How do we make them use our system?

I wonder if we’ve all seen it, maybe even done it. There’s a big splash launch of a new system or portal. It’s been high pressure for the delivery team who have a sigh of relief and disperse to their day-jobs. Some comms happen. And then someone notices that no-one is using it. And so we ask:

How do we make them use our system?

This question is wrong on so many levels for activities like knowledge sharing or social participation.

  • “We” and “them”.
  • “Make” them.
  • IT “system” focus.

David Gurteen explains the problems with this way of thinking rather nicely in his 4-min video.

Social or Fauxial?

011015_1657_Howdowemake1.pngJane Hart makes a similar point in her recent blog by inventing a new word to rhyme with social. “Fauxial learning is about forcing people to use social media in courses – or even in the workplace – and then confusing compliance with engagement (and even worse) learning.”

Engaging everyone with liberating structures

Gurteen says it’s got to be about getting them involved from the very beginning, engaging them, so they feel some ownership. It’s a question of motivation. We all nod, and then probably don’t do it. Probably because that feels impossible with, say, 90,000 people across BT.

Of course it is not possible to directly involve the entire target community at the earliest stages of the project. But what if the project itself is more of a platform to build on, and itself is the medium for co-creation.

  • Building solutions in Sharepoint 2013 (or similar) allows the possibility of direct comment with the Newsfeed and Discussions. I almost always notice that a fair section of that conversation is “how do I” questions and a bit of “what if we could…” ideas. So long as that is taken seriously and encouraged, the platform itself can generate some ownership.
  • On collaborative sites everyone can upload content – or even use the site to Record My Screen and create new content.
  • Going one step further, Sharepoint sites themselves can be extended in myriad ways, creating interactive experiences to match the best of external sites. What if we buck the trend of “locking down” and deliberately create our solutions with space for extra value to be added by participants themselves?

Ownership is not the same as buy-in

We try to get some buy-in. A comms campaign to sell the business benefits. Incentives. Put it in their objectives or in their job description. Write a policy. Make it mandatory and check on compliance. Almost all working on extrinsic motivation, not intrinsic motivations. Here’s a provocative quote which caught my attention, from groupjazz.

“Ownership is when you own or share the ownership of an idea, a decision, an action plan, a choice. It means that you have participated in its development; that it is your choice freely made.

Buy-in is the exact opposite. Someone else, or some group of people, has done the development, the thinking and the deciding, and now they have to convince you to come along and buy-in to their idea — so that you can implement their idea without your involvement in the initial conversations or resulting decisions. Aiming for buy-in creates lukewarm, pallid implementation and mediocre results.

Anytime you or someone around you thinks or talks about buy-in, beware! It is a danger signal telling you that your development and implementation process is missing the essential ingredient of involving all who should be involved.”

Recently I was very impressed at the viral growth of a social app called Wired in Openreach. I wonder what they did right? How did they “make people use their system”? How did they get “buy-in”? Maybe that wasn’t even the question. There were no comms campaign or incentives. The platform encourages participation. It actually has no content other than what participants add. The leading participants are very open, responsive and informal, which shapes the culture. The result of that ongoing engagement in co-creating content as people need it is lots more engagement. I’m sure it is not a magically guaranteed formula, but is that all it takes? If we want engagement, get engaged.


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