Don’t expect to be social with your (closest) colleagues


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You might think you’ve read that headline wrongly.  Surely the whole point of social business collaboration is to be social with your colleagues?  Yes, it is, but it depends on how close they are and which tools you are using.  Confused?  Read on.

If you have a Facebook account and several members of your immediate family (spouse children, siblings etc) also have Facebook accounts, I would bet that it is unlikely that you will use Facebook as a major collaboration tool with them.  It doesn’t happen.  We don’t post status updates to find out when dinner is, or to remind each other about some domestic arrangement (I am sure this actually does happen in some families, but I am hoping you see my point).  We use good old fashioned collaboration techniques like, oh I don’t know, speaking to each other.  We might go as far as notes on the refridgerator, or a note under the car keys, but we ordinarily don’t resource to a social collaboration network to remind our spouses to get some milk on the way home.

This is true at work too.  In a situation where you work within about thirty to fifty feet of people in an office old collaboration tools prevail.  We might send the odd email to each other to give them a copy of something or to provide them with a convenient link to something but for the most part we go round and talk to them.  After all we are SOCIAL animals and the primary means of being social is still talking to each other.  Expecting us to widely adopt the many tools and features of our favorite collaboration platform to unite a locally-arranged, close-knit team is therefore going to meet with limited success.  Instead, we should recognize that a product like IBM Connections or SmartCloud for Social Business provides a range of tools which can be used for a variety of purposes.

In 1973, Mark Granovetter published “The Strength of Weak Ties” where he examines the interactions of people who are weakly-connected to each other. Long before the internet was publicly available or social software had ever been thought of, Granovetter showed us that the ways we work or communicate with people who are physically or psychologically distant from us is different from how we work with those around us.


When working with our close-colleagues we predominantly use speech, email and file sharing.  For more advanced teams we might also use something like status updates to help reduce the volume of transactional email we need to send to each other.

strongties1When we have a team of people who need to work together but who are spread through a large building, across a car park or across a continent or ocean then other collaboration tools help.  Blogs, wikis, status updates, communities, bookmarks and so on are useful.

weaktiesMy point here is to highlight that many of the current collaboration tools you use can be social if you want them to be.  By sharing what you know and have, and encouraging engagement with those resources, both your closest colleagues, and those across an ocean from you can benefit from what you know and share.  You should recognize that you can improve your collaboration and improve productivity amongst those you work with most frequently by doing simple things, such as:

  1. Make the files you can share fully available in a central, easily-accessed location.  Don’t just use it to share what someone has asked you to share – share it all – or at least what you can, so that others have the chance to discover what’s there and potentially make use of it.  This will save your colleagues time by not having to hunt around, or worse re-invent, something which “if they had just asked you, you could have given them”.
  2. Consider using status updates instead of emails to inform each other of changes which they might need to know about.  Replace the round-robin emails with status updates and encourage people to check out your messages.  This helps them filter out what they need to know and potentially increases the serendipitous discovery of information.  It also keeps their inbox down to stuff they actually need to deal with, rather than stuff other people think they might like to know.

These are just a couple of ideas which you can easily implement to make collaboration and working together easier for you and your colleagues.  Why not contribute some of your own ideas in the comments?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Hamilton
I believe social business is a new way for organizations of all sizes to form stronger working relationships within themselves and with their customers and partners. By demonstrating how any organization can become more open, responsible, compassionate and flexible I can show that staff and customer satisfaction increases, morale improves and better business results come.


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