Blog Post

We must stop doing things to people

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by on 24 May 2011



We must stop doing things to people
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 131
Posted DateTuesday 24 May 2011 20:36 GDT
Posted By
Linkshttp://www.ikmagazine.com/display.asp?articleid=61F2A579-A45 ... 
PeopleDavid Gurteen

One of my frequent messages is that we need to stop "doing things to people and start to work together". Let me explain.

People often ask me "How do we make people share?" or "How so we make people adopt social tools?" or, more generally, "How do we make people more engaged?".

That little word "make" comes up time and again. It's really obvious when it does and I wince every time I hear it.

Yet even when I point it out and people apologise and say "Oh I didn't mean that; it was just a turn of phrase", I am still not convinced. Deep down we all feel the need to "make people be different". Oh, wouldn't it be so good if everyone was just like me?

Recently I have started to realise that there is a more subtle approach. The other things I often get asked are "How do we incentivise people?" or "How do we motivate them?".

Think about it. Once again, we are trying to do things to people – incentivise or motivate them; however we look at it, we are trying to change them!

And then, I will hear people say (or catch myself saying) "How do we help people to see things differently?" or "How do we support them in this change?".

But notice, in all these statements, the assumption is that we know best -- that we have the right answers and others do not, and that we need to intervene and correct them. Even if we do wrap it all up in cotton-wool and say "help" rather than "make".

The really deep issue is that we are thinking about the world as "us and them", when we need to be thinking in terms of "we".

Rather than "I am here to help you", which implies you are in need of help and I am your saviour, we need to approach people with "How can we work better together?". And we need to mean that. It is not some ploy to enact our predetermined agenda. It's about approaching them without an agenda other than to genuinely work with them better.

I have also noticed another strange phenomena: people will often tell me that the biggest excuse that their staff use for not changing, doing things differently or sharing their knowledge is that they have no time. But then the conversation moves on and when sometime later, I ask them whether they blog, tweet, write articles or give presentations (in other words, do they walk the talk?) guess what they say? "Oh no, David. If only I had the time!". They are using exactly the same excuse.

Each year in its December issue, Time magazine announces its person of the year. In the December 2006 issue, in reaction to Web 2.0, it announced that person as "you" and added "Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

Personally, if I had been the editor, I would have phrased it somewhat differently:"We, yes, we. We control the information age. Welcome to our world".

So, some thoughts for this new world:
  1. Stop doing things to people;
  2. Become the change we wish to see; and
  3. Start to work together.

We are moving to a participatory "WE" world. So whenever you initiate anything ask yourself the question: "Am I trying to do things to people or am I approaching them with a genuine view to work together better?".

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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