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Edelman: Your Social Network and Donuts

Multi-flavored donuts
Jose Luis Pelaez | Photodisc | Getty Images
Multi-flavored donuts

Year Up, Dunkin Donuts, and Social Networking in Business.

At first glance, you may very well have an understandable sense of “What is he talking about?” by combining Year Up, Dunkin Donuts, and social networking in the enterprise.

However, in the event that you don’t there is a common thread of trust building (and dissolution) that transcends this seemingly odd trio and it is here that it is worthy of taking a deeper dive.

Year Up

In short, an amazing non-profit organization founded by Gerald Chertavian in 2000 that is designed for the express purpose of helping inner city kids (ages 18 to 24) get ahead by preparing them for higher education and the business world. Year Up has a great approach regarding the establishment of trust for these kids. Upon entering the program, each student is given 200 points. These points can be increased or decreased depending upon the actions of the students. Specifically, for above average contributions points go up. However, if they drop the “F-bomb” in class or if their cell phone rings, the points are depleted. If the student gets to zero, he/she is out of the program. Likewise, there is a competition that is established for the most points that is promoted by Year Up and naturally through peer recognition. As a key part of the program, the point status is highly visible to all students. The part that I find interesting here is the prominence of the point system; how it directs behavior towards the positive and weeds out the kids that simply cannot conform to basic principles of professionalism and business acumen.

Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin Brands)

Admittedly, living in the northeast all my life, I expect there will always be a Dunkin Donuts around the corner. When writing Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with the CEO of the company, Jon Luther. Jon is an highly regarded business leader and also happens to be a very successful nice guy. One of the many great tips he shared with me was a concept that he titled “Earn your way out of trust.” The premise of his position is that when he initially meets someone, he takes the liberty of trusting that person in some capacity. Closely related to the Year Up example, the person’s actions either deplete or increase their balance in Jon’s “trust bank” without the formality introduced by Year Up. It would be safe to say that Jon doesn’t keep a running total on a prominently placed board for the trust level of each person he meets. However, the notion of granting a certain level of trust and then allowing it to take its course based upon the actions of the trusted (or untrusted) has a high degree of parallelism as it relates to Year Up.

Social Networking in Business

So what does Year Up and Dunkin Donuts have to do with social networking in business? In short… Trust and the importance of (1) establishing and (2) managing it. One of the most frequently perplexing aspects of achieving success with social networking within a business context is inspiring participants to engage. Once engaged, there is a short runway to retain them and achieve flight in continued participation.

One of the interesting techniques that has been employed for building trust in a social context is the introduction of gaming theory (check out this blog from May 7, 2009 where I interview Ross Smith of Microsoft). In many respects, the techniques employed by Year Up are akin to gaming as there is a competitive spirit infused throughout the student body. Within the context of Jon Luther’s thinking, there is a similar, albeit less pronounced approach. Employing a technique such as point advances for social networking contributors coupled with additions and depletions may be a very effective mechanism for succeeding with business social networking. This idea revolves around the content that a participant generates, and may be manifested by techniques such as peer ratings, frequency of submissions as well as consumption, tracking content reuse, and promoting content collaboration-all of which can interlace with a friendly and competitive gaming element.

In each scenario, initial participants may receive a designated number of points (or similar incentive) and based upon their actions, they will be more or less formally recognized.

At the end of the day, the goal of social networking in your enterprise is to introduce programs that foster communication, innovation, and results. In the case of Year Up, their point system works wonders. For Jon Luther, he keeps a close and careful eye as people have the potential to earn their way out of trust once granted. Social Networking within the business community can establish a win when you grant people some type of recognition with an ability to influence its rise or fall.

So, as you plan out internal programs of social networking within your own organizations, keep these techniques in your back pocket as they may be the keys to successful endeavors.

Disclosure: Mr. Edelman does occasionally mentor the students who take part in Year Up

Russ Edelman is President & CEO of Corridor Consulting and founder of Nice Guy Strategies, LLC (NGS) and the author of “Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office: Eight Strategies for Winning in Business Without Being a Jerk.”
Comments? Send them toruss.edelman@corridorconsulting.com