Organizational PLNs and Cocktail-Party CEOs

In the Open PLN Seminar we’ve been given the suggested task of compiling a case for some sort of PLN strategy for a CEO who is keen but doesn’t know much about them. Here’s the quote:

Your CEO (or equivalent organizational leader) just heard about PLNs at a cocktail party and is excited about gaining a competitive advantage (or improving impact on mission) by leveraging PLNs for the organization’s success. But, she/he knows little about PLNs or what to do with them to support organizational success and strategy. Is the organization set up to benefit from and support PLNs, so it is more than just an individual thing? She/he is going away on vacation for one week, and upon return wants you to explain what PLNs are and to provide guidance for what to do. You have a one-hour meeting to facilitate a conversation.

Our challenge: What would your case be?

Here’s the link to the page in context. And, here are my initial thoughts:

  • The initial distinction is one of PLNs for individuals and PLNs for organizations. The questions that needs to be considered first is Are PLNs for organizations possible? Assuming I’m not going to flat out answer ‘no’ and move on, then the question is better stated In what ways do PLNs suit organizations?

We confronted something similar to this at our own organization a few months ago in deciding how to use Twitter in connection to various departments, projects and individuals within our group. It certainly wasn’t a clear-cut answer, but I do think we managed a good solution – that was to go with individual Twitter accounts. In this way, the the various PLNs that surround the organization make up the organization’s PLN, in a whole is greater than the sum of its parts sort of way. To really make an organizational PLN happen, there would need to be a further step of somehow encapsulating the inner PLN of the collected PLNs for use and purposefulness. (read about our organizational decision here)

  • The role of the CEO would need to be addressed, as well. A controlling, micro-PLN-managing CEO would just result in a very robotic type of presence, which wouldn’t come off well. From my experiences, I would to try define the CEO role for the PLN project in terms of personnel management. Hands-on CEOs tend to be (in my experience) good with people and good judges of people. They may best serve the project as being able to place people in position, then stepping back to let them run. As well, providing the network with their own contacts (ie: making connections between others), which they probably have plenty, would be another important role for CEOs.
  • And my last initial thought is about the set-up. Great consideration for the set-up of building a PLN would need to take place, and this would especially need to be emphasized to someone in the CEO’s position who probably doesn’t have much experience with online communities and distance learning. This project won’t be as easy to implement and maintain as they think, and it won’t be as cheap as they think. Setting up the environment, with ample support, so that employees can build PLNs, would need new roles to be created within the organization (even new employees?) and new software, training and infrastructures…not to mention new learning mindsets. For example, will employees be paid to network? How will this be measured?
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4 thoughts on “Organizational PLNs and Cocktail-Party CEOs

  1. Very helpful…I’m thinking in terms of a PLN for a non-profit advocacy organization I volunteer with (default social media slave). Skill gaps in and resistance to technology add to the challenge, but part of the payback could be participants learning more about practices they have been resisting but cannot avoid indefinitely.

    PS Restraining myself from jumping into the previous post (my lit research area is cities) before replying was a challenge.

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  2. Thanks Vanessa, it’s tough when people resist as you describe – I’ve found in my own support activities that these types of resisters will often respond well to 1) technology framed in a wider scope, as not to seem so daunting and 2) enforcing the point to “participate at your own frequency”, so that newer users don’t feel they have to keep up to the heavy PLN/edtech/SM users.

    Heh, feel free to post on any of my ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities’ posts, they’re of a much more rambling nature that my other posts though. It’d be interesting to hear some better-informed thoughts than mine. 🙂

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  3. New view! I was not conceptualizing an organizational PLN (wouldn’t that be an OLN?) but rather an organization that officially supports individuals within the organization having a PLN. How? By providing information, workshops, references, ideas and support around what a PLN is, providing instruction in the use of some of the technology, curation ideas etc., an organization that talks openly about PLN use and one that supports employee involvement with their PLN while on the clock.

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    • Thanks for the Comment, Maureen. Great thoughts! Wouldn’t an organization that officially support individual PLNs have a “OLN” aspect to this support by default? Unless they’re regarding these PLNs as free-time for the employees, there’s an assumption that part of their PLN will relate to the organization. The fact that it’s time allotted by the organization presupposes an OLN.

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