It's a classic problem: build something interesting, and people will surely use it, right? People don't automatically know how to use the new widget or work in a new environment. Change leaders have to help people see and create the answers.
John Tropea has one of his usually well-thought-out articles on The future of enterprise 2.0 is apps. But I wanted to highlight his comment about the unstructured nature of these tools.
Social computing tools are unstructured which means you can use them for many purposes. Kind of like how email and Microsoft Word is unstructured…people use email a million ways (at the moment a popular email use is to receive notifications from social networks, I can’t remember the last time I wrote an email outside of work). Anyway…I remember Bill Ives saying the user designs how the tool is used, not the vendor.
How true to an extent. The vendor designs the features, and the user decides the purpose. [emphasis mine]
What I find interesting about this comment is that it is very close to some ideas about change management that I've learned from Theory of Constraints. Specifically, when recommending "solutions" to people, the common approach is to just push the solution. However, that is not the way to get uptake.
Instead of pushing the tool/widget/change, figure out how it will make their problems go away. Be as specific as possible here, because it is the specific problems that people want to solve. Of course, you aren't done when you link your change to their problems. You need to show how your idea will resolve the problem. Even more: you need to figure out why your idea won't work as well as it could and make it better. Make it better with the full support of the people who are involved. Make it their solution, not yours.
Looping back to the nature of e2.0 tools, John mentions an interesting aspect. While they are unstructured, it might be a good idea to add some structure - guide people in how the tools can be used in their environment to do specific things. Ideally, they will discover more on their own.
[Photo: "Morning Solution" by Ed Stites]