3 Things I Learned From Being An Anonymous Enterprise Troll

Four years ago, before “social” was a thing inside my company, I tried a few things out. One of them was an anonymous blog on the crappy old intranet in which I gently, but directly, skewered various big personalities and important people in the organization, through the voice of The Pundit.

The Pundit always referred to The Pundit in the third person. The Pundit was self-important and zealous, convinced of The Pundit‘s rectitude. The Pundit antagonized and poked colleagues throughout the world, trying to galvanize social discourse and watercooler chat that was visible to all. The Pundit was very edgy, a satirical representation of the back channel protagonists and gossip mongers that patrol the office corridors.

The Pundit, unsurprisingly, was a highly divisive character – hierarchy killing hero to some, rude and ridiculous troll to others.

As soon as we launched our yammer Enterprise Social Network in 2011, The Pundit was retired to Qatar to commentate on their football league at a vast tax-free salary.

When everyone has a voice, a profile, an opportunity to speak, there is no place for 3rd person trolls and spokespeople. We are now all truth seekers, in our own way.

Today, I was searching through some old folders looking for an old data point, when I uncovered this blog post from 2010, written by me for an internal blog I called Etcetera.

It describes my learning from playing the role of The Pundit, the troll of the day.

The Pundit has opinions, and The Pundit is always right
The Pundit has opinions, and The Pundit is always right

–begin–

Etcetera: 3 Things I Learned From The Pundit

We have been learning as we go with the blogs. The way people communicate is changing fast, and we need to keep up (and that includes all of you who reminisce about the good old days of the weekly telex). As The Pundit charges around in his madcap way, I have learned a few things about communications, mainly because we have received a lot of feedback about him!

I will share them with you here because 2011 may see some fundamental changes to the way we communicate, and you need to be prepared!

1. It Is All About You, Not The Company

In three years of working here, I can rarely remember anyone commenting to me about any intranet news posting, except things like “It is too long,” or “It’s kinda boring.” Most of our news is top-down: the company sharing its position with you.

Yet, when The Pundit talks about people, we get constant feedback (good and bad); or when The Oracle talks about strategy in a simple, conversational way, we get interaction, comment, and engagement. The blog has a loyal following.

Why? Because these postings are trying to connect with you as people; not just delivering a corporate download. Even if you do not like The Pundit or the other bloggers, it is more immediate and real than most of the news we share with you.

Similarly, when we rolled out the safety program recently, I heard lots of great feedback about the personal, people-related stories about safety, about how powerful and memorable they are.

2. Your ‘Truth’ Is Not Mine

I heard two conflicting positions in the last week about The Pundit. In Glasgow people were laughing at the Vision[ary] profile of NAME, about how spot on it was (even NAME agreed). In Vancouver, some people were asking if the profile went too far. Some people even think the Vision[ary] profiles are The Pundit sucking up. The Pundit cannot win!

What this shows me it is very difficult to communicate with everyone in the same way. Each of us has our own ‘truth.’ Indeed, when we try to communicate with everyone in the same way, we run the risk of outputting something so bland / complicated that we connect with no-one instead.

Sometimes, we need to take more risks, and be willing to make mistakes and not please everyone.

3. If You Participate, You Are Powerful

And contrarily, if you do not participate, you will be left out/behind. It is a choice, your choice. There are two ways to get things done. Firstly, be in a position of power to say “I decide…” Secondly, influence others so they say: “I agree with him/her…”

The first one is easy, for the select few who have the power. The second takes more effort. You have to get involved, speak up, share, network, keep in the loop, persuade. You need to communicate outwards into and beyond your network.

That can be at the watercooler, in meetings, talking. And, it can be online, writing compelling content that gives people a different perspective.

And Your Point Is…?

When we reach out to people as people (not functional roles), when we communicate with others from their perspective not our own, when we try to influence people rather than cram data down their gullets, we build community.

It is my own opinion that we can do better at building community. We all share a commitment to excellence and professionalism in our work, but we are not great at reaching out to each other and building a shared experience. I think we can do better, and more.

One opportunity is to redevelop our intranet site to develop and deliver community. Our website too can do more to reach stakeholders in an interactive and meaningful way.

I believe that building community is at the heart of what we need to do to take us forward. I have come to see that it is at the heart of the work that I do here. I hope you will find it important too.

–end–

The most exhilarating reaction to re-reading this article is that we have since proven out the use case it describes.

  • It is all about you, not the company.
  • Your truth is not mine.
  • If you participate you are powerful.

The Pundit troll was the brave, rash, hyperbolic learn-by-doing, hyper-intense precursor of the social worker we now encourage people to be. Free to think, to share, to opine, to be wrong as well as spot on, to be fleetingly in the moment as often as capturing the zeitgeist.

We are all Pundits now.

←This Much We Know.→

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