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« The Path of Social Media Enlightenment »

Do you find that some people just don't get it?

Whilst the majority of us understand the benefits of using social media in the workplace to aid business collaboration, to improve knowledge sharing, to build better professional relationships of trust etc..., there are some that don't.

In my experience these type of people fall into 3 distinct categories:

1. The Culture Shockers
These type of people are brought up in a culture where knowledge sharing and collaboration isn't natural, or are of a generation where social media is thought to refer to sharing a newspaper with a bloke down the local pub.

The GREAT NEWS is these type of people can be educated and shown the path to social media enlightenment.

Dilbert explains these type of people so well:

2. The Power Losers
These type of people believe knowledge is power and fear that if they share a piece of the knowledge pie then they become less important to the company. This I don't understand. Maybe it is just part of my DNA but I have always believed in the Pie Theorem.

The Pie Theorem states that for every piece of the knowledge pie you share you will receive two slices in return

The GOOD NEWS is these type of people can change and be redirected on to the path of social media enlightenment.

(Note: To save you the time of doing a Google search on The Pie Theorem, it is indeed a term I just made up!)  

3. The Corporate Ladder Climbers
These type of people are similar to The Power Losers, with one significant difference. They hold on to all their knowledge and refuse to collaborate because they want that next promotion regardless of the harm it will do to the company.

The BAD NEWS is these type of people will never change and should be avoided at all costs. Thankfully though they are a dying breed in the new social workplace world.

So next time you come across someone who doesn't get it, try to figure out if they are a Culture Shocker, a Power Loser, or a Corporate Ladder Climber. If they fall under either of the first two categories then help them out. Show them the path to social media enlightenment. If they appear to be a Corporate Ladder Climber then show them the door, unfriend them on Facebook and block them on Twitter!

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Reader Comments (11)

Nice post David and a pretty accurate description of the types of people I've come across during my time in trying to get people to adopt Social Media. I don't think we need to worry about unfriending or blocking Corporate Ladder Climbers as I'd be surprised to even find them on Facebook or Twitter.

P.S. you should think about putting a patent on your Pie Theorem.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Bradley

I think that most Culture Shockers are rapidly coming around to see the light. In a world in which my eighty-one year-old grandmother uses facebook regularly, there’s no excuse not to use social media for both personal and professional benefit, at any age!

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren Blackwell

Interesting typologies mapped against social media consumerism – I think as one explores further there are many more.
Let’s not forget that social media is also linked to generation specifics therefore it will be difficult not only to apply but to incentivise the use of social media in more ‘traditional’ environments or at generation Boomers or Baby Boomers level.
The 'younger' an organisation, the higher the adherence to social media, as we all know.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorina Kottlar

Hi David,

Here are some of my thoughts. The focus seems to be on categorizing and subtly criticizing the 'kind' of people. I have a feeling this won't work to get the message across to 'those kind' of people, an will rather just alienate them.

What I was looking for though is how to actually show them the path of enlightenment. From my experience in working with teams with so many kinds of people, is that we need to make social media seem like the obvious choice through the kind of products we design and through our team working models. The downside here could be if our product is not intuitive enough and not undergoing constant improvement like Facebook for example, we might fail to reach out to people.

The point remains that whatever category people may belong to above, they certainly have personal Facebook and twitter accounts and use them. What we need to focus on is what is stopping them from using similar tools for professional reasons? Someone wanting to climb the corporate ladder may do very well using these tools to their advantage.

We should also probably stop emphasizing the need to share knowledge and make sharing knowledge a natural outcome of using certain tools and processes at the workplace.

One answer could be that maybe the tools internally are not yet as attractive as their external counterparts. The user experience may not really be as good.

Other factors are the motivation or driving factors. Like why should go to another tool and share knowledge when i have so much to do on a daily basis. In my free time, maybe i just want some time off.

Another thought is what if all of these tools could be accessed from our smart phones? I am certain that my Twitter and Facebook activity has increased after I bought my smart phone. I blog so much faster, i can quickly update myself on my Facebook and Twitter information without major interference to activities I am currently doing. Overall, improved user experience and connectivity will lure people to participate and they will eventually 'figure' out' the benefits their getting, define their preferences, and enjoy participating in the community. As of now the connection between these two entities is not seamless.

My latest blog post contains some aspects of the points I covered above.


