My Thoughts Enclosed: The Three Gears of Enterprise Social Media Adoption

UPDATE Sept 27, 2010: Video Version Now Live

I was talking with my RHB-palDave Howlett, on Facebook a few days ago about the problem with Social Media Experts.  I made a point of stating how many of these so-called “experts” were quite often pushing social tools (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook) without a clear understanding on their proper use.  I ended my mini-rant with a statement that many social tool adopters were left stuck in a broadcasting mindset, leaving them wondering why they weren’t finding success.  This lack of success was often leaving a bad impression on not only the toolsets being promoted, but more importantly a bad vibe on the entire consultancy process around their adoption.

Dave Howlett, who leads the Real Human Being Nation, shared his infinite Third Gear wisdom with me after my rant.  Dave indicated that it was not the social tools themselves that were flawed, but that people were using them in the wrong gear.  Not only was Dave 100% correct in his assessment, but he clearly established a link with Enterprise 2.0 / Social CRM success and his Third Gear philosophy.

In his Knocking Down Silos lecture series, Dave Howlett outlines the Three Gears using a morning commute analogy.

First Gear on the Highway (self-directed behaviour) – characterized by speeding, swerving, tail-gating, etc “I’m the most important person out here.”

Second Gear on the Highway (reciprocity behaviour) – characterized as being courteous to others as long as they are courteous to you (waving a guy in front of you and expecting a wave in return). The danger of second gear is that when the expected rewards/outcome does not occur, or not within a timely fashion, the individual resorts to first gear.

Third Gear on the Highway (the “good guy” or “amazing woman” behaviour) –  doing the right thing whether people thank you or not. Detaching your actions from reward. Waving a car in and not getting upset when they don’t wave thanks. This is the gear of independence, employee engagement, sales excellence, inspiration leadership.

Shortly after our discussion about the synergies of his RHB philosophy and the World of 2.0, Dave challenged me to come up with what I would consider to be the Three Gears of Enterprise Social Media Adoption.  I make a point here of referring to Social Media Adoption as a generic term.

Enterprise 2.0 deals with leveraging Social Media within the enterprise to break down existing silos and increase the overall collaboration and engagement within the Enterprise.  My good friend, and fellow XBOX360 Zombie killer, Dan Keldsen helped define Enterprise 2.0 as “a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise”.

Social CRM deals with leveraging Social Media outside of the enterprise to truly reach out to the customer base and engage them into the product development and support process.  Paul Greenberg is widely acknowledged as having properly defined Social CRM as “a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

So without further ado, here is my attempt to describe Social Media/Enterprise 2.0/Social CRM adoption issues using Dave Howlett’s Real Human Being Third Gear philosophy.

First Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption

The RHB First Gear is based on self-directed behaviour.  Most historical organizations and their employees clearly fall into a First Gear mindset.  When implementing their social tools, they fail to gain traction due to the outdated and flawed mindset that “Knowledge is Power“.  Within that mindset they find themselves hoarding their content for their own self-directed purposes.

As I have often stated, Content is Free and the real value of information is in its Context.

Everything is now searchable and we are seeing a triving crowdsourced Q&A community on Linkedin, Google, and Facebook.  As such, any perceived value that comes from hoarding content is now very much moot in a world that is becoming more and more knowledge transparent by the day.  If you choose to hoard your knowledge, do not be surprised to find yourself surplanted by someone within the larger global workforce who is willing to engage for free or in an evolving world of micro-payments for micro-engagements.  For the real value is in the contextual application of this freely accessible knowledge, and commercialized innovation should be your primary value proposition.

First Gear is also present when Social Media is used primarily as a Broadcasting mechanism.  Although the information is no longer being hoarded per say, its bot-like mindset fails to engage the consumers in any dialogue.  It is very much a “me, me, me” one-sided presentation of content that goes against the fundamental concept of the Social Web and thus the Social Enterprise.  When people choose to engage with your content, you are already gone and focussing on your next PR release.  Sadly many Social Media A-lister have reverted back to First Gear mentality after having found commercial success.

Second Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption

The RHB Second Gear is based on reciprocity behaviour.  No longer is information being hoarded, nor simply broadcasted.  Content is now shared with the expectation of engagement and reciprocation.

Collaborating with a Second Gear mindset is a very dangerous stage of adoption.  This transitionary stage towards Enterprise 2.0 / Social CRM adoption is where most potential successes become unfortunate failures.  The right steps are undertaken in the sharing of content, but it is done with an expectation level that is often unattainable in the infancy of adoption.

While sharing content in Second Gear, you expect your “wave in return”.  You expect to have your content ReTweeted, Liked, and Commented upon.  When you fail to achieve this intended outcome, your real motivations of using Social Media becomes apparent.

