Helping out while chilling out

Helping out while chilling out
Credit: Franklin Pi, Flickr. Published under Creative Commons

At the end of today, I will switch on my out of office message and leave for three weeks of vacation. But colleagues who reach out to me will still have a fair chance to get the help they need and their questions answered.

Not by me, though. By my internal network.

In IBM, where I work, we have a huge internal social network. Like here on LinkedIn but within the firewall (plus blogs, easy web publishing, social bookmarks, forums, ideation and some other things that you have to combine from different providers on the public web). It’s called IBM Connections and is my major source for work efficiency, effectiveness, inspiration …. and help.

So, instead of the usual OOO telling you that I’m gone, that I’ll be back on 14 August and leaving you waiting until then, my message says: “I’m on vacation until 14 August. If you post your question on my board in IBM Connections instead <link>, my helpful network of about 1800 IBM’ers will have a chance to help you in the meantime (unless it’s about something sensitive or confidential of course. If it is, and urgent too, please send me a text message and I will try to get back to you.)”

This way, colleagues in need of help have a good chance of getting it and there will be fewer urgent things overloading my inbox on my return. Win-win!

And OOO that not only tells you when people will return, but that actually solves problems too! How’s that for a personal and business benefit of having and using an #ESN, Enterprise Social Network?

Network value = People x Relations

Whatever value you look for in your network, socializing, improving your knowledge, finding job opportunities or finding a spouse, the headline formula stays valid: the value of your network depends on who (and how many) are in your network and what kind of relationship you have with them.

Just having 168 friends on Facebook doesn’t bring you closer to any target whatsoever if you don’t nurture your relationship with them.

So how do you nurture relations online? There are some simple basics:

  • Standard: Help them to know who you are through your status updates
  • Stronger: Respond and comment on what they share (Simply, we appreciate more to get feedback on our stuff to reading just one more status update by someone else)
  • Share generously (I don’t mean all of your party pictures! Of your personality, knowledge and helping hands)

Regarding the “People” component of the formula, only you can know who are the best people to have in your network. But I do have a view on “how many”: The more, the merrier. Why? Three simple words: “You never know….” as in:

  • Who might have the answer to your question
  • Who will know someone you need to get hold of
  • Who may inspire you to make good choices
  • Who may put a smile on your face