Piloting Social Media

September 2, 2009

A good blog by Michael Indinopulis, “Enterprise 2.0: Skip the Pilot” introduces a nice complex notion. His actual premise is that piloting (the sense that we pilot collaboration software, something I’ve done quite a bit of) is based on using small control groups. We introduce the software carefully, exposing it to only a few people, learn from them what the strengths and weaknesses are, work up required training, make the change management plan, and so on.

But social media is different from traditional software. As he says, “Traditional IT enables transactions; Enterprise 2.0 enables interactions.” And interaction is fundamentally different from transactions, which are bounded and constrained. We can’t understand the power of interactions until there are many of them, going out in multiple directions, increasing exponentially.

And there is no value to any individual until there are sufficient interactions bouncing around out there. The solution, therefore, to a moribund social media pilot is not to shut it down and reconsider, but to “Make it bigger. Open it up. Invite more people. Tell them to invite even more people. That’s the only way you’re going to find out the real behavior and the real value.”

One of my early lessons about increasing knowledge flow in organizations was the answer to the question, “How do you stimulate knowledge flow in a network?” Possibilities:

  • Increase the number of people

  • Increase the number of interactions

  • Increase the diversity

This is actually a timely lesson for me, who has cautioned a client to conduct a “soft launch” for a social networking platform. We do need, on this platform, for some lead users to help us identify the problem areas and constraints so that we can alert the next round of users, but we are also discovering that once the word about the platform gets out, it will be hard to slow it down. My job? Ensure requisite diversity so that we’ll learn as much as we can.

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