A lot of electronic ink has been spilled on the possibility of adapting microblogging technology for use behind the firewall. As with other social media tools, the ability of many to imagine enterprise uses for microblogging (or microsharing or microlearning) has been constrained by their encounters with the microblogging tools some of us have learned to love in our leisure hours such as Twitter. A casual visitor to Twitter sees lots of social interchanges and some downright inane ones, and wonders in their skepticism if this is a plague that should be inflicted on their law firm. (Included in the mix is plenty of useful work-related information, as well as recommendations for reading** and for life, but a casual observer may not notice those right away.) Others will say, given the existing worries about of information overload, we should not add to the pressure by exposing law firm employees to loads of trivia.
As with most things, we know what we know and don’t know what we don’t know.
For those of us in need of having our vision expanded a little on this topic, I’d recommend you take a look at a terrific piece in Fast Company by Marcia Conner entitled Enterprise Micro-Learning. In it she provides lots of examples of how these tools could improve social conditions and business productivity within an enterprise. For knowledge management folks, there is a gem in that article that is worth thinking about a little further:
Too frequently organizational knowledge-sharing mirrors the news-cycle society around us, in which we share the highs and lows, ignoring the ordinary stuff in the middle. It’s in that middle ground people make sense of the work done around them, understand how we can play a part to help fulfill the vision, and know where we can turn to find the help we need. It’s the middle stuff that’s truly interesting and helps us connect with one another.
She is absolutely right. For many, law firm knowledge management is about capturing and sharing the “high value items” such best practices and models. In most cases, we don’t have the time or tools to handle the items from any other part of the spectrum and allow requests for those to clutter e-mail or go unfulfilled. Yet, it is those requests for the “ordinary stuff” that actually allow folks within the law firm to work more easily and productively. Enterprise microblogging could fill this need.
And what about the information overload issue? To begin with, unlike e-mail, the user can choose with laser-like precision from whom they would like to hear (or “follow” in Twitter speak). So, you get to put together your own cabinet of advisers: perhaps the partner from the capital markets (or bankruptcy) practice to shed light on current economic conditions + the savvy junior associate who is completely plugged in + the person who makes great recommendations regarding what’s good to eat in the law firm cafeteria. In addition, there are technologies emerging (such as TweetDeck) to help you filter what could be a constant stream of inputs. With these tools, you can decide whom you’d like to follow and how you’d like to group those folks. So each user could create, for example, a practice-focused group, a client or matter focused group, an economy alert group, a firms news group (including your cafeteria advisor), a collection of lawyers in your affinity group, etc. With this structure in place, you could then follow at any particular time the group that is most pertinent for your work or life.
Microblogging presents lots of possibilities for productivity and for building community within your law firm. Don’t make the mistake of discounting this technology just because you haven’t yet had an opportunity to broaden your experience and vision with social media tools.
[**I discovered Marcia Conner’s article through a tweet by noted social media industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang.]