When that wave/engagement doesn’t occur, you gravitate very quickly back into a First Gear mindset.  This is where many of the flawed prophets show their true colours.  They fail to live up to the Social Media hype, because they themselves have unrealistic expectations and imcompatible behaviours to using the Social Media toolsets.

The reality is that it take a long time to build up the momentum behind Social Media utilization. You need to become patient in getting that engagement.  You need to not focus on getting 20% engagement from the 80%, but find that powerful 20% that will generate the true 80% of the value.  To achieve this, you need to be willing to let many people not wave back to be able to encounter those that do and this brings us to the value of Third Gear.

Third Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption

The RHB Second Gear is based on what Dave Howlett terms the “good guy” or “amazing woman” behaviour.  While in Third Gear, your actions are dictated by the actions themselves and not the perceived or anticipated rewards that come with those actions.  You know the wave will eventually come, and you will be that much richer for engaging with those that are engaging back.

Third Gear is where true engagement and collaboration materializes.  When sharing content with this mindset you don’t mind receiving constructive critism.  You accept the knowledge that your content will be modified and mashed up into a much larger or divergent community.

Hutch Carpenter wrote a great blog entry where he discusses the impact of  Metcalfe’s Law and the Dundar Number on collaboration and engagement.

Metcalfe’s Law states that “The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected participants.”

The Dunbar Number indicates that “the MAXIMUM number of people that a person could keep up with socially at any given time, gossip maintenance, was 150. This doesn’t mean that people don’t have 150 people in their social network, but that they only keep tabs on 150 people max at any given point.”

Both Metcalfe’s Law and the Dunbar Number play a large role in finding success in Enterprise Social Media Adoption using the Third Gear philosopy.

Hutch states that “traditional means of engaging in collaborative work, the Metcalfe’s Law advantages of information diversity are limited by our Dunbar’s Number ability to keep up with the new connections.”

Many people have asked me why I choose to socially network with a community that is far larger than the Dundar Number permits.  My reply is that I would rather find my “A-Team of 150” from a larger community, than merely turning to the 150 people that I have met in real life over the years.

So I use my Third Gear philosophy to wave many people into my network by sharing openly my knowledge.  I know full well that many will not wave back or engage in a manner that I hoped for. However, for those few that choose to wave back and engage I will build a much stronger and personalized “Dunbar Group” within a community that has scaled to a level where leveraging Social Media drives my commercial endeavours.

The Three Gears of Enterprise Social Media Adoption in a Nutshell

First Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption (self-directed behaviour) – characterized by Hoarding of Knowledge and/or Broadcasting of Content leading to bot-like behaviours that fails to engage the intended audience into a collaborative encounter.

Second Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption (reciprocity behaviour) – characterized by Sharing of Content with unrealistic expectation.  Using Social Media in Second Gear leads you to revert to First Gear when someone doesn’t comment/like/retweet before gaining real engagement and collaboration.

Third Gear of Enterprise Social Media Adoption (the “good guy” or “amazing woman” behaviour) – characterized by sharing content to a larger community freely, openly and without reservation, with a likely outcome of finding the truly engaged and collaborative community that you were searching for.

Only through engaging using a Third Gear philosophy will you achieve the real value proposition that Social Media can deliver.  Whether it is within your organization using Enterprise 2.0, or outside of your organization using Social CRM, your mindset and attitude in using the tools will determine your success or failure and not the tools themselves.

About Robert Lavigne, PMP (@RLavigne42)

Robert Lavigne researches and networks in the fields of Enterprise 2.0, Social Media, Social CRM and Personal Branding to compliment his existing Agile Development and Leadership experience.

This evolutionary knowledge furthers the delivery of Real Corporate Value (RCV). The use of modern social networking tools and related mindsets fully engages business relationships and departmental convergence.

Rob subscribes to the need for further contextualization of accessible content to achieve real returns in the field of Competitive Intelligence and Business Innovation.

Related Entries:

A Brief Background on the Emergence of @RLavigne42

“Knocking Down Silos” by becoming a Real Human Being


23 thoughts on “My Thoughts Enclosed: The Three Gears of Enterprise Social Media Adoption

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention My Thoughts Enclosed: The Three Gears of Enterprise Social Media Adoption « My Thoughts Enclosed… --

  2. Great writeup Rob, love the metaphors, and I”m honored to play a part.

    Interestingly, in a deliverable I’m writing up for a client right now, I was writing about how the progression of maturity (ECM in their case), isn’t going to be a straight line, and without attention, they’ll fall back in maturity, rather than keep moving forward.

    Excellence is a habit, learning is a habit – lose either, and you fall backwards into mediocrity and the past.

