Thoughts for discussion

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Beware of the Overload:
[Via Enterprise 2.0 Blog]
Information overload is a real problem as we develop new work processes to deal with it. At the moment, email takes the brunt, often serving as a catch basin for all types of data. This not only makes it inefficient, it makes it even more difficult to work through the large amounts of data that are usually included. Making the tools we already use more efficient in our workflow is critical.

Here we have a discussion of how one might do that. The Enterprise 2.0 blogs always has some interesting points.

Staying afloat in the depths of one’s email is a daily struggle for most of us. It’s difficult to carve out time to devote to other time consuming projects. Luckily there are collaborative tools that can help ease the strain. But just as important as the existence of the tools is the best practices associated with them. Here are a few I came up with:

1. A community can’t be force fed. It needs to take on an organic growth and naturally evolve. As a bottom-up movement, the members of the community shouldn’t need outside motivation to contribute. The benefits of membership should speak for themselves.

This is often true of a mature community and its tools. However, often the community needs some active gardening, particularly in the early stages, in order to become self-sufficient. This acts to increase the rate of diffusion of innovation for these tools.

While the benefits should speak for themselves, there is an element of internal marketing that often needs to be provided. IBM’s data indicate that corporate-wide initiatives have strong impacts on the creation and retention of new blogs. Care just must be taken to be sure that these sorts of top-down approaches do not hamper the bottom-up needs of the tools.

2. Be considerate of existing processes. Don’t anticipate replacing your email client with a wiki (just yet).

This is an important point. None of these new tools and processes will really replace another one. They will just provide a more appropriate avenue for dealing with large amounts of information. A screwdriver does not replace a hammer.

3. Know which tool is most appropriate for the task at hand, and use accordingly. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole.

This is what is hampering email. Email is great for one-to-one communication where multiple forms of information (i.e. PDFs, photos, spreadsheets) can be moved between people. But is is not the best method for creating or distributing these to larger groups. Here, wikis serve a better purpose.

The goal is to make sure the tools are available. Too many communities only have round holes available. Thus the frustration.

4. Keep company policy top of mind when using tools. This policy should be communicated clearly. Removing a member’s post is justifiable, so long as the policy for what is appropriate content and what is not can be referenced as due cause.

Usually this only needs a light touch. If a company has done its job right, these sorts of policies will only be an extension of current corporate policy, such as appropriate emails. The community will fairly quickly determine what is really needed, particularly one that is already behind a firewall.

5. If you’re in management, be prepared to hear the truth – this may includes some things you don’t want to hear. A community is an excellent forum to spark debate and discuss issues business processes. It allows those in lower level positions the opportunity to have their voices heard.

This is a critical point. It is not that these tools create this voice. People already say these same things. The tools just make this discussion visible. Dealing with these truths will be an important skill to develop. The goal must be a more successful community and organization, not just to assign blame.

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