sales

No iPad in the Bathroom

Recently I participated in a high-level discussion hosted by HNi Insurance. Perhaps 20 owners of transportation and logistics companies were present. One participant, Joe, told us the story of the urinals in his company. "It's the best place for me to get information from my drivers about what is going on within the organization, and it's the best place for me to update them. I know they'll be there, so I use the urinal to communicate with them. If I write the information on the wall that I want them to know, or hang it there, they'll see it." This Joe runs 100 drivers around the country every day--no small feat. His company urinal is his social media.

Everyone in every workplace, everywhere in the world, every day, goes to the bathroom. More and more, social media is the one thing everyone in every workplace does, every day. In fact, your employees are using social media while they are in the bathroom, because you prevented them from doing it at their desk when you blocked Facebook. So they do it on the crapper with a device that fits in their pocket.

The question is not "How do we stop people from using social media?" or even, "How do we stop people from using social media in the bathroom?" The question needs to go the other way--not from the company into the bathroom, but from the bathroom into the company.

Here's a new question:

"How do we make the story about what our company does every day something that people would want to share with others?"

Fundamentally, everyone wants to tell stories. Every single human being is capable of telling stories, and does so, throughout life, as soon as the first language is acquired and thereafter until death.

Every job involves storytelling. Engineers on the shop floor tell stories about the machines with numbers. Customer service reps tell stories about their customers, who tell stories about the customer service reps to their customers. Executives tell stories about the past, present, and future, and board members suspend their disbelief for at least a third of the conversation. Sales reps tell stories about customers to other reps, their sales manager, the vice president of sales, and other customers. Marketing people tell stories about the executive's vision of the future, and hope the vice president of sales was in the meeting that day.

Knowing that this is true, and knowing that people will do what they need to do to tell those stories--up to and including an extended crap session--means that resisting this is futile. It's stupid. Give up. Control is a waste of your time: your mission is more interesting than whatever control you exercise over it, and your mission is the only thing your company does that will inspire your people to tell stories about it.

(Check back in a week for part two of this story.)