a public forum, a SharePoint Discussion or Yammer thread, and try to help you. Interpersonal trust doesn’t mean we’re best of friends. Richard Hackmann, renowned Harvard University team researcher, found that for teams and musicians, a small amount of friction generally results in a better quality product or performance. You might say, where there is trust, interpersonal trust trumps like-mindedness.

Individual safety comes from the sense that sharing will not rob me of something I value, such as credibility, recognition, or respect.  If the organization rewards me explicitly for inventing my own solutions, I’ll close myself to input from others. If the organization rewards me explicitly for being the “subject matter expert,” I’ll hold knowledge close to the chest until I know I’ll “get the credit.”  These hold-back behaviors come from outside the social media world, and spill over into that world, in the form of absent experts, opaque comments, and grandstanding.

She concludes that whatever tools or techniques you bring to a your organization, “only when leaders encourage inquiry (versus defensiveness), welcome diversity (versus group-think), and invite respect (versus judgment)” will people fully engage with social media at work.

Do you agree?

Image courtesy Flickr user Scott McLeod

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