    Enterprise 2.0 beats the alternatives, but don’t ever think it’s not work to get there and keep it alive, folks!

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  6. The 3-gear metaphor is elegant, but I think it’s off-base.
    Habit and process drive behavior far more than the your three gears suggest. People do what they do because that’s how work gets done. It’s not about self-interest, reciprocity, or altruism; it’s about doing my job.
    When I write an email, which gear am I in? What about when I use the Intranet? When I correct a customer’s email address in our CRM system? When I place an order through our procurement system? I’m not an any gear.
    Or am I in 4th?

    • Thanks for the comment. I would say that in the examples you provided, you are describing a second gear mindset. Meaning in those particular cases you are doing it out of reciprocity directly related to doing your job and the salary that comes with it. Cases involving third gear are perfectly seen in cases such as wikipedia.

    • Michael – obviously any metaphor is flawed, but it’s useful to pull people in who otherwise might not be bothered.

      To your point though, are you claiming that a procurement system is a social media system? This metaphor is specifically aimed at identifying where someone is within a social media context, not in other contexts.

      I think the three gears is a useful metaphor – and yes there is more “under the hood” (sorry, couldn’t resist).

      Of course as a more extensive look, for those who are interested, might be found in the graphic that Carl and I created 2-3 years ago, which can be seen starting on slide 13 of – and is explained as having three components within the “evolution” of Enterprise behavior and capabilities. Those three components being: Individual Habits (similar to the three gears), Cultural Norms/Expectations, and Technological Capabilities.

      I agree with your underlying point though – there are plenty of people who will only behave exactly as they are told to behave. Literally, only doing what their job description tells them to, and what they are rewarded for or (less useful) that they are not harshly penalized for.

      Trying to crush every scenario into any metaphor is always going to have some issues – but if it advances some thinking and action on the point, all the better!

      • Great observations, Dan. I was making a general point about professional behavior, not a specific point about social software. But now that you mention it…I think we should be very suspicious of distinctions between “social media context” v. “other contexts.” People who don’t go to Enterprise 2.0 conferences care only about their *work* context. If we position social media/software as a special “context”, we take it out of the flow of work. That’s the leading cause of engine failure.

      • Michael, I think your latest blog entry plays well into this as well. The key is always to be inflow to achieve successful adoption. In this particular case, the inflow in question is the human dynamic that is driving the behaviour patterns. Just like the toolsets need to be inflow with the work, the mindset needs to be inflow with the expectation of engagement. I think what you also have is that 90-9-1 ratio we keep hearing about and that in itself can tie nicely into the three gears. My view however is that if more people could shift their mindset to a third gear, we might be able to break that 90-9-1 rule and maybe achieve a 60-30-10 within the enterprise. Imagine how much more productive, collaborative and engaged we could be if we could break the 90-9-1 barrier.

  7. Michael – (nested replies failing me here) oh yes, absolutely agree on “in flow” and professional behavior.

    But as a student of diffusions of innovation, while “normal people” (i.e., not us 😉 shouldn’t have to care about the distinction, the work has to be done behind the scenes to figure out the details of a new meme or capability, and then dovetail with the “real world.”

    Having stumbled onto workflow and portals 10-12 years ago (at Delphi Group we ran some of the biggest seminars and conferences, and consequently, lots of follow-on consulting work, on both topics), yes, the lack of “in flow” integration is a huge problem in most organizations.

    Living that right now with a Fortune 100 client. E2.0, ECM, data, content, knowledge, process – most of the users, owners and stewards of the business shouldn’t give two hoots what the guts are that make it all happen.

    But SOMEBODY has to, and that integration of the sub-components into the “business systems” (end-to-end) that make up the real work environment is always something that I strive to keep in mind while the work behind the scenes to make it happen takes shape. Lots of parallel work needed to make the pieces and the bigger system work together.

    Integrative or systems thinking is definitely not a widely held skill I’m afraid. But the world is forcing more people to address this, because let’s face it, it’s ridiculous to have all this computing power at our fingertips and still have people be forced to remember 20-30 usernames/passwords, and be the “human glue” between dis-integrated systems/apps.

    Thank god that the usability and user experience design that consumer-focused companies have brought to the table is finally penetrating the enterprise. That’s why I was one of the first analysts to cover blogging and wikis – ECM and similar systems were turning into the same unusable monsters as their traditional enterprise breathren – and the radical price difference and focus on simplicity has finally started making an impact, as of about… 3 years ago.

    Anyway – even flawed metaphors are useful to get discussions going.

    Glad to see this pulled some serious discussion together – haven’t seen much of this in recent months. Have we all been too busy doing the “real work” we’re talking of? Speaking of which… back to it for me.

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