Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's a little like teaching your Mother to use email: How to get older users to collaborate!

Here are two facts to consider: 
1.       Young talent needs to be nurtured by experienced hands in every discipline.
2.      Successful organizations must use an integrated, comprehensive approach to outperform the competition to serve their clients better and to survive in this difficult economy.  

Putting experienced people together with novices
Even before social networks, organizations encouraged collaboration between older, experienced workers and those new to the work force.  So you end up with apprentice electricians and plumbers who toil under the supervision of old hands… finally obtaining the status of “journeyman” only after benefiting from the advice and guidance of those with more experience.

This holds true for every discipline.  You can graduate with a degree in finance or accounting or medicine or architecture or engineering, but for many careers showing up at work is when your education really begins.  Most organizations try to figure out how to couple experienced hands with up and coming talent.

Get them to use the collaborative system!
It’s no secret one of the challenges in deploying collaborative software is to get users to stop merely “lurking” and start contributing.  Young people are more comfortable with social networking software, or new technology for that matter.  Older folks are generally more conservative and resistant.  But a successful collaborative environment will yield a competitive company.  New innovation comes from tapping into the collective intelligence of smart people.

Besides sharing their experience, why is it important to have those more senior folks in the game?  Lots of reasons…and the same reasons you want lots of people, lots of diversity in every collaborative dialog going on in your system, period.  

  • First off, more senior users are generally more influential, especially among peers of the same age, while younger users (like millenials or Gen X, Y, etc.) are generally more susceptible to being influenced.   
  • We know men are more influential than women (Hey!  Not my fault or prejudice, look at the studies! See note).    
  • But to their credit… women are less susceptible to influence and they exert more influence over men than over other women.  

This means you need to use all the tools at your disposal as “innovation manager” to get all these folks engaged.  Send them emails with links to interesting discussions, have challenges appear on their intranet portals, make contributions to the collaborative system a requirement for bonuses.  Require new project funding only if the topic has been run through the collaborative process and system.  

As your user community starts to make it clear they have loyalties and relationships with others holding a common area of interest, the innovation manager can use the usage statistics of the system to identify influential players and get them connected with others.  Users with a definitive relationship status, part of an identified team, are more influential than users with relationships less well defined. People will serendipitously flock to those who share their passions.  And the Innovation Manager is tasked with helping this process along.

One of the best quotes I've heard lately about changing the way we all do business is this one:  "We all have to break the egg to see what's inside.  Currently we're all standing around admiring the egg".  All companies have to put our client's needs in mind and think in new ways on their behalf.  Without a doubt today's social media technology is the pathway there and collaborative innovation software is the method to use.

Most agree that integrating disciplines, getting everyone to collaborate, is a key element to successful competition in today’s difficult economy.  Collaborative software systems are excellent vehicles to encourage that communication.  You need all types of people to get engaged to be successful.  You need to use all the tools at your disposal to get people to adopt and stay engaged.  This includes those who might prove resistant.

To learn more about the kinds of tools required to pull all this off, please register for our upcoming webinar:  The top dozen ways to make the job of the innovation manager easier”.

Note:  Aral, S. & Walker, D., “Identifying Influential and Susceptible Members of Social Networks”, Science

Please enroll now in our free webinar!
I’ll explore these challenges and present some common technology oriented solutions in our upcoming webinar:  The top dozen ways to make the innovation manager’s job easier.  You can easily register for this complimentary event here:  Take the time to join your peers for a few minutes next month and learn how other organizations are making the innovation process work for them. 

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool.  It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing.  The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Phillip Morris, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer®

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