Developing Social Roles in your Organisation

Formal knowledge is that which we own, which is visible to us, which we can control. Tacit knowledge is that which lies within our community. Tacit knowledge is grounded in experience: it may not be perfect, it may not be compliant, but it’s what actually happens. A socially enabled organisation hears both stories, and uses each to influence the other: a socially enabled organisation takes pragmatic steps to learn, co-creating a story that is grounded in both formal and tacit knowledge. It truly has the best of both worlds.

Developing community leads

One mechanism for doing this is Three Levels of Narrative: personal, co-created and organisational. Personal stories are our own story of learning and change over time. Co-created stories are the sense making conversations we have within our community. The organisational narrative should be a meta narrative that draws upon the first two. To unearth these, we can use a Storyteller role. The storyteller is a facilitator, they help us write our narrative and report on the group narrative: we can use publication mechanisms like videos, blogs, magazines and books to do this. But it’s labour intensive and hard work: this is the challenge. Communities won’t necessarily grow unless nurtured, facilitated and supported. But often Social and digital approaches are taken to try to save money. So how can we leverage Social whilst remaining sustainable?

The answer itself lies within your communities: in the first order of social storytellers and leaders. The people within your community who have high Social Capital and are actively engaged. These are the people we want to engage first: because they will have the bridging conversations for us, they are the ones who will help shape our stories to be both relevant and timely to the wider community, contextualised to their everyday reality.

Developing community leads

Consider first and second order effects: first order being those things we can directly influence, second order being the things still within our community, but over which we exert very little influence or have little effect. To be effective, we need to impact on both, but we can do so by interacting directly with the first order community, and supporting them to interact with the second.

A socially enabled organisation will have a set of formal roles which relate to the health of, establishment of and care of their communities. But they will also grow a range of social roles that mirror these: grounded out in the community itself.

These Social roles may be generic, or around specific areas: for example, using a Scaffolded Social Learning approach, we may tackle a subject like Leadership Development, or Compliance, using a loosely structured narrative and co-creating stories with the learners as we go (you can see an example here). But this takes facilitation if we want engagement and if we truly want to embed the learning. First time we run the course, that facilitation will be external, but as you graduate groups through the learning, you are ending up with people who are both familiar with the content and also co-creator of the narrative. You also end up with the formal content that you created for the programme, as well as the tacit, co-created stories of the community. When the next group goes through, we can loop the tacit knowledge back into the community, and also promote the Social Storytellers (the first order group, the most engaged) to help tell the second group’s story.

By doing so, we are transferring both knowledge and skills into the community, whilst also listening to the wisdom generated by the community (the unheard wisdom) and using that to reshape and iterate the story. Which is also known as a ‘win win’ situation.

We reward people not with false plaudits and promises of promotion (the mainstay of formal authority), but rather with development opportunities, respect, access to resource and a voice at the table. In other words, we reward them with recognition and are rewarded ourselves by being able to hear their voice in the conversation, because their voice may be highly authentic.

The Change Curve: Generating Momentum in Change

Any organisation that wants to thrive in the Social Age needs to be Dynamic in it’s approach: agile in it’s mindset and execution. Part of this is through the development of an active social community, a semi formal layer that surrounds the formal. We have to develop Social Leadership capability within the organisation, at depth, to do that effectively, and we have to relinquish elements of control, which opens us up to change.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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8 Responses to Developing Social Roles in your Organisation

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

  2. Further depth and practicalities around your ideas on social leadership. Thanks!
    I especially like how you use the POV of those within the learning function/organisation – for it is us who need to make this change. I’m still figuring out the transition from formal (paid) roles like ‘course manager’ and semi formal/social roles like ‘community manager’. Professional people have a finite bandwidth a don’t want to be volunteers without a compelling reason. I understand that social leaders need to step up and ‘lean in’ but at what point should they be formally recognized (paid) for this role by the organization? Could employees apply to senior managers for say 10% of their time for social leadership duties – running a community, curating community knowledge etc? This requires formal leaders to relinquish some control of the corporate narrative (not easy).

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