In a way, I consider myself fortunate to work for a company that lists 'Fun' as a value. It's quite easy to get very uptight in social business. It's quite easy to forget that the water cooler has gossip, the team rooms have jokes, colleagues have fun with each other and that we often strike strong personal relationships at work. A true social business platform needs to mirror these real aspects of human behaviour. In today's blogpost, I want to outline a few patterns that you may actively want to foster in your community to encourage the value of fun.
Help people find others with similar interests
If you've read the book First Break all the Rules, it links to a Gallup study that claims to reveal the formula for innovation in the enterprise.
"Employees who have best friends at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, while those who have at least three "vital friends" at work are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives." - Gallup
There obviously is a certain importance of emotional connection to the enterprise. You're less likely to leave if you have friends in the company. Friendship stems from common ground. Common ground emerges from common interests. Simple implementations such as profile tags and people search can help people find other people with similar interests. What's the ROI? Is retaining your employees valuable for you? Is 96% employee satisfaction valuable for you? Does employee engagement mean much to you? If the answer to either of these is yes, then you perhaps should care.
Simulate the Gossip LoungeWhether you like it or not, your people are saying things. Some of these are useful pieces of information, some are musings, some are questions, some are pieces of feedback for you to react on. Think of the way you react to your network on Facebook. Simulating the gossip room on your social business platform allows you to have a constantly updating view of what people are saying to each other. It's fun for people to broadcast their views - it's valuable for you to listen to them. What do people care about? In my case it seems to be the speed of myThoughtWorks in Australia. In your case it could be a fascination with moustaches!
The Gamification Phenomenon
"In other words, with games, learning is the drug." - Raph Koster (theory of fun)
Still a topic of debate, but we can't deny that we're brushing shoulders in the workplace with a gamer generation. Heck, this may not even be a new phenomenon. As Byron Reeves says though, the current 'gamer' generation has a few strong beliefs:
- competition is fun
- failure doesn't hurt
- risk is part of the game
- feedback is best when it's immediate
- trial and error is the best plan
- bosses and rules are less important
- group action is common
Learning at work, but not just about workPeople are people and have more dimensions to them than just work. People want to learn about photography, origami, art. They may want to practice a sport. Going back to the thought about helping people find others with similar interests, it's also crucial to help people pursue their non-work passions through the company. For example, I've discovered a passion for photography; I work in a company of geeks and many geeks like photography. The fact that ThoughtWorks allows us to have a special interest group on photography on the social business platform means a great deal to some of us. It's an opportunity to share our work amongst people we know and learn from each other about lenses, photography tips and what not. This has no direct impact on the company's bottomline but again it tells me that the company is willing to share their investment in my personal growth and also it allows me to make connections with others in the enterprise. If you believe Granovetter, then it's the weak acquaintances that have solutions to your toughest problems. The guy who runs the photography interest group could be the business analyst who can help you with that tough problem on your project. Who knows what solutions some of these weak ties can lead to?
While I think we're starting to cross the chasm with adoption of social business platforms in the enterprise, there's still a great amount of thought we need to put in so these platforms mirror common human behaviour. To overuse a cliche, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and perhaps an even duller knowledge worker. The ideas I've put out on this blogpost don't even cover the tip of the iceberg for this crucial aspect of social business. At ThoughtWorks, we take fun seriously but even we have miles to go with the way we're integrating fun into our collaboration platforms. I'd love to hear of ideas that you may have in this space - fun means heaps to this company. Comment unabashedly so I can learn from you!
On a sidenote, I'm hosting RubyConf India this week and while it's quite unrelated to the stuff I blog about I'm quite excited to be master of ceremonies for a second time. If you happen to be there by any chance, do say hello. I'm sure it'll be great to catch up.