June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSreya

@Frank Thanks and the patent is pending ;-)

June 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

@Lauren 81 years old? That's impressive. My mother has only recently begun using a mobile phone. For the Culture Shockers though it's also about how they were brought up and the environment they were brought up in. But there is hope for change here.

June 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

@Corina I think you maybe right - maybe I need to do a follow post and got into a bit more detail

We do have to be careful though of pigeon holing social media for only for the new generation as I recently found out to my detriment when I had to pull a campaign poster as the guy had little hair which deemed my campaign to be ageist in nature ;-)

June 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

@Sreya: Thanks for your feedback. This was really a tongue in cheek post and not one to be taken too literally. However on a serious note this is about people's behaviours and not the technology. Social technologies enable the strategy, they don't define it right?

If people's natural behaviour is not one of knowledge sharing is having a better interface going to help?

I spoke to a Sales VP recently and he highlighted that his perception was that social technologies facilitate the process of knowledge sharing but the culture of his sales teams need to change to take full advantage of the benefits.

There is still a long way to go to make knowledge sharing a natural behaviour particularly in a sales organisation ;-) But behaviours are changing....

But I do agree with you that ease of use is going to encourage more collaboration and engagement for those that get it but are too busy to participate. This is another typology I should add for a follow up post.

June 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

Great post David. In my experience in using social media for recruitment we seem to run up against the "just-in-timers" most frequently. Busy recruiters aren't interesting in investing time in building up on-line communities or in long term conversations because they don't see a fast enough pay-off for themselves. They want to find people who are looking for a job right now and fit into a vacancy they have right now.... its so hard to get people to think further than this quarter's target....

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan Corcoran


As much as the post may be "tongue in cheek" it does highlight for me the fundamental challenges of the role of a "change agent" within a matrix managed group.

I do agree with the point made above that enablement is central to derive the benefit of knowledge sharing using social techniques and approaches. By simplifying the tools of choice for a given team, one can develop and implement clear and easy to use approaches to collecting and sharing knowledge (in whatever form it is in). The real benefit is that regardless of the bucket that one fits in above, if they don't participate then they will lose out on getting potentially vital information.

This opens the door to the Power Loser or Corporate Ladder Climber who only initially use the tools to "take" information, but eventually, over time, they will see that the others that participate pro-actively / interactively are actually making faster and better forward progress than the information "hoarders". At least that would be my contention without having anything more than anecdotal evidence and a gut-feel.

I also believe that The Culture Shockers can be brought into the fold more formally by helping them to build bridges between how they work/collaborate currently, and what the newer social tools/techniques offer. Case in point, a member of my inaugural team likes his Inbox, only wants to collaborate with email because everything is in his Inbox... but he would really like the organizational capabilities of collaborative workspaces. So, our first bridge was to explain how he could begin to interact directly with a collaborative workspace via e-mail. That broke down the initial barrier and allowed him to begin to be open to possibly using some of the new techniques more directly, like tagging email items for example.

Thanks for the thought provoking post!

- Jordan.

June 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Olin

Hi David,

Thanks for your post. I can tell I’ve seen each of these kind of people with my own eyes almost on a daily basis, and although I’d add some others, I’m not friend of categorizing people.

I still remember those traumatic memories at school when we were tagged as the fat, the slim, the ugly…etc….”No mum! I don’t want to play with them!” ;-)

To me it's not always about an individual behavior but a mass one (some examples: population over 60 (without counting Lauren's exception), sales people, Spanish employees… oh wait! Spanish activity in Social Media has been shown to be extraordinary (ranked in the 3rd place of most active in this field- just behind US and Brazil). But then? Why I feel so miserable and like praying in the desert when talking about it in my office?

Let me give you (and myself) some key words in social media: motivation- interest- technology. (M.I.T., I’ll ask for the copyrights of it since I don’t think there’s another acronym like this one out there…;))

Motivation comes when the value out of using social media has been proven previously (we don't have that, at least in the business field- that, or that ‘urgent comes always before important’ theory- taken from the same book than the famous Pie Theorem)

Interest comes when you see a benefit for yourself: at work or at your private life. As Knowledge Management leader I am extremely interested in sharing! But this doesn’t seem to be happening when you’re working in other roles. How can we create this interest?

And technology…this makes everyone’s life easy, and if companies get to put some money in investing in customized corporate apps in our mobile devices (for example), we won’t only check the latest news in Facebook but the latest news/posts in my company’s intranet.


June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPablo Moreno

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