We’ve covered in previous posts how sharing helps us stay smarter, helps our colleagues and networks, and helps us define ourselves. We’ve also shared research on how sharing builds collective intelligence and helps teams outperform.
Based on this, you’d expect that we’re all as active sharing content and insights inside our professional teams as we are on external social networks. The benefits are arguably greater for work teams than they are for us as individuals.
But we aren’t. Research by Altimeter shared in Harvard Business Review showed that corporate attempts at social networks for sharing fail much more than they succeed:
Why is that? Here’s our take on the barriers to team sharing, and what you can do about it.
1. The Fear
To encourage sharing and collective intelligence in teams, you need to create a climate of psychological safety and trust. People need to know that sharing content, asking a question, seeking help won’t bring our the team trolls, or make peers and bosses think less of them. But we know that people do not like to display to colleagues that they just learned or didn’t know something, or if they’re unclear who’s seeing it. That’s the risk with sharing in professional networks.
Fix it by:
- Leading with your insights: If you’re a leader, you have to show that sharing content and inviting discussion is progressive and expected.
- Keeping it open: Julian Stodd suggests setting some rules of engagement for sharing and social learning, which can help drive a culture of openness.
2. Wrong Tools, Empty Shells
It is not all about the tools you use. But the wrong tools for sharing content can be a real barrier. The social networks in the graph above are for the most part empty shells when they’re set up. They rely on people to find something worth sharing elsewhere, and put it in the tool. For most people, that’s a real barrier.
Taking time to find content that’s worth sharing isn’t easy. 2 million blog posts are published a day. Checking multiple news feeds, social feeds and other sources can bite into your time – and there’s no guarantee you’ll find something worth sharing with colleagues. Sharing poor quality content runs counter to all of the motivations listed earlier. Nobody wants to go first. What happens if nobody shares anything? The digital tumbleweed soon rolls in and your sharing initiative is dead.
Fix it by: Smart aggregation of relevant content
Only humans can decide if content is really worth sharing with others. But algorithms can go a long way towards finding you good content to consider. Tools like our at Anders Pink let you do a custom search to surface recent relevant content on the topics you and your team are interested in, and push updated content every few hours. Here’s an example on pricing strategy:
This isn’t an alternative for selecting what you want to personally share. But it gives you a baseline that’s already been filtered for relevance and quality. That take a lot of the hassle out of finding content that’s worth sharing.
3. Old Habits Die Hard
“Let’s get the team to share valuable content” can translate as “another channel, another place to check for stuff”. That’s the death knell of lots of team initiatives. People revert to the channels that already have traction and an audience. It is very hard to build what Tomaz Tunguz calls a share of habit – getting people to add 10 minutes to their day to do something new.
Fix it by: Meeting people where they are.
It is hard to drive traffic to a new platform. If your team are already connected and sharing in email and Slack or your CRM, you’re better off bringing shareable content into those channels. For Anders Pink, we send a daily email digest of the top articles worth reading and sharing on your chosen topics every morning. Yep, we’re adding a tiny bit to the email traffic. But you’ll see it there, and if you spend 10 minutes a day checking the most valuable new content, and adding your comments, that’s worth it. We’re also developing Chrome and Slack integrations to make it easier to find and share content in your workflow.
4. The Team is Too Big
Lots of content sharing initiatives go enterprise wide. But sharing across a whole business or division is unlikely to work. We don’t have deep enough common goals or interests, and we don’t really know the wider audience well enough to share precisely relevant content.
Fix it by: Staying focused.
We like Jeff Bezos’ two pizza rule: Any team should be small enough to be fed by 2 pizzas. Your immediate colleagues in sales, design or whatever function you’re in might conform to that serving size. Create small and focused groups, so what you share and comment on is directly relevant to the projects, clients and issues you’re working on together. In Anders Pink you can create multiple teams and keep them tightly focused.
5. Sharing is Not Valued
Is there anything in it for me to share valuable insights with my colleagues? Does anyone track or care that I do it? We’re all busy and focus on the things we’re rewarded for. Sharing valuable content and insights may not seem connected to that. There’s a risk they feel like a distraction, or worse – you’re enabling others to succeed based on your insights. No fair, right?
Fix it by: Rewarding the sharers.
People who find valuable content and share it are immensely valuable. Not everyone in your teams will do this to the same extent. The people who do it best and do it well should get kudos – you decide the format but let them know it matters. They’re also more likely to be tomorrow’s leaders.
The research shows that when team members think that their expertise is valued, good things happen. If you work in an organisation where senior validation is a currency – play to that. Thank people for their contributions. A thumbs up can go a long way, as Facebook has already taught us.
A Tool To Help Teams Share
Our Anders Pink app is focused on helping teams surface and share relevant content to stay smarter together. You can
- Create a private team of any size
- Subscribe to or create briefings on any topic – here’s one on smart teams
- Get fresh content automatically, every few hours on your topics
- Read, comment, upvote, share and save any articles relevant to your team
- Get a daily email update on what your team is talking about
Try it today and set up a team for free.