Most workplaces have a way of working that tends to be defined and moulded by a mixture of processes and culture. Quite often however those processes, whilst often well intentioned, stifle creativity or good behaviour. Those IT policies that forbid you from accessing social media or the press team demanding sign-off before you can send a tweet are a couple of examples that are probably common for many of you in my line of work. I’m sure you can think of examples in your own field.
The thing is, not everyone in the organisation succumbs to this prescribed way of working. There are those that manage to circumvent the rules and find a way of working efficiently and effectively despite the system. The nature of their work means they often remain undercover. If you want to improve your organisation however you need to shed light on these individuals, and use their examples to improve your organisation so it supports rather than hampers excellence.
Finding your positive deviants
First of all though you have to find your deviants. A great deal of the work we do is internalised. Few people know what we do or how we do it. This is especially so if what you’re doing appears to be breaking the rules. Team meetings may report and trumpet results, but they seldom delve deeper into the operations that supply those results, and so good behaviours often get silo’d within a team or department.
Just as companies increasingly listen to what their customers and other stakeholders are saying online, you should be doing exactly the same within your organisation. Your mission isn’t to improve your products but to improve your processes, so you need to encourage employees to share both what they do and how they do things via your internal social networks. The challenges faced by your organisation quite probably already have the solutions being used within your organisation by a small and hidden minority. Your task is to find them and encourage them to share what they do.
Sharing best practice
Once you’ve located your positive deviants they need to be the drivers of change within your organisation. They need to be the ones that are re-designing processes so that they support the kind of work they’re doing rather than forcing work-arounds and hacked solutions. It shouldn’t need to be the responsibility of these people to convince you to change, the onus should be on management to find best practice where it exists and externalising these behaviours throughout their organisation.
Social media helps you to do both of these things, because it makes it easier to learn what employees are doing, and easier to share that practice throughout an organisation. Of course in order for this to happen people need to be confident that sticking their head above the parapet will not result in it getting blown off for breaking procedure, but if you can do that, then it will go a long way towards helping you find the pockets of innovation that will be the driver of your business.
So next time you’re looking to cast the spotlight out onto the web for things to learn and ways to improve, don’t forget to cast that spotlight back inside your organisation to see what excellence may be lurking in the shadows.