What are the behaviours that build digital engagement?

This is a summary I prepared at work of some conclusions about how we build an “Enterprise 2.0” organisation (specifically, a civil service organisation). I’m particularly interested in what’s needed in the way of new skills to support such a change, hence the final section.

Characteristics of Enterprise 2.0

Sustaining valuable conversations

  • The digital world is bitty and subject to firestorms
  • Commitment to continuity is crucial – even when followers are fickle
  • We do not have a privileged voice: we gain authority and audience through skills and knowledge, not because we are “the Government”.

Blurring of boundaries (real/virtual; private/public; official/unofficial; internal/external)

  • We have to operate consistently and authentically (and avoid being a “creepy treehouse”)
  • We must learn to plan all activity across the boundaries of real and virtual
  • Managing and deploying knowledge must happen transparently across the boundary between “internal” and “external”

Concept mapping

  • Concepts connect, and we no longer control the connections or the changes in them
  • Sharing, testing and challenging our understanding and our vocabulary is essential

Developing communities

  • Proactively seeking engagement, not passively waiting for it
  • We’re in competition for eyeball time: don’t assume people will engage with us rather than with other centres of power or authority
  • There are no hierarchies in a web: no-one represents or stands in for others
  • Developing partners’ capabilities is as important as developing our own (and can only be done jointly)

Capturing good exemplars

  • Small-scale experimentation works better than large schemes in complex situations
  • Lessons learned = good examples – and not = “best practice”
  • Experimentation means being tolerant of failure, and being comfortable with talking about failures

Building “Enterprise 2.0”

  1. Enterprise 2.0 can be built by command and control (CISCO is an example), but it is generally built by removing barriers rather than by corralling staff.
  2. Different organisations have different levels of capability (and indeed capability may differ within an organisation). These different levels will affect how “naturally” staff take to Enterprise 2.0 behaviours (and we should not assume that the differences are generational).
  3. Resistance or reluctance can come from a variety of causes: a fear of not having permission; a fear of getting out of your depth; a fear of looking ridiculous; a simple fear of technology.

Building skills for “Enterprise 2.0”

Some new skills areas become crucial, especially:

  • facilitation skills – leading a collaborative effort in such a way as to maintain the wider engagement;
  • visual skills – presenting and understanding knowledge and information in ways that can be read rapidly and effectively;
  • engagement skills – understanding and working to an agenda which is not necessarily ours;
  • identity skills – managing and maintaining authentic, valued and secure identities.

Some older skills may also need updating, particularly:

  • writing for the web – particularly the ability to write punchy, engaging text and make issues real to people through clear illustration and examples;
  • collaboration skills – the ability to work effectively with a range of stakeholders, internal and external, in an open and almost real-time way;
  • searching skills – being able to locate and monitor relevant information, conversations and issues as they arise “out there”.
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