We know we are in a time of consumption and excess when in the US we have a TV series dedicated to people who hoard material things to the point they are facing eviction or loss of parental rights based on health issues. And recently I saw a commercial for an air freshener that shows the blindfolded test subject sitting in a room of foul and disgusting objects…but because the air has been sprayed, they only smell “meadows” and “flowers”. Yet when the blindfold is removed, they are repulsed to find the squalor around them.
Our corporations have been blessed with technologies to create and spread information. Years ago desktop publishing gave everyone the privilege of the press. And now with broadband and mobile apps, we can broadcast our every move and thought.
Yet as I travel around the world and speak to business audiences, there is a constant theme. We have too much stuff…too much noise…too many demands on our attention. We’ve become hoarders of information…to the point we can’t function.
Many companies are looking to “social” solutions to assist them in addressing these overwhelming concerns. And I should begin by telling you that “social” is a great way to do just that.
But I am greatly concerned that for many organizations, they are attempting to spray some “social” and aren’t addressing the hoarding and waste. They add social as a technology mask and don’t really fix anything. So it’s no wonder they never realize any substantial business benefits and their employees are quickly disillusioned of social when it doesn’t make their individuals lives easier or more productive.
I speak often to employees who know and appreciate the benefit of social business. They have learned to live outside their inbox and use blogs, wikis, etc. to have open conversations that not only alleviate email hoarding, but offer a broader reach to the knowledge shared. They know how to alleviate time consuming meetings by leveraging social communities where goals, status, questions and advice can be shared openly and at times convenient to the participant’s other activities and demands.
But these same employees tell me that in some organizations, it’s not working. Their managers, while “open” to the concept of social, have not abandoned their culture and practice of hoarding. They still require these socially empowered employees to email reports, attend status calls, and duplicate much of their work. Some of the more passionate social evangelists stay true to their calling while others are worn down.
On one episode of TV’s “Hoarders”, there was a home that consisted of a hoarding mom who amassed so much stuff and garbage that it filled every space in their home. So much so, the local authorities were going to condemn the structure. The father, wasn’t a hoarder, but had long ago resigned himself that there was nothing he could do. What was interesting was their teenage son. He saw the hoard and what it was doing to his family and their health. His room was immaculate. He did not allow the hoard to impact his immediate space. Yet his home was a health hazard. Even as much as he kept his room in order, the air circulating through the home carried dangerous spores that aggravated his asthma
I’ve seen companies like this. Individuals leveraging social in hoarding organizations will have some impact. But unless the leaders and those responsible for the hoarding recognize the damage and change the behavior, any social they may talk about is just air freshener to mask the symptoms
So when you see someone who talks about the value of social business, ask them to tell you how they have changed their hoarding behaviors. Ask them to give daily examples of how their personal business lives have been dramatically impacted by leveraging social tools. If they can’t, look for the can of air freshener…it’s not far away.
And one last note…don’t give them credit for telling you how others are doing it. It’s like a hoarder standing in their filth pointing to the neighbor’s immaculate home and praising the value of cleanliness and order.