Foreword by Nancy White

Nancy White from Full Circle Associates wrote the Foreword for User Adoption Strategies. Here’s what Nancy had to say …

Collaboration shouldn’t be an elusive practice. We recognize we can and must work together. We recognize that technology has changed what it means to work together, both when we are in the same place or scattered across the globe. We have the business imperatives. We have the technology. Yet why does it remain so hard?

Let me tell you a story.

A research organization had a support team who recognized early on the possibilities of the use of social media for their scientists. So they installed blog and wiki software, created training sessions and thought that it would be a quick and obvious adoption. It was SO clear to these smart individuals. Their scientists were smart. Easy.

Not so. After some missteps, the team changed their strategy. They were not scientists. They needed the scientists to define the rules of the game. Instead of training sessions, they convened conversations about research, not about social media. As real collaboration needs surfaced, they offered suggestions and experiments between them. The technology folks created prototypes for experimentation, taking a page from the very practices the scientists use on a daily basis. Prototypes were set up, feedback offered and applied and tools and practices subsequently adjusted.

What happened? Practices to enhance collaborative research emerged. They just happened to use technology as part of the process. The scientists did science, not “blog and wiki” classes that they felt were a waste of time.

To follow up, the technology team readjusted their roles to stewarding the technology—keeping an eye on how the scientists were using the tools, making adjustments and keeping an eye open for new options. They were careful not to define the conversation, instead listening and contributing. They lived the words Michael shares with us on page 242, “Go! Learn! Adjust! And then go some more!”

Through the process these “technology stewards” redefined their roles. What about the scientists? Think about it. Are scientists “second wave adopters?” In reality, the scientists are first wave adopters in their fields of research, but second wave technology adopters. It took seeing the collaboration from their context to bring them on board, but without making them feel like second-class citizens and by respecting their way of working and collaborating.

I’m attracted to the idea of second wave adopters—that large group of people Everett Rogers writes about in Diffusion of Innovations. They are the people who are out there getting work done. If we as leaders are about creating the conditions for that work to happen, then this should be a group we pay attention to and support. When we did our research about technology for communities of practice for our book Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities (see Amazon), we recognized that people use technology creatively, often in ways the designers or IT never expected. We realized there is a role that is different from IT, a role that requires both knowledge of technology and knowledge of the people. In this dynamic interplay, we have the issue of technology adoption.

Waves are funny things. Think of ocean waves. They go up and down, they can be gentle or pound us into the sand. Just when we think we have their rhythm, the next wave changes and surprises us. The key is staying alert, knowing how to swim and to expect the unexpected.

Michael Sampson is about to take you surfing on the ocean of collaboration technology adoption. In clear, practical language, he offers us insights that can reduce the pain and increase the benefits of collaboration software adoption. Come on, catch the wave!