Adoption of new social technology (by individual users) #mslocjam

Key #mslocjam questions concerning adoption of social technology (by individuals) include:

Every organization has individuals with different levels of comfort in adopting new social technology. How do you gauge the learning curve speed for any particular organization? What tells you that you’ve reached a tipping point? Road block?

Do incentives have a role in motivating adoption? If so, what works?

For these topics we are interested in hearing about effective practices or innovative new approaches. We are particularly interested in your more reflective thinking — based on your own experiences in working to help organizations become more connected and open in their knowledge sharing, what insights do you draw?

Share your insights as a comment or point us to other resources.

10 thoughts on “Adoption of new social technology (by individual users) #mslocjam

  1. From my personal experience and observations people join a new social media platform because they don’t want to be “left out”. You will also have your early adopters but for the rest of us the benefit or comfort of not having to figure out new technology is quickly outweighed when “everyone else is doing it” and you begin to feel like you are missing out. The initial surge of parents on Facebook were compelled to get on not because they understood all the benefits of connecting with old friends but because they wanted to see what their kids were up to. When offline conversation references videos or photos seen online the slow adopters start to feel left out and typically get on board. Maybe organizations can create this same situation within the work place. Maybe have the CEO post a fun or information rich video that can only be accessed through the corporate sharing platform. Maybe start a conversation or project on a hot topic that will cause employees to feel left out if they are not getting on to contribute. Everyone wants to be in the know; make the incentive information that everyone wants to access.


    1. What an excellent point! People hate to be left out! I’ve also been thinking about how to help incite that curiosity. Perhaps if there’s even one task people need to complete on the platform (for MSLOC, access to the syllabus/assignments, announcements), then people will be more likely to stumble on other interesting discussions. I know personally once I’m on a site, I can be lost for hours – I just need help with that first click.


  2. The most effective incentive is making life easier. If you can solve a problem via social technology, people will overcome their fear of the new. I’ve had luck with collaboration tools such as Basecamp in an organization where we had small mailbox capacity limits and sharing large files would clog your mailbox and render you unable to work until you purged. Using Basecamp to share and comment on large files solved that problem. So people used Basecamp rather than email for project conversations. We also had an issue with storing files on servers that weren’t available remotely. Cloud-based collaboration tools solved that problem, and allowed people to access files and discuss without being connected to the network. The key is to find a need, and provide a solution, then people will take that first step into new ways of working.


    1. I think you nailed it. It has a lot to do with others seeing the value (I’ve only seen this on a very small scale in my workplace). That said, it also had a lot to do with establishing ‘safe to fail’ conditions. People doubt take risks I’d they feel like they could be threatened in some way. And when leaders don’t display vulnerability it’s even harder to set ‘safe’ conditions.


  3. One indication that your organization has reached a tipping point in the adoption of social and collaborative tools is if you begin to see active exec and/or management participation in the collaborative spaces pickup. The journey to social requires cultural transformation and execs and management have to lead any cultural transformation.

    As far what works to push exec/manager participation….One thing that has worked at our company is to publish ‘leaderboards’ that provide a list of the most ‘social’ execs. This serves to reward the execs that are being social….and it is also a subtle reminder to other execs that they need to get on board.


  4. I think the incentives are a great way to start the process of virtual socialising because this is not as natural as it can occur face to face in the working place, and the enterprise may want to bring forward this communication. The start up can be incentivised but then it needs to be sustainable and for that like in any human relationship some bounds need to take place either because you find interesting the topic or the people who you debate with.

    Realistically and from what I could see in my own enterprise experience I think that there always needs to be a powerful leader ‘pushing’ this comms to start with and then people naturally tend to comment.

    Here in Europe the tendency is that people is quite shy to discuss publicly about company matters through social media.


    1. Thanks, Virginia. I am curious to know if you’ve seen any particularly good practices for leaders to set a good example? This seems to me to be based on a leader’s personal style – some leaders appear to be more comfortable engaging within an enterprise using social technology.

      I am also intrigued by your comment re: speaking about company matters in public. Yesterday I had a conversation with a group of communications and change leaders at a large not-for-profit organization here. They observed that employees were not likely to talk about their work on social media (or even face to face) if they felt the organization was asking them to simply be voices for a scripted marketing message. In fact, the leaders I spoke with said the employees would just shut down and not say anything if they felt pressure to “push” a message. But these leaders also observed that the employees were more likely to engage in social media discussions about their work if they could talk about it in their own manner; any many times, the stories that the employees would tell would be great examples of the not-for-profit’s mission and its impact on local communities. It was a more authentic voice.

      But that is a not-for-profit whose employees are genuinely connected to the organization’s mission. They work there because they care. I also know of examples of people who work for organizations and they just simply separate their work and personal lives. Work is work. And it ends when the day is done. They really could not imagine sharing about their professional lives.

      Which just makes me wonder – what are the different ways in which people define the boundaries of what is appropriate to share more publicly? How much of it is being shy vs. not being engaged as a professional vs. other reasons? Thinking out loud here.


  5. I was recently looking through some older issues (2009) of the McKinsey Quarterly and came across an article about the six success factors for Web 2.0 adoption in organizations. Although the article is a few years old, the content still seems relevant. As a matter of fact, two of the six factors were cited by Bill above – executive participation and recognition (e.g., the leaderboards example Bill cites). McKinsey’s six factors come from work they did surveying about 1,700 organizations. Here’s a summary of the six factors. I also found the article online so I’ve included a link below in case you’d like to read the entire article.

    1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.
    The gist of this success factor is that although Web 2.0 is designed as “bottoms-up,” the “build it and they will come” philosophy doesn’t work. To drive participation, senior executives should serve as role models. The article cites a Lockheed Martin executive who championed the use of blogs and wikis in the organization in part by writing his own blog.

    2. The best uses come from users, but they require help to scale.
    In a nutshell, management should avoid dictating the preferred uses for the technologies. Instead, employees should be allowed to determine how to best use them. However, once employees find effective uses for the technologies (e.g., small pockets of employees using certain technologies successfully), management should help promote them and make them scalable.

    3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used.
    Bottom line – make web tools relevant to how employees actually do their jobs instead of something they must do in addition to their jobs. The article references an example of how Google actually changed the way work is done to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies.

    4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs – not just their wallets.
    Although incentives are essential for information markets and searching crowd expertise, according to the McKinsey data, they have not proven effective in driving Web 2.0 participation in other areas. The article cites examples of companies that mandated a certain quantity of wiki posts, for example, as part of performance management criteria only to find the quality of the posts lacking. What is recommended instead is public recognition for good contributions – “play to ethos and the participants’ desire for recognition.”

    5. The right solution comes from the right participants.
    It’s essential to engage the right people upfront in the effort to drive adoption. For example, one company targeted technology-savvy and respected opinion leaders within the organization – both leaders and scientists that others sought out for advice.

    6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk.
    Adoption efforts can be stalled by HR and legal concerns. Maintaining the right balance of freedom and control is essential to adoption efforts.

    Access full article at:


  6. Another key insight from Harold Jarche in his recent piece “Social networks require ownership.” Two bits stand out:

    1) E2.0 doesn’t resolve dysfunctional organizational culture, it makes it transparent.
    2) The question of ownership is central. Individuals cannot take the artifacts of their know-how when they inevitably leave the organization. Jarche suggests (correctly, in my mind) that people are more motivated to work on their own knowledge nets because they own the outcomes.


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