I know what you are thinking… “The tools must be compatible with the tools we have now.”
Nope. Not that you would be totally wrong if you thought that, but you would be missing a major piece of this.
“Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.” (Diffusion of Innovations, p. 15)
In other words, it must blend in with what you BELIEVE now and have EXPERIENCED in the past.
Let’s look at some examples where, in company’s culture…
- the company makes decisions by committee. Everyone in a particular group has an equal say and the power to derail any discussion. Personally, for the most part I see this as anarchy, but we all have been a part of these before. For this to happen they must have meetings. Introduce a wiki where they can discuss and make plans and refine, and it might work. However, if the reason they are going to the meeting is for ego purposes or to waste time, they will not likely want to use a wiki because it is not compatible with their goals and objectives. Sure, not many people think, “I want to go to this meeting to waste time and to position myself in a better spot,” but we all know it happens.
- the training department ‘knows’ what is best for the employees to learn. So they create curricula. In a meeting you bring up adding discussions to help with the meeting. They may welcome the idea and see it as an extension of their needs analysis and feedback which will help them hone the content to best serve them. Or, on the other hand, they may feel threatened that, with the economy already down, before you know it, everything in their class is discussed in the forums and there may not be a need for the class. Or they may think that so much interaction will just get in the way.
- the company has a strict, unwritten, policy that none of the employees should be ‘playing’ with social media while at work because “it is a waste of time and a productivity killer.” The idea comes up for creating a type of social networking, allowing people to connect with others around the globe with similar skills, responsibilities or projects and gain insights from each other. How do you think they will accept it? But if the culture encourages conversation already but has lacked the ability to really let them connect because of the distance, you can see how it might be adopted much easier.
- everyone creates content and most of it takes more than one person before it is finished. Because so much content is created, it is watched over very carefully and is ‘owned’ by particular departments or individuals. Archived data is also ‘owned.’ Introduce the openness of a wiki for collaboration which allows everyone to make changes and it might not be accepted very well. Make some tweaks to the wiki – like having communities around it, version history, etc., and they may think twice and find that it fits in with their values and practices of how to run their company.
Compatibility is SO much more than technical. In fact it is mostly individual and cultural. When creating a strategy you will need to think about these issues and come up with plans on how to introduce, implement and use any of these tools. The possibilities for Social Learning are HUGE and very exciting. But, remember to keep your focus on what they DO for the company, not what they ARE.