Social Networking in a Post Apocolyptic World

I recently presented this topic at a local SIG and thought it might be something that could be valuable to others. For those of you that know me you know that I am a supporter of using innovation games/gamestorming to help improve the outcomes on the SharePoint projects that I am involved in. For those of you that don’t know me here are a few links to help you get up to speed on innovation games  and gamestorming.SP-SIG-Low-Tech-Social-Network

I began to look into the possibilities of leveraging the game “Low-Tech Social Network” for more than icebreakers and showing social connections at events – which by the way it is a fantastic proven tool for those usages.  See posts by  Christian Bukley and Ant Clay to see it in action at SharePoint Saturday UK 2012.

This past year after working with a number of customers who wanted to implement some of the social features of SharePoint and NewsGator in their organizations but they found it difficult to articulate the specifics around their organizational connections, communities, etc.

I found it was the subtle things that made a big difference for gaining the value of these tools but it took much observation, site visits, walking the halls, checking out cubical walls, etc. to really find these gems of corporate social networking.

I began to feel like a Sherlock Holmes of social requirements.  I wanted to see if there was a way to surface or accelerate these sorts of things more quickly so that more time could be spent really understanding them as opposed to finding them in the first place.

The Experiment:

I wanted to adapt the framework of the Low-Tech social network game for smaller groups in non-event settings to see if this fun and engaging experience could provide insight into the meaningful connections between teams, departments, partners and organizations.

The basic framework of the original game can be found here. (suggested reading to understand the adaptations mentioned below)

Adaptation Number 1 – Number of Players

smaller groups – you can put together several small groups based on existing teams ( IT, Marketing, Sales) or you can put together cross-functional groups based on cross sections of the organization (a sampling if you will)

Adaptation Number 2 – Creating Your Avatar

As players are creating their avatars have them list (or draw additions to their avatars that represent areas of corporate expertise or interest) prior to “uploading” their Avatar into the social network of the room.

For Example – My Avatar would include things like:

  •  A picture of the BuckeyeSPUG logo (since I volunteer my time with that organization)
  • Our Toastmaster Club
  • Scrum Master
  • SharePoint SME
  • ICC Fit Club
  • Kids for Camp
  • Autism

Other examples I have seen include: Bacon Club, GEM Awards, Habitat for Humanity, United Way, Pelotonia, Schools attended.

Adaptation Number 3 – Uploading Your Avatar

Once everyone is finished creating their avatars (this should still be a time-boxed activity) everyone takes turns going to the front of the room and introducing their avatar to the team and then posting it to the social network paper (or in many cases for me we use a whiteboard)

Once everyone is uploaded then allow everyone to come up to the social network and start drawing and adding connections to each other.

Observations to Date

  1. Participants begin to see their corporate social networks in a different lightSP-SIG-Low-Tech-Social-Connections-1
  2. You will gain insight into communities that may already be well established within your organization that would benefit greatly from a common collaboration platform for members and interested parties to communicate, post information, plan events, etc.
  3. You will gain insight into emerging communities that could be nurtured by having a collaborative platform to help solidify and organize interested members (I found these are easy to miss in traditional requirements gathering formats)
  4. It helps to have a business analyst or scribe in these sessions to document things that are discovered through-out the exercise that may not be captured in any specific avatar or connection.
  5. Many of the ‘tags’ used by the participants are great nuggets of data for use in building out the social requirements that organizations may have for SharePoint but may be unaware of how they can enable value or help actual work get done more effectively (that’s our job mapping the need/opportunity to a potential solution)
  6. Take lots of pictures of these workshops – there will be a buzz about them around the office and these can be used as tools in your User Adoption/Change Management activities.

Final Notes

I have had much success with this adaptation and the participants truly enjoy this style of requirements gathering. (When is the last time you could honestly say you enjoyed a requirements gathering meeting).

It can be a little scary to try something new but adding  Collaborative Play/GameStorming to your toolbox will give you seriously powerful tools to gather seriously amazing requirements and have some fun while you’re at it!

Happy Gaming!

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