By | Dave Ulrich | Speaker, Author, Professor, Thought Partner on HR, Leadership, and Organization
According to my records, this is my 100th LinkedIn article. Television shows that reach their 100th episode often do a reflection episode and are ready for syndication. While syndication is irrelevant in this case, I do want to reflect on what I have learned from these LinkedIn article postings.
A few years ago, I wanted to model personal learning in regard to furthering my passion for ideas with impact. This lifetime obsession (my psychologist wife tells me I have OCD—organization compulsive disorder) involves how to improve organizational settings to the benefit of all stakeholders (employees and business results inside, and customers and investors outside). While I have had some impact on these ideas through the mediums of thirty books, hundreds of articles, thousands of presentations, and unlimited conversations, I realized that I was a troglodyte in the social media arena (e.g., I still email!).
On the advice of many, I started posting on LinkedIn every Tuesday: one week a longer article (1000 to 1200 words) and the alternate week a shorter post (150 or so words) with other postings in between. With great support from an exceptional editor (Jess Marriott) and social media advisor (Macy Robison), I have increased followers, connections, views, and comments dramatically. Looking back, I have learned about both process and content in using the LinkedIn platform.
Process Learnings: Why and how LinkedIn works
I am enormously grateful for the LinkedIn platform for the opportunity to share ideas and build relationships. I still do not fully appreciate all the LinkedIn services, algorithms, or policies, but being able to post and engage in dialogue about ideas is very valuable.
Posting a new idea every Tuesday (alternating articles and posts) is not easy. But being committed to doing weekly posts allows the ideas to be quickly distributed. Books (big ideas) and refereed articles (rigorously researched) often take years to move from idea to impact. The LinkedIn cycle from idea to essay to posting is measured in days, not years.
2. New observations
Because of the commitment to new weekly posts, I seek to observe diligently and identify thoughtfully the principles behind how organizations operate so that I can hopefully produce innovative posts each week. Recently a colleague told me that “newer is seen as better than gooder.” Newer ideas come from astute observations to see what others may overlook.
LinkedIn reaches a global village of people. Followers and connections are literally from the four corners of the world; most are people I would never have the privilege to meet in person.
Social media is less about titles or positions and more about ideas. I am delighted that I seldom know the role of the individual who comments on my ideas, so I respond to the ideas more than the person. Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged us to evaluate people by the “content of their character,” and LinkedIn allows me (us) to engage with people by the “content of their ideas.” This gives anyone, anywhere, anytime opportunity for insight free of title biases or categorizations.
5. Quick feedback
LinkedIn offers quick feedback with the number of likes, views, and comments. The half-life of an article’s visibility is about a week when the number of views quickly drops. The immediate comments also give me insight on what topics people resonate with and how.
Perhaps my most gratifying process lesson is that LinkedIn enables a social community where I can engage with others. Sometimes, my ideas are affirmed by colleagues around the globe. Sometimes, articles are thought starters on which others can build. Sometimes, engagement means responding to those who misunderstand or misrepresent my ideas (at times with rather direct dialogue). Infrequently, but sometimes, there are trolls whose purpose is to simply provoke. I can engage with each of these idea colleagues to learn and to expand my network.
Content Learnings: What ideas have impact
The LinkedIn platform also enables learning by generating and generalizing new ideas in some unique ways.
1. Idea variety
LinkedIn allows me to roam among and spend time with many of my idea-friends. Too often, thought leaders get stereotyped as being bound to one idea. People wanted Robin Williams to continually play Mork (his first character) or Paul Simon to always sing “Bridge over Troubled Water” (ok, I dated myself). Both artists moved on to expand their repertoire. I have worked to generate and post ideas on many pathways within the organization setting: organization, leadership, talent, and HR. And, as noted, through views I can track which of these idea pathways gains more attention, and through comments, I can learn from many others how to expand my ideas.
2. Snippets vs. experiences vs. synthesis
I have learned that on LinkedIn, shorter snippets are often more widely viewed. Snippet posts (a quote, sentence, or twitter-like comment) get far more exposure. Experience posts (150 words sharing about an experience) can also get high exposure. Articles that provide new insights get far fewer views and yet seem to get more comments and likes. I have learned not to just post snippets or experiences that cater to increased views and likes but to also post articles (100 so far!) that offer new insights around emerging content.
Articles that are abstract ideas don’t seem to have as much impact as articles with specific, concrete proposed actions. I used to focus on “ideas with impact.” Through LinkedIn experiences, I have been motivated to have “ideas with impact” (note the increasing importance of impact). Generic ideas that don’t shape how people think, act, or feel are not as well received. An actionable content bias pushes me beyond theory and principle to practice and action.
New ideas do not come fully formed. LinkedIn allows me to make first drafts public so that I can explore and test ideas. I have posted about possible trends in talent, leadership, organization, and HR that may or may not come to pass, but they focus forward rather than recycling what has been done. Over time, good ideas get more sustainable traction, and LinkedIn allows me to test early which ones those might be.
So my thanks to the LinkedIn platform creators and sustainers. My greater thanks to my LinkedIn followers and connections who view and comment on these posts.
Looking forward (and I strongly believe that the best is yet ahead), I have much more to learn about LinkedIn’s ability to generate and generalize ideas with impact, but this has been a great start.
I would be interested to know what you have learned about both the process and content impact of LinkedIn.