New ways of collaborating at the bank

It is fascinating to watch the emergence of new ways of collaborating here at the bank. As I’ve alluded to before we recently launched a pilot to trial social media internally. And we’ve not been disappointed with the interest and takeup.

We have one blog, for example, that documents the trials and tribulations of a member of the team that is implementing the social media pilot for us. Along the way there have been a couple of roadbumps, of course, and this particular blog offers the opinions of the team on the ground as things have gone wrong. It is a very positive and welcome read. Quite often, one doesn’t have a deep understanding of the real issues that caused the problem in the first place. Sometimes, you want the details without all the unpeeling that goes on before you can get them. This is a blog that does that.

We’ve got another blogger that writes about his day to day experience in the bank. Sometimes, the posts border on the very limit of what is mandated by our acceptable use policy. The blogger never names names, but it is a fascinating read. We are hearing, straight from someone at the frontline, about the experience of working for us. That is data you can’t get easily from surveys. And it is data that can help us make the bank the only choice of employer for anyone that thinks they might like to work here.

Both these examples point to something that pretty exciting. It is the start – very nascent at the moment – of a change in the way we work.

In the former case, we have a documented record of the set of things that have happened to us as we’ve rolled out a new service. The decisions that were made, and the problems that they’ve caused (or benefits we’ve realised) are published, searchable, and generally available. We’ve never had that before. It’s a corporate memory, and noone has asked our blogger to create it for us.

That kind of corporate memory is new for us.  We’ve had only the mandatory ones that outline what the decisions were, who made them, and who validated them. We’ve not had visibility as to why.

Now, admittedly, this is a one-sided view of things. But the two-way conversations that are starting will help us capture more sides of the debate.

And the second example I gave is especially interesting to me. It goes to something that Seth Godwin wrote recently: the impassioned employee does things not out of fear, but because it is more fun to do something than not. In this case, there is potentially quite a lot to fear: retribution from line management, counseling about attitude, a range of other things. But in this case, none of those things have happened. The passion behind the posts is evident. Why kill passion? And in the meantime, our blogger is blazing a trail for the rest of us by proving that it is OK to have an opinion and voice it in public.

Naturally, we’re still not there yet. We continue to have internal debates about whether line management wants their people to “waste” time blogging. There are ongoing concerns about some of the risk aspects that social media might involve for a bank. And a range of other issues have raised their head along the way.

But we’re making progress, and it turns out that bank employees, though they are highly risk averse and heavily regulated, have just as much pent up demand for social media as everyone else.

One Response to“New ways of collaborating at the bank”

  1. January 30, 2008 at 6:18 pm #

    Hi James,
    Good to read about your experience with blogging inside the bank. We have had the same experience and also the thoughts about trolls, information risk. After 2 years in the experiments (about 10 blogs now): no incidents to date.
    We have now recently started an experiment with something like an internal Facebook (with almost all features mentioned here: http://www.shapingthoughts.com/2007/12/23/20-things-to-do-on-a-social-network-in-the-office). Very exiting: talking about empowerment!
    Cheers,
    Marcel

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