A Constant State of Beta

“When was the last time you lied to somebody?”

I got asked this question during an icebreaker at the start of the Enterprise Digital Summit last week. I won’t tell you the answer. You’ll have to ask my colleague Sukhvir who was doing the exercise with me.

I had a great time at #EntDigi. These were my highlights:

  • Shared consciousness. The US military uses this expression to describe the information shared with junior staff that, in the past, only senior staff would get. Christopher Fussell, former SEAL turned business consultant, mentioned it in his keynote. This kind of sharing guarantees that everyone has access to the same info and is therefore able to get their head around sensitive missions faster. I like the sound of the word consciousness. I like the idea that communication is more than pieces of text or a five-minute video. It’s a state of being. Employees get to share the same perception of where the organisation is going….
  • Is group chat making you sweat? If you are using Whatsapp for work, you will know what I mean. Richard Hughes of Broadvision had the following quote on one of his slides:

“Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda”. A chat without purpose can be distractive and become a burden. However, if your staff is disenchanted with Whatsapp… don’t despair. Treat this as an opportunity. Study their behaviour. Understand what they like and don’t like about group chat and explore a better, more appropriate channel.

  • Constant state of beta. One of the learnings that Hans-Jürgen Sturm of Amadeus IT got from introducing an enterprise social network is the need to explain to staff that from now on they will have to live in a constant state of beta…. Which can be a problem for some. In the past, IT tools that would stay the same for years. Not any more.
  • People want permanence. Robin Riley of the UK Ministry of Defence mentioned a similar challenge. He noticed while introducing their ESN that “people want certainty over platforms or may not commit”. These days, tools are constantly evolving so staff has to get used to a certain level of uncertainty.

One way to give them a sense of continuity is to present collaboration not as a tool but as an evolving ecosystem. Focus on the dynamic of sharing information, on how much easier it makes work and people will understand that a platform needs to evolve.

  • A one-note song. This is how measuring employee engagement sounds to Jennifer Moss of Plasticity Labs. After having overcome a major crisis in her private life by practising gratitude (write down every day three things you are grateful for!), Jennifer set up a consultancy that focuses on the roots of engagement and measures happiness in organisations.

Given that the average person spends some 90,000 hours at work during their life time, this approach is well worth the effort. Also because… millennials will stay in a job only if they love it (50% vs. 35% of Boomers). According to Jennifer, they usually give a job one year to 18 months…and if they don’t love it, they leave. Other reasons for millennials to stay include purpose (#1 reason), liking their boss and having friends at work as well as getting immediate feedback.

  • Replacing surveys with downloads. My colleagues Stuart and Matt ran a table discussion and mentioned that the success of transformation programs these days is no longer measured by pulse surveys but rather by analysing how many times an employee has downloaded and interacted with an app that provides information about the program and engages them with different techniques like gamification and crowdsourcing. Matt also talked about corporate learning programs becoming more and more like Netflix. It is the system that suggests to us which courses to take based on the ones we have taken in the past… like choosing which series to watch on Netflix.

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