Happy New Year! This is the first post of the new year. Having a little time out during the holidays is great. And I do enjoy writing my thoughts and posting them.
We’ve also been using design thinking to revamp intranets too. Often, management wants “more participation” and “more engagement”. Delve deeper in stakeholder pow wows (that’s what we call our sessions with senior and top management), and you’ll find at the very heart of it, what the top wants is a sense of openness and freedom.
The solution? Implement a forum.
Logical? Absolutely. At the very minimum, it’s signalling that there is a space for conversation. But will people participate?
Well what we discovered is that there is a group that will participate. Yeap, that’s right. There are some who like it and use it. There is another group. A group that goes there to “relax” and just check out what’s happening.
But does that mean there is “more participation” and “more engagement”. Maybe, maybe not.
By applying the design thinking methodology, we get a real sense of whether having a “forum” really leads to more engagement and participation. What have we discovered?
1. Forum can be a signal
Especially if the forum is unmoderated or only lightly moderated. It can signal that the organisation encourages conversation that’s not necessarily about work. And we provide a space for this conversation to take place.
2. Forum may be dominated by a few
More often than not, it’s dominated by a few voices. Those who already have an affinity towards using forums, especially outside of the work environment. And those that may need a space to air their views.
3. Having a forum feature may not lead to engagement
While it signals openness, it might not directly lead to more engagement or participation. People engage when they want to engage. When they have something to say. When they feel safe to express their views. When they have time!
4. A lifeless forum may be more damaging
Having a forum with no or little participation can signal the opposite. Once it starts to become a wasteland, it might actually mean that no one wants to participate or feels safe to participate.
With design thinking, we were able to find “sweet spots”. In one study, we discovered the people in the organisation were not interested in casual small talk. What they want is a space for purposeful conversation. They wanted to contribute views on a particular subject and felt exceptional comfortable to engage when it was in their area of expertise. Others were also interested in their views because this particular organisation thrives on knowledge.
1. Reconsider the forum “label”
Send the right signal. It’s not a forum. It’s a space for purposeful discussion. Call it something that signals this to those in your organisation.
2. Shape the Conversation
Post topics that are meaningful to discuss especially organisation or subject-matter issues which you know people have an opinion about.
3. Facilitate the Discussion
It’s easy for such conversations to become academic debates and argumentative. Acknowledge all viewpoints. Actively facilitate. Get everyone talking about the common shared future. Once they are excited, they’ll get into “figuring out how to make it happen”.
4. Enroll everyone
Get everyone to see this as a “tool” for better, deeper thinking. And definitely a tool that they can use to create a future for themselves, their work and the organisation.
A forum is a tool. Your organisation might not need one!