Can Twitter make employees more innovative? In our study, Twitter users and non-users generally submitted the same number of ideas at work. However the ideas of Twitter users were rated significantly more positively by other employees and experts than the ideas of non-users. — Salvatore Parise, Eoin Whelan and Steve Todd
Last week I was speaking to one of those people we rarely hear from anymore: someone working for an employer that still blocks social media at work.
In 2016 it’s difficult to accept these companies still exist. As if anyone can control people’s access to information as we all walk around with powerful computers in our pockets.
They asked me whether I would send them a few words in an email that they could distribute to their management team. Happy to help — I agreed.
Here’s what I wrote:
There are probably many reasons why you are blocking social media — and it could be for perfectly legitimate reasons. What I want to share is what your company could be missing out on.
Firstly, I think blocking is an ineffective approach, 77% of people use social media at work regardless of company policy. Rather than blocking, I think enlightened organisations should be encouraging all employees to use social media as part of their personal development.
Basically — your future could depend on it.
We live in a networked age — and having people who can put their network to work will be a differentiator for organisations.
I think social media could be one of the best — and cheapest — ways to prepare people for that world.
Social media gives you access to people who behave and think differently. Use it wisely -encourage people to break out of your sector. Actively follow people you don’t agree with. Your people will become less prone to groupthink. If you’re only surrounding your people with those who think like them — you are limiting your companies capacity and capability for innovation.
The more diverse a person’s social network, the more likely that person is to be innovative. One study has even found that having a greater diversity of virtual Twitter connections means that good ideas are more likely to surface in the workplace. Get your people to make 50 new connections and ask them to submit an idea based on what they learned.
Social media will help your people crowdsource opinion from others. I often find myself thinking out loud- my blog is essentially a brain diary to see if what I’m thinking connects with others. Learning out loud in our networks helps to seek new opinions and share our own with a wider group. It allows us to take half-baked ideas and test them out in public, with low risk.
You can make contacts without permission. I follow thousands of accounts on Twitter and use lists to organise them into themes. Some of these are private and some public. Twitter is chaotic but you can easily navigate away from the more toxic accounts. In fact I’d encourage people to embrace the chaos.
You can turn weak online relationships into stronger ones in real life. I’d say you can pick up better ideas and insight in two hours on Twitter than you can during a full day conference. Increasingly people are using conferences as ways to enhance their online relationships — with attendees networking before and after the event. If your colleagues are not being exposed to that they are at a serious disadvantage.
Far from being a way to share what you’ve had for breakfast, social media has made it easier for people to meet and collaborate than ever before in human history.
How could you let your staff miss out on that?
I haven’t had a response yet — but if they give me permission I’ll share it!
On subject of comms and innovation I’m out on the road in November on the Comms Hero tour. You can book here for:
Hope to see you there!
Originally published at paulitaylor.com on October 24, 2016.