Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Losing the Soul of Social

Technology can extend the human condition but it can also work to dehumanize, transforming the sincere ideals of community and relationships into exploitable resources. The vendor marketing machines have lots of money and content marketing is their new effort to turn spin doctors into gurus as they work to convince you they are not selling but educating. Let the buyer beware. Some "though leaders" in this space are really after mind control and in many ways I think it's working. For example I sat in a conference session recently which was a bit alarming. The discussion was centered on community building but was framed around tools. No discussion of trust and time and shared values or support. Rather it was a conversation about things like how to use gamification to get people to share! Or this recent post titled How to Master Social Marketing Quickly and Effectively which is chock full of advice like Automate It, Know Your Numbers, Get Followers. More likely than not some of the approaches in this article work in the short-term but are quite devoid of anything resembling sincerity or human relationship building.

Technology is seductive. I underestimated its power at my previous organization. I had leadership on board that improving transparency and collaboration would help in reducing redundancy and increase innovation; a huge win. Within days a team formed to assess social technology options! I was dismayed but also being new I figured it was best to tentatively support this as I naively believed that I could simultaneously explore technology solutions and also assess how we were currently collaborating and communicating throughout the organization. I carried on looking for where the pockets of healthy teams, departments and interactions were. I sought out conversations that informed me of barriers as well identified ambassadors or nodes in our already existing networks. I deepened my understanding of the business and culture. While I looked at business problems the tech train was gaining strength. My slow roll out was ultimately compromised by a need to justify the expense of a chosen solution. How ridiculous of me to a think we would leave a Porsche parked in the garage when it looked so sunny outside. The platform was on the table too soon and too many were letting tech take the wheel.  In the end the technology rolled out before the needs of the organization were really defined. Not quite a failure but definitely a struggle that was unnecessary as adoption became the goal not adaptation where real business value was.

"Money is in technology focus, but effect is in people focus." - James Tyer

Human history is littered with examples of where technology temporarily blinded us with devastating results to body and mind. The Industrial Revolution made people mere appendages of the machines and child labor was a widely accepted practice.  More recently (and far less cruel) Learning Management System spin has misled people into believing a formal course is how and where learning takes place and that access, completions and scores equate to learning - wasting time, money and reducing morale. The former was ultimately defeated through the birth of labor unions and progressive legislation and today, the LMS is under attack by progressive minds using data to help people see where learning is actually happening and change mindsets.  Eventually, as history shows, we do come to our senses. However, if we sit passively allowing the voices of deception to coexist with the sincere, the longer it will take us to realize the true benefits of social - benefits gained as we move through the machine not within it
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