What does life in perpetual Beta mean for your business on the internet?
First of all, there is no real privacy online [Cluetrain Thesis #13 - There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.]
But … social media are very powerful business tools.
Understand your business first, and then understand social media.
Then set negotiable boundaries and be flexible.
It’s all about Probes [as in Probe-Sense-Respond]
How to launch a Probe, such as a community of practice:
1. What are you testing?
2. How will you know if you have made progress?
3. What is the smallest probe we can do?
4. Measure the results.
5. Do it again, and again, with slight variations as needed.
6. Measure the results and either amplify it or stop doing it.
Ensure that over 50% of your probes fail.
Is this how your organization functions? What are doing to encourage failure and learning by doing?
Here is how Jane Hart and I have been doing some probes this past year.
We started running workshops at the Social Learning Centre after a discussion about getting connected with our actual customers. For example, in most consulting projects, the client is a manager/exectutive but the end-users are distributed throughout the company. The client may be satisfied but we often do not get to interact with all of the actual users. We thought we would like to try something different from a standard consulting arrangement.
We thought it would be good to try something that could be purchased directly by individuals. Jane had done some online workshops previously and had learned what works and what doesn’t, though this is constantly changing, as we have learned. I did my first workshop on personal knowledge management in April and 35 people signed up. I learned that there was an additional need for a live meeting that would get people talking a bit more, so this was added. I ran two more workshops on PKM and kept adjusting the schedule and resources. It was definitely popular. Jane and I then tried out a five-week Summer Camp that finishes this week. This was something quite new and a real joint effort. We learned that it’s a lot easier to do these workshops as a team.
As these workshops progressed, we wondered if this was the best way to reach out and if we could build a larger community. There are currently +1,700 members registered at the SLC, so we had an idea that some of them were looking for what we can offer in the way of workshops. In slightly over two weeks (September 2012), we are launching a full year of workshops, with six themes, a Summer camp, and a private Salon for discussions amongst community members. Themes are: PKM; social media for professional development; from training to performance support; online communities; social learning in business; and enterprise community management.
We don’t know how this will go, as it is another probe. It’s based on what we have learned so far, but we don’t kid ourselves that this will be a huge success. The feedback to date has been quite positive, so we are confident that most participants will gain something. We are doing it for one year, and during that time we will assess, monitior and evaluate our progress. Where it will lead, we do not know.
My hope is that the Social Learning Centre will become a dynamic community that we can support and guide with a gentle hand. Dealing with people who are directly paying you is a validating experience. Repeat customers mean you are doing something right. As people can vote with their feet, we will have to stay connected to the needs of community members. This year has been a wonderful learning experience for me and I am sure that next year will be as well.
By the way, if you are looking for an example of a failed probe, one workshop I proposed three years ago, has never been conducted.