Forecasts part 3 of 3 - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

We live in a world inhabited by evangelists for whom real adoption of their technologies is not enough.

Social Media Spanish Inquisition

There’s a weird dynamic in the conversation that’s supposed to be our marketplace. Its primary symptom is the idea that some technology (social media, video, mobile, take your pick) is failing to be properly absorbed by business. Its primary evangelists are the people with presentations that say, “a lot of you just don’t get it.” Its primary value is to support the Lewis Carrol view of the universe.

Or, as Forrest liked to say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Take this segment of a post entitled “Why Social Business Is Failing to Deliver

If you look into the current business world out there you would see how one of the main reasons why corporations are adopting and embracing this social networking for business movement has always been cutting costs, i.e. optimizing the business with the right resources (apart from generating new business, that is!). That’s basically us, knowledge workers, still being treated as resources, instead of people, and acting accordingly when embracing all of these social technologies.

HR still hasn’t made that transition from Human Resources into Human Relationships, at least, for the vast majority of businesses out there and this means that if Social Business can help them get their business optimize their resources they would be doing so, ignoring the people, and their needs, once again, and like it’s been happening for decades… Just think of it, how many times have we seen plenty of use cases on how beneficial social networking is in helping find the right experts within organizations, or find the right information at the right time, socializing business processes accelerating speed of response, improving customer satisfaction or just simply empowering knowledge workers to become much more effective and productive while getting work done? Far too many times, don’t you think?

Well, right there it is when optimizing the business kicks in, because instead of thriving to become more sustainable businesses where people are treated like people, in a much more trustworthy, responsible and valued perspective altogether, we keep seeing how the business decides to go the other direction and optimizes resources, i.e. continues further along with layoffs or resource actions, or doesn’t hire enough talent just to get by, since the current knowledge workforce keeps on being squeezed out all the way. Have you ever thought about when was it the last time that you worked 40 hours per week, or, basically, the number of hours you were hired for in the first place? Another example, when was it the last time that you were working only on a single project, with a single team, budget, mission scope, goals, etc. etc. Just think of it. Probably not in the last decade or so, if not longer!

Luis Suarez, Knowledge Manager, Community Builder & Social Computing Evangelist in the IBM Software Group

If I understand it , Suarez is saying that ‘Social Business’ (which he seems to say is returning an ROI) isn’t working because it isn’t doing what he thinks it should. I hardly mean to single Mr. Suarez out of the crowd. Tortured logic and tangled language are the landmarks in our newly democratic workplaces.

It seems to me that something is working when lots of people are using it. So, I get a little curious when I hear that video is a revolutionary technology; that Recruiting has yet to embrace mobile; or, that social technology is failing.

I do not know a single recruiter who doesn’t use a smartphone, social media and video (occasionally) in their work. The degree to which the industry is already changed by these tools can not be overstated. The technology is already in use everywhere you look.

We live in a world inhabited by evangelists for whom real adoption of their technologies is not enough. Like the Spanish Inquisition (No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition), which insisted on an extremely literal form of obedience, belief and usage isn’t enough. The evangelists demand adherence to an unreachable standard. Like Mr. Suarez suggests, it’s not enough to use the tools to achieve business objectives. It’s a failure if it doesn’t deliver Utopia.

In recent months, I’ve witnessed a dozen presentations, delivered to Recruiters who all carried smartphones, about how mobile technology was not being adopted very quickly. Meanwhile, the recruiters in the audience were busy emailing candidates, scheduling interviews, moving qualifications packages and responding to hiring managers on their devices. It’s been a tremendous Through the Looking Glass experience.

If you’ve seen the ‘How Technology Moves Through HR‘ presentation, you’ll understand that this generation of tool is flowing in the front door of the organization. It’s never worked that way before. Perhaps, instead of evangelists preparing the way, the ‘people who used to be the audience’ are going to show us how to use the tools.

  • John, 

    I really enjoyed your post. As an adoption-focused evangelist, the point you make about people in my profession’s continual push to get users to reach what seems like an unattainable ideal of utilizing our companies’ technologies certainly resonates with my experience. 

    I tend to think, however, that my message to those who haven’t ideally adopted our technologies at Bullhorn (which are pretty much everyone) takes on a less derisive tone: as opposed to “you just don’t get it,” I try to imbue my messaging with the mantra of “here are the possibilities beyond what you’re doing now.” That said, credit for my perspective and approach has been shaped by informative conversations with seasoned veterans like you, Bill Boorman and Gerry Crispin. 

    The parallel you draw with the Spanish Inquisition is an interesting one, evokes some important differentiating factors among those who would attempt to evangelize:

    – Persecuting vs. positive extremism: At its core, why is the Inquisition looked upon negatively? It’s not because of the beliefs that they purportedly espoused; rather, it’s because of the persecution, motivated by the lack of tolerance and empathy of the inquisitors. Similarly, I think what you’re suggesting here is for evangelists of emerging technologies to deliver the good word on the wings of hope and finding the good in a given situation, as opposed to relying on fear tactics. But, my question is: what motivates buying decisions? Many salespersons identify the source as “pain,” which leaves me wondering what the ultimate purpose of the evangelist is and what your theories on on how to best attain those aims.  

    – Pragmatism vs. (measured) idealism: I think the suggestion you make on evangelizing product adoption in alignment with actual, current use patterns is an extremely interesting topic for all technologists. The question that keeps me from agreeing with you wholesale on your implied point is: is it possible to alter market conditions through guidance? In other words, are there realms of possibility that can feasibly be attained, outside of what currently exists? I tend to think the answer is ‘yes.’ Innovations provoke disruptive changes regularly these days, through introductions of new products and guidance on newly conceived use cases (some of which seem obvious after they’re introduced). E.g., five years ago, would we think tablets would be adopted to the level they are now? Or mouthwash, 70 years ago? The rapid changes (in other markets) in how people perceive their need of a product is enough to give any evangelist (including this one hope). 

    Again, I really enjoyed the post, John. Thanks for keeping me on my toes. 

    Steven Duque (@StevenDuque, @BullhornLive, @BullhornReach)

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