Wednesday, 11 July 2012

"What are you working on"?

"What are you working on?" asks Yammer - as a work-related version of the Facebook question "What's on your mind".

As a way of getting people to share work-related activity, that's a good question, and pretty soon you will find your Yammer stream full of statements like

  • "I'm working on a new proposal"
  • "I'm getting ready to go on holiday"
  • "Im finishing the assessment report"
For some people, that's interesting connectivity, that helps them feel connected with co-workers. For others, that's unwelcome Noise; stuff they didn't need to know that distracts them from work.

If you want to use a product like Yammer for knowledge sharing, then I can't help thinking there's got to be a better question - one that drives Pull and not Push; one that develops the habit of Asking.

Maybe something like

"What knowledge do you need to help deliver your work?"
"What can your social network help you with today?"
"What question do you have for your network?"


Jim Millen said...

Within our internal social network this was a subject of much debate! Ultimately this little prompt has to be many things for many people, and in an ideal world each community facilitator would choose a prompt appropriate to their network... But the technology didn't allow for this.

So we've ended up with a very neutral "Share an update" - very neutral, which of course has its downsides, but on the other hand at least nobody should feel put off from asking questions!

Nick Milton said...

Do you see as question as being "an update," Jim?

Jim Millen said...

It's not the most encouraging of questions as a prompt, but - from experience since - neither does it seem to put them off much. I think as with Facebook's "What's on your mind?" or Twitter's even more terse "Compose new tweet" nothing will ever really fit for all applications.

I think the purpose behind the platform will dictate this to a large extent - if it's purely for Q&A then the decision becomes easy and I'd absolutely agree the prompt should invite questions. When you want to use it to suit any form of interaction though it's not so straightforward...

Nick Milton said...

That's very true Jim. Purpose is key, and needs careful thought, and application of the 5 whys.

I have seen at least one company introduce Yammer "to see what happens", and they certainly acheived their purpose - they saw what happened - there was a flurry of interest which died away quickly. Other companies introduce Yammer to encourage informal interaction between staff, and that happens as well. But the deeper questions come when you ask Why informal interaction is needed, and if you chase the 5 whys as far as business value, it often comes down to improving the probability of one persons business problem being solved through application of knowledge and insight from someone else.

That's the point at which you go back to the use of the tool, and ask yourself how you best frame the prompt to deliver that desired result